Presentation Skills: StyleBe a Storyteller
Stories in presentations bring to life abstract data. Far from diluting your message, stories can underscore and strengthen your points. Storytelling is a technique that enables your listeners to better hear, understand, and remember what you say. To pull it off, you don't need a degree in drama. All you need is know-how.
Sweet reason has its place. Still, a common trap that presenters fall into is a disproportionate reliance on facts, data, raw information without emotional appeal. Put up the graphs, the pie charts, the numbers that support the logic of your argument, but will logic alone move people to action? Emotion can ignite your audience not just to listen but to act on your ideas. Often your task as a presenter is not to intellectualize emotion, but to emotionalize intellect.
With well-planned stories, you can break down barriers and get closer to the emotional drivers of your audience. Studies repeatedly show that when you reach people on an emotional level, they hear, understand, and remember more of what you have to say.
Just as good communicators are made, not born, good storytellers can master the art. Here are a few pointers to get you started.
Plain. Keep it simple. Don't dive into complicated epics. Pare down to the essentials. Use eye focus, pauses, a strong voice, appropriate body language, and facial expressions to convey feeling.
Light. Make sure your story is appropriate to your audience. Use good judgment. Don't dwell on grisly details, depressing diatribes, and the like. The story you weave should connect to your content and overall purpose.
Obvious. Be clear and focused. At the end of the story, your listeners shouldn't wonder why you told the story or how it links to the issue at hand.
Tight. Keep it short. Rehearse the story so you can tell it easily and at a comfortable pace in just a few minutes. You may want to tape yourself telling it so you can edit dull areas and punch up your delivery wherever necessary.
Remember, storytelling is just good, basic communication at work. What's "new" about it is that there are steps to follow to make you effective. These steps let you study and practice the process so that you can incorporate it seamlessly into your "best, natural style."