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Use Storytelling In Presentations

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you'll be able to:

  • Craft presentations that engage your team.
  • Plan and deliver an engaging presentation.

Present Your Ideas

In this unit, we’ll discuss how to present your ideas so others feel like they’re watching a movie or play, or like they’re engaged in an amazing story.

You’re now in training to be the best presenter you can be. Your team and others you do business with are your audience.

Psst! Don’t be afraid—with a little help, you’re sure to be a star.

Welcoming presentation as a movie in a theatre

Presentations

When you put together a presentation, you want to begin by helping your audience connect with the story you’re telling. Start by thinking about what you’re presenting, why you’re presenting it, and who you’re presenting to.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my primary audience?
  • What information do I need them to know?
  • What is their skill level and background knowledge?
  • What matters most to them?

Let’s have a look at an example.

Jasmine is a manager like you. She wants to bring her team together for an annual review to share what they’ve accomplished and present the team’s project plan for the upcoming year.

Jasmine’s Audience

Jasmine manages a team of eight creative professionals. Some of her direct reports are new to her team, while others are more tenured. That means some have even more experience than Jasmine.

Her team is interested to learn how they contributed to their organization’s success and how each team member contributed as individuals. Newer team members are curious to learn about what the team produced in the past year so that they can quickly come up to speed.

Since the year is ending, the team is most concerned about the projects they’ll be working on in the next year.

Jasmine’s Team’s Annual Review or Jasmine’s Team’s Story?

Jasmine could put her team’s accomplishments on slides and wing it. She could create charts and statistics and make a lovely (but potentially dull) slide presentation. Or, Jasmine could try something different.

Let’s think about how Jasmine might take the facts from the past year and turn them into a lively narrative that involves all the characters on her team.

Prework

Before Jasmine presents, she reflects on the team’s accomplishments and thinks about the moments that they felt the most successful. She identifies key events—such as members joining the team, group triumphs, and team off-sites.

She hones-in on the stories from the year that retell the best and worst moments—and she answers the questions:

  • What specific events or accomplishments defined us as a team?
  • What achievements were turning points for individuals on the team?
  • When were we strongest as a team?
  • When were we weakest?
  • How do I see us all growing and evolving together?

The answers serve as mini-stories that Jasmine can use to help keep her team connected to the story she’s telling.

Structure

To start, Jasmine will use a basic presentation structure that’s so easy to use you’ll be shocked! But as you’ll see in our example later, we’ve added a storytelling element to keep things entertaining for her team.

Here’s how it works: Before the presentation, Jasmine thinks about three things she’d like to talk about. We call those three things:

  • Talking point 1
  • Talking point 2
  • Talking point 3

You can use this format too.

Then, Jasmine uses the talking points and outlines each as if to tell a story.

Introduction
Speaker uses a story or an anecdote to break the ice, and then states the three topics they’ll speak about.
Talking points 1–3
Speaker introduces the talking point and shares the information on the topic.

Then the speaker summarizes what they’ve talked about and states what they will talk about next.
Conclusion
Finally, the speaker neatly summarizes the three talking points and asks of the audience.

Here’s what it looks like when Jasmine puts the structure to use:

Structure
Time
For example
Introduction:

Jasmine sets the scene for the team meeting. And she shares the plan for what they’ll discuss.

She even involves the team in the presentation’s narrative by sharing anecdotes about what they’ve accomplished together.
10 min.
In this portion of the presentation, Jasmine:
  • Welcomes the group.
  • Shares information about the team’s new hires.
  • Includes anecdotes about the team’s group outings.
  • States the objectives for the meeting.
For example: “Today, we’ll look back on the past year, discuss what we’ve learned, and review the plan for the projects we’ll work on in the next year. Finally, I’ll open the floor for your questions.”
Talking point 1:

“Look back on the past year.”

Jasmine’s first talking point is a “look back” on the team’s year.

She continues to pull the audience into the story by personalizing the presentation and sharing about how individuals contributed.
10 min.
In this portion of the presentation, Jasmine:
  • Talks about what the team accomplished together and shows visual examples of how their work made a difference.
  • Mentions the team’s biggest accomplishment.
  • Highlights the team’s largest obstacle.
  • Points out key member’s individual contributions to the team.
Talking point 2:

“Discuss what we’ve learned.”

Jasmine’s second talking point is a review about what the team learned in the past year.

She even shares a personal anecdote about what she learned as a manager.
15 min.
In this portion of the presentation, Jasmine:
  • Expands on the obstacles the team faced and how they overcame them.
  • Shares her biggest learning moment as a manager.
  • Strategically chooses to emphasize what she’s learned about the business’ needs and how the team’s work will contribute.
Talking point 3:

“I’ll share my plan for the projects we’ll work on in the next year.”

Jasmine’s third talking point is about her vision for the team and the projects they’ll work on.
15 min.
In this portion of the presentation, Jasmine:
  • Introduces the team’s projects.
  • Explains how and why they are relevant to the business.
  • Expands on her vision for how the team will continue to drive an impact.
Conclusion, action items, and questions:

Jasmine’s presentation concludes with a recap of the three topics the team discussed.

Finally, Jasmine has the option to open the floor for questions.
10 min.
In this portion of the presentation, Jasmine:
  • Gives a one to two sentence recap of the three topics that she shared with her team.
  • Opens the floor for questions.
  • Closes the meeting letting the team know about what’s expected of them.

The stories sprinkled throughout her presentation help her team connect and feel engaged. So Jasmine’s presentation is so much more than just the team’s annual review in facts. It’s a narrative of where the team has been and where they are going.

Visual Appeal

Once Jasmine has the structure in place for her presentation, it’s time for her to think about how she’ll visually present her story.

Here are tips for how to put together an awesome slide deck:

  • Keep it organized—Turn each bullet in your outline into a single slide. This helps ensure you have just one idea per slide. If you are presenting more than one main idea, create another slide.
  • Keep it spare—Don’t overload your slides with content. Only put a few bullets per slide. No need to display everything you say (after all, that’s why you’re there). Just list the key points. Limit your slides to just 4–6 bullet points and a single picture. Text and image overload can cause people to read your slides instead of listening to you.
  • Keep it simple—There’s nothing more annoying than text and graphics flying all over the place. Simple and subtle transitions are enough to get you to the next slide without distracting your audience.
  • Keep it legible—True for both text and images: Bigger is generally better. Use at least 24-point font size and ensure there is enough contrast for people to read—generally people find it easier to read dark text on a light background.

Presentation Skills Tips and Tricks

Here’s some tips that you might use before and during your presentation:

  • Prepare—Did you know that before giving a keynote presentation, Steve Jobs spent days or even months preparing? It’s true. So, the first step to being a pro at presenting is to prepare, and then prepare some more. Memorize your slide deck and be prepared to answer questions.
  • Arrive early—Make sure that technology is working smoothly, and give yourself time to mentally prepare to deliver your message.
  • Check your posture—Make sure that you’re facing the audience and that your shoulders are squared and open toward the audience. Begin with your hands at your sides and use gestures to emphasize key points.
  • Eliminate filler words—Record your voice and listen for words like “um.” Be mindful of how often you use words to fill the silence, and do your best not to use filler words. You don't have to fill every second. You can be silent for a moment. Let the audience take in what you say.
  • Emphasize key messages—Use your voice to build excitement, and use a silent pause to emphasize key messages.
  • Make eye contact—Connect with your audience by making eye contact.
Note

Note

For even more information on how to be your best public speaking self, check out Public Speaking Skills on Trailhead.

Let’s Sum It Up

Did you know that once upon a time people believed that the reason we told stories was for survival? For example, paintings on cave walls warned others of danger ahead. Those who could communicate and understand the message of others made it safely to greener pastures.

We’re hoping that by learning about storytelling and why we use stories in business you’ll not only survive, but thrive! You’ll do more than manage your team; you’ll inspire them.

Now you have the tools and expertise you need to write your team’s success story.

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