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Drop the Dry Presentation, Tell a Compelling Story (Part 1)

By June 7, 2008June 4th, 2020No Comments
group of executives sitting in a training presentation, engaged and smiling at the facilitator

Article Summary: [Part 1 of 2] By a show of hands, who likes public speaking? A few hands go up. OK, who likes attending a PowerPoint presentation? Again, a few of you. Both responses are what you would expect, right? In this column and the next one, I show you the steps to change both answers to a loud and resounding “Yes!” It is time to tell your great story — a story that melds passion with compelling business messages. A compelling presentation inspires others with your belief in your organization and enables you to confidently give your presentation anywhere and anytime–conferences, informal gatherings, all-hands meetings, board meetings, sharing of scientific papers, and so forth. A compelling story or compelling story with data, drives business results:  it increases membership, reduces client turnover, leads to higher staff retention, promotes enduring profits, helps secure government funding, and inspires action in your audiences.

Drop the Dry Presentation, Tell a Compelling Story (Part 1)

Copyright © 2008, Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
May 30, 2008

[This is the first in a series of two-part articles. Part 2 is Presenters Must Prepare Like Orchestra Conductors]

By a show of hands, who likes public speaking? A few hands go up. OK, who likes attending PowerPoint presentations? Again, a few of you.

Both responses are what you would expect, right? In this column and the next one, I will show you the steps to change both answers to a loud and resounding “yes!”

It is time to tell your great story — a story that melds passion with compelling business messages.

A compelling story and a compelling presentation will inspire others with your belief in your organization and enable you to confidently give your presentation anywhere and anytime. A compelling presentation drives business results:  increases membership, reduces client turnover, leads to higher staff retention, and promotes enduring profits.

Transform Your Ideas into Action

Throughout our private lives, we experience great books, articles, movies, etc. The memorable ones stay with us for life.

Similarly, great business stories transform facts and details into ideas and ideas into measurable action. The typical speaker packs a presentation with text, diagrams and facts. The interpretation of the data is left to the audience.

You should offer an active message in which you specifically interpret the data, form a position and make recommendations. Help your audience (e.g., partners, prospects, members, staff, clients or others) make better decisions with a story that simultaneously educates, entertains, and inspires.

One of my clients, “Paul,” is a national expert. I affectionately call him Paul the Presentation Procrastinator. He creates a presentation just days before the delivery date. He merges slides from his library of PowerPoints to create the new version. He practices once at his desk–a magnet for distractions. He designs his opening on the way to the event and delivers a made-up-on-the-spot closing. And Paul wonders why his anxiety level shoots through the roof. All of us who have been a Paul the Presentation Procrastinator should become Paul the Presentation Planner.

All of us who have been a Paul the Presentation Procrastinator should become Paul the Presentation Planner.

To Plan is to Succeed

Designing and delivering a compelling presentation takes planning and practice. Below is a framework you can use to create inspiring content, engaging visuals, and messages that increase sales.

The framework for developing an compelling presentation is as follows:

  1. Know your goals
  2. Know your target audience
  3. Develop a compelling message
  4. Identify your call-to-action
  5. Anticipate key questions
  6. Develop compelling talking points
  7. Add supporting content and visuals
  8. Deliver your great business story

Customize the presentation framework to fit your specific organization, public speaking style, and goals. Let’s discuss the first three steps and then, steps four through eight in the next article.

1.  Know Your Goals

Determine the overall character and content of the presentation by starting with these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the presentation?
  • Making a decision, obtaining consensus, product demonstrations, lead generation, investor relations, conferences, compliance, or training?
  • How will the information, interpretations, and recommendations be used?

Over time, add questions appropriate to your goals.

2. Know Your Target Audience

To ensure your message is on-target, ask:

  • What problems and issues are we trying to solve?
  • Is the audience neutral, unfriendly, or friendly toward the topic?
  • What are the demographics (gender, age, culture, titles, etc.)?

We apply a standard set of questions every time in our Analysis of Audience. You should develop your own guide synched to your ideal customer or ideal stakeholders.

3.  Develop a Compelling Message

In “Tested Sentences that Sell,” Elmer Wheeler of the famed phrase, “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle,” said it best: “Your first ten words are more important than your next ten thousand!”

Your first ten words are more important than your next ten thousand!” – Elmer Wheeler

In reading a newspaper, what catches your attention? Compelling headlines. Listening to the radio, what catches your attention? Compelling verbal headlines. Your headline, your compelling message, what we call, your Better Tomorrow Message TM, must create a “Wow! Tell me more” feeling. Then throughout your presentation, explain how you will deliver on the promise offered in the headline.

This is the most important and most difficult step. Be patient and take your time. It will be worth the wait. You will feel it in your whole body when it is right. It will be a feeling much like the experience of eating a York Peppermint Pattie as expressed in the commercials of the 1980s. You will be saying out loud with arms stretched wide, “YESSSSS!”

Sell is a synonym for act.

In your compelling presentation, you are trying to influence others to buy from you, approve an option, consider a proposal, follow new training, attend a conference, reallocate staff, etc. The steps in this article are the key to an audience-centered, compelling presentation that helps you sell.

In the next column, we will walk through your compelling talking points, opening, and closing.

Interested in improving (dramatically) your public speaking, presentation, storytelling, or data storytelling skills?

FURTHER READING – ALL WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL ARTICLES

  • Everyone has a Story to Tell, and You Need One Too  (read)
  • Say What you Want, Say it in Under 30 Seconds  (read)
  • Step Away from the Urn, and Other Networking Tips  (read)
  • Keeping it Real – Learn to Heed Your Authentic Voice  (read)
  • Getting to Yes – Make Body Language Work for You  (read)
  • Drop the Dry Presentation, Tell a Compelling Story  (Part 1) (this article)
  • Presenters Must Prepare Like Orchestra Conductors  (Part 2)
  • Great Leaders Know How to Put their Words to Work  (read)

Photography Source: Photos.com

Ira Koretsky

About Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, trainer, consultant, and communication coach.