Are you a storytelling convert? Maybe you’ve finally “seen the light” and realized that stories are a fantastic way to increase engagement and give your presentation some sparkle.
Presentations make an especially tricky medium for a story, because you can’t see the entire picture at once. Editing a storyboard for a presentation is much different in tone and purpose than writing a creative story. You need to think on a much smaller slide-by-slide basis in order to ensure that each piece fits together. That in mind, grab your red pen and let’s run through a few common mistakes to avoid:
“Show and don’t tell” is a common trope for script and fiction writers alike. An example would be to describe a lengthy backstory about a character with a history of anger problems versus just showing that same character throw a glass bottle against a wall. Action takes the precedent for words every time; action is much more engaging and clear, and it doesn’t take your audience’s intelligence for granted.
For a presentation, you can avoid this same error by simply not putting a lot of text on each slide. Use images and your spoken words to tell the story and give your audience time to interpret the context on their own. Why talk about how great it is to live in Napa, when you could just show a set of ten gorgeous photos?
Audience engagement starts when they relate to a person, place, or concept within the story. They need to have someone to root for, even if it’s an antihero, in order to sit up and pay attention all the way to the end.
Within a presentation, be sure that your narrative always includes someone or something that the audience cares about. Maybe it’s someone who is an underdog at their company, or perhaps it’s a medical solution that will prevent tragic loss. A story without a hero or main focus may confuse your audience at best, and leave them uninterested or unengaged at worse.
What’s a story without conflict? Great narratives always pit a hero against something; a villain, a concept, nature, or even themselves. Consider a bomb ticking away while a superhero tries to stop it; the less time they have on the clock, the more intense the audience’s experience will be.
Even if you are trying to pitch a startup concept, you need to be clear about your struggles and the risk involved if your idea never comes to fruition. If there isn’t peril within your narrative, your audience will never have the motivation to help fund you, join your newsletter, etc., in order to see what happens next.
Presentations differ from a normal story in this very particular way: they need to have a call to action. Unless the book comes with installments and ends on a “to be continued,” most stories don’t lead anywhere specific.
Your story needs to tie in with a call to action that helps achieve your goals. Why else would you deliver a presentation, if not to inform, gain funding, or gather support? Even if you need to put your hero permanently in peril, let your audience know that you require their help in order to see a “happily ever after.”
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