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Tips and Tricks about Presentations


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This post was written by
Scott Schwertly

Scott is the Founder and CEO of Ethos3.

Ever notice how Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy episodes never stop with the plot twists and cliffhangers?

In fact, ever notice how any great narrative has these climactic moments woven into the allotted time, be it an hour or three?

It’s convention in storytelling land, but over on the presentation side of the communications world there’s a slightly different established formula. If we build a narrative at all, we confine it to the introduction. Sometimes it’s just a good joke (or at least we hope it’s good); other times it’s a bonafide story. But inevitably, it’s pre-business. Once we get to our key points, we ditch the narrative and start clicking off objectives like they’re nothing more than “World’s Largest…” landmarks on the way from the Carolinas to California.

Now, we’re not saying it’s good practice to leave things unresolved at your next presentation—that you can’t do like last week’s Sons of Anarchy. But you can build on the initial storyline by treating each following objective with similar narrative interest. Here’s how:

1. Every point deserves an emotional core. People are emotional by nature; even great business decisions start with a gut feeling. Sure, principles, numbers, and metrics pop up around the great business decision to help speed it along and separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but every big move starts with emotion. With each point you need to sell, be sure to include a story to drive it forward.

2. Invite a little suspense. Keep that final point that proves it all in your quiver a little longer by including some vague devil’s advocate slides along the way. Life’s complex, and business is no different. The same things that could sell your idea to your audience often end up being potential liabilities—just like the unexpected nuances of a fringe character in SOA can end up dictating the narrative of the core characters. If you don’t proactively control the downside through storytelling, you give up control of the entire narrative.

3. Try a character-driven approach: A lot of ideas, at the end of the day, come down to the way they’ll impact people—within the company or as a result of the company’s products and services. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to consolidate your story’s impact around the characters most likely to be affected by it. Whether you’re pitching investors, management, or a customer, you have to continuously work the key characters into the narrative to sell the idea.

Question: What techniques do you use to keep up the magnetism of your narrative throughout the entire presentation?

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