How to make sure your presentation sticks?
Marry content with story!
“We have learned from our mistakes in the past. We now understand that we have to stop throwing loads of information at our audiences. But, that we have to tell a story. A story that can be retold, once our visitors are back home.” (Trouw Summer 2014 director of Hermitage museum).
I was very amused when I read this, because the same mechanism for getting information across successfully seems to hold equally for museums as for presentations. For presentation it is likewise important to tell a story. In such a way, that also after the presentation, it could easily be retold.
Why is “telling stories’” so important? Simply because when you convey information this way it will stick in your audience’s mind! Brené Brown says that our brains are wired to remember stories. (1 tedtalk).
But how do you do that? How on earth can you pour your presentation information into a story?
Read the December Newsletter down below and you will get 6 tips on how you can marry your content with story.
Article: how to marry content with story?
So how to make a story, when you need to present? The challenge lies in the picture down below.
Only giving content will not work. Only giving story will not work either. It is your job as presenter to marry the two in a presentation.
But how to marry the two and bring across your information as a story?
1. First of all. Make sure you have a beginning, middle and ending.
This is already an important step to make a story out of your content. I often see presentation that just start in the middle. Not providing context, the what and the why. This makes it quite hard for the audience to place the information. And very hard to remember and to feel involved. So, place the story structure on your content! Also providing for a clear ending, has an important story function and is an very important part of your presentation to make your information stick.
2. Simply underpin your information with clear and illustrative examples.
Examples are stories. Just a day ago one of my trainees told me that he noticed that if he continued too long with the data in his graphs, he could see the audience was losing interest. Then, he said, I changed my strategy. As soon as I gave a clear example of what this figure in practise meant, telling a story, I noticed I got them again. So in the end, I alternated between the two, the data in the graph and a clear example underpinning it. This worked out great.
3. When possible there should be a problem, which is not easy to solve. But eventually a lesson is learned, a problem is solved or we have moved further.
“So a likeable hero, that encounters roadblocks, but emerges transformed” (Nancy Duarte 2)
The above quote shows the very basic structure to be found in all stories, movies, books etcetera (Joseph Campbell 3).
For instance I can tell you it is important to lay a presentation foundation for a presentation and its 6 steps. But, if you do not know which pitfalls you may surpass with this presentation foundation, you will not be very keen to listen.
So, what is the problem we are going to solve with your information? And why is it a nasty problem and how can we overcome it and eventually reach the glorious transformation?
4. Brood over your information and pick an interesting angle, problem (see above), or theme.
Reinbert de Leeuw, the famous composer that was being interviewed in “Zomergasten” said that he asked himself which of the previous “Zomergasten” broadcasts he still remembered. He came to the conclusion that the ones that had a central theme or question, were the ones he remembered best.
As a result, he wanted to put this knowledge into effect for his own broadcast. This meant he had to take another look at all the material he had selected for the evening and had to throw away most of it. Only leaving him with the fragments that supported his chosen theme.
Lesson: choose an interesting angle, question or theme and throw away material that does not support it. Provide a umbrella for you audience, so they can place the information in an easy way and will easily remember it.
5. We need to be able to picture and feel what is being said in the presentation.
If we do not have a sense of what it looks like or how it feels, and we only hear abstract language. It will not sink in and not be remembered. Appeal to the senses of your audience (see, feel, smell, hear). A good and real story cannot exist without feeling and being able to picture it.
Instead of saying: I am going to talk about the conflict that arose between the province of Groningen and its creditors in Holland in the 17th century. (That was eventually solved after 75 years.)
Make for instance the title: How long can you wait for you money?
Now, you arouse a feeling with the audience, everybody can identify with that frustrating situation and you directly appeal to your audience, making them part of your story instead of keeping them at bay.
6. Use metaphors. Because metaphors are small stories in themselves and are (you may guess by now) an excellent vehicle to convey information.
Besides the above, it is also a concise manner of saying a lot in just one or a few sentences, where you should need many more if you only wanted to say it in a cognitive manner.
I can tell you in an abstract manner that it would be sensible to make a choice in material. Ok, you think. Sounds good, but it will not really sink in.
But if I tell you” do not push a big elephant in a tiny box”. I tell a little story in just one sentence. Everybody, can now understand and even feel, what the consequences will be. I need not to explain any further. It is crystal clear.
To summarize how to marry information with story:
•A beginning, middle and ending. (structure) META LEVEL
•Examples. (to underpin theory, information) MACRO LEVEL
•Development or transformation. (structure) META LEVEL
•An interesting angle, question or theme. (helicopter view) META LEVEL
•Appealing to your public’s senses. Can they feel, see it, besides understanding it on a cognitive level. (in your presentation) MICRO LEVEL
•Metaphors. (in your presentation) MACRO LEVEL
•When content permits, add words like: peculiar, surprising etc. MICRO LEVEL
Have a wonderful Christmas and make a great story out of 2015!!!
Kind regards, Mabel
(1) TEdTalk Brené Brown, “The power of vulnerability”.
(2) Youtube, Nancy Duarte, “How to tell a story”
(3) Book by Joseph Campbell ”The hero with a Thousand Faces”.