In our line of work, we hear different words being thrown around all the time. Whether it’s slides, slide-pack, presentation decks, PowerPoint slides… It looks easy to do, but to really take it to the next level? Not so much.
Yet more often than not, executives are tasked with developing quality presentation slides quickly and then find themselves stuck, wanting the presentation to leave the audience visually enthralled, yet racing against a looming deadline.
If you’ve got your presentation’s story and structure locked down, great. The next hurdle is to buff up (or in this case, simplify) your slides.
Here’s the thing. The biggest problem that executives face when it comes to putting a presentation slide deck together is: Trying too hard to do too much. Worse, because most us aren’t visually inclined, the challenge is compounded.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of 5 simple techniques you can use to have your audience’s eyes glued to the screen each time you press the button on your clicker. Leave your colleagues jealous…even if you’re a beginner with no design experience.
Tip #1: Select a Few Contrasting Colors for Your Presentation
Too many colours on a slide deck can be confusing, and may even end up being a distraction.
Avoid trying to turn your slide into something that resembles a rainbow – that’s when you’ll know you’re on the wrong track.
By picking fewer colors, your slides will be less cluttered, and you’ll be able to bring across clearer messages enhanced with visuals that aren’t buried under Skittles!
It’s fair to say that most people aren’t really that good at picking colors anyway. The best way I’ve found to teach beginners to do this is to start from one of these areas:
a) Use your company’s corporate colors
Certain organizations have strict brand guidelines and colors to choose from, but this may not always be a limitation. Using these colors ensure that you’re on-brand, and the color palette is usually kept to only a few colors.
If you don’t have a guideline in your company, an easy way to create a palette is to pick colors directly from your company’s logo. If the logos are designed well, most of the time the colors should contrast really well on both light and dark backgrounds.
b) Trawl the internet for color palettes
When in doubt, the Internet is your friend. Visiting sites like Behance or Dribbble lets you find plenty of good work from some of the world’s best designers. My tip is to not endeavour to do anything close to that, as it will take up a lot of your time (which you probably will not have). Instead, pay attention to the colors they use, and let it serve as your inspiration.
Notice the background and foreground colors that they’re using, and try those out for yourself. Or if you run out of ideas, our friends at Venngage put together a post on 101 different presentation ideas to help you get started.
c) Decide on an accent and a neutral color
Notwithstanding all the advice so far, the rule of thumb here is to just decide on a single ‘accent’ color (which is anything other than white, black, grey or brown) as well as a neutral color (white or dark grey). This is also known as a monochromatic scheme – not like the name really matters, right?
With that alone, you’ll suddenly have ease of access to an array of simple combinations to use on your presentation.
In summary, if you have guidelines internally, use those. If not, pick your own colors, but always try to stick to a single accent and a neutral color to make life easier for yourself.
Tip #2. Less Text On Your Slide
Another thing that’s pretty common in corporate presentations is text vomit (this isn’t actually an official word), and by that, I mean: Too many words that can be verbalized.
If your presentation is going to be delivered live by you or someone else, you don’t always need all the words up there. As long as the messaging is clear enough, you’re good to go.
This might fall more into the realm of effective storytelling, but it’ll make all the difference when you start designing your slides. This is simply because you can only do so much to enhance what’s already broken, or in this case, overwhelmingly cluttered.
Here are some quick ways to reduce your word count:
a) Reduce text in bullets and headlines
Here’s a quick example, if you had a sentence like: “Singapore’s housing prices are at all-time highs, making it difficult to afford for graduates who intend to get married at a younger age. This results in delayed marriages.”
Try to do your pointers in ‘mini-headline’ forms like: “Singaporean graduates delay marriage due to high housing prices” This example isn’t a whole lot shorter, but it helps to make the message you want to get across as succinct as possible – if you want to elaborate further, do it verbally.
b) Convert text to visuals
Visuals are processed 50,000 times faster than text. Just look at the symbols below:
You don’t need text to tell you what those are because visuals have implicit meanings attached to them. Use this to your advantage by shortening your paragraphs and headlines by replacing them with visuals. Here’s an example:
If you convert some of the wordings into visuals and verbalize the text instead, you’ll get:
They key is not to replace everything with visuals, but to reduce as much as you can while ensuring that the message does not lose its essence. Some questions to ask yourself after you simplify are:
- Does my main point still come across adequately?
- Can the nuances here be understood with visuals instead?
- Will people get confused?
Based on the answers, you can decide whether to replace a paragraph of text with a visual.
By reducing the text on your slide – you instantly get a better-looking presentation overall even if you haven’t yet touched on the design and aesthetic aspects.
Tip #3. Proven Layouts and The Rule Of Thirds
If this isn’t your first article on presentation design, you might have heard about the rule of thirds before. I’ve written about this extensively in other articles but I think it’s important to mention it again below to give you the full picture.
The goal should always be to get your presentation done efficiently and effectively. With proven layouts and guides like the rule of thirds, you’ll get it right every time without too much guesswork.
Take a look at these 3 slides below – they all look pretty different, but actually follow the same grid layout:
This is not by chance; if you build good layouts from the get-go, you’ll be able to copy-paste them into new decks whenever you make them.
A simple way to get used to grid layouts is to split your slide into equal parts like thirds, halves or quarters. That way, you’ll always know how much space or slide real-estate you have to play around with. If you’re unsure of where to place your photo, you’ll know once you find empty spaces that require balancing.
As you go along following these layouts, building them for presentations will start to become second-nature, and you’ll know instinctively where to layer elements when appropriate.
Another quick way to look like a ‘pro’ without too much effort is to use full-bleed imagery wherever possible – you might have seen this used by more notable presenters such as Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, where they use high-resolution evocative photography to enhance their presentations.
Using the rule of thirds, you’ll almost always know where to place text when using full-bleed backgrounds. Basically, insert your text or any other element into the empty space where the lines intersect. Instantly, you’ll get a decent looking slide that looks way better than anything the rest of your colleagues can put together in a minute.
The only instance that might be challenging is when you have a busy image that does not have sufficient contrast to ensure your text can be seen. The fix for that, however, is pretty straightforward: Add either a gradient or solid fill shape – this can be done with a couple of clicks on Keynote or PowerPoint.
There you have it, quick and simple ways to get your layout right every time, quickly. If you need to find high-resolution images for full-bleed slides, here are some resources you can use:
Tip #4. This Simple Font Trick
Many resources online, including some of our SlideShare content on presentations tout using custom fonts for your presentations – basically ones that aren’t installed by default on your machines.
If you have the prerogative to do that, awesome. There are plenty of great sites that offer really high-quality fonts that you can use in your presentations: Font Squirrel, LostType, f just to name a few. Using large san-serif fonts will help you get your message across boldly and sometimes, the beauty of the typefaces alone are enough to constitute the whole slide.
Problem is, if you can’t use your own personal computer when presenting, or you have strict corporate guidelines on the use of non-default fonts, you’ll be back to square one. How does one get past this?
Designers that work heavily with fonts use these terms to describe the space between them: tracking, leading and kerning. Respectively, these represent the horizontal spaces between letters in a sentence, vertical space between paragraph lines and space between single characters.
The only thing that you need to worry about is the tracking – which known to few is controllable in PowerPoint and Keynote but makes a huge difference to how your drabby old default fonts look:
For sentence-cased fonts, reducing the space between the letters makes them more aesthetically pleasing at larger sizes and the best thing is it only takes 2 clicks to do this!
If you have words in all-caps for fonts like Century Gothic, you can even try to space them out wider to have a really clean, premium style for your headings.
It’s a really quick trick that we use a lot in our business, and I’m sure that this one simple tweak will help you make a big impact.
Tip #5. Using Gradients
Here’s where it’ll start to get a little technical. It’s one of my personal best-kept secrets when we design presentation decks, but it is slightly more difficult to execute.
Gradients have long been a feature in presentation software such as PowerPoint and Keynote, but in my opinion, it’s been grossly under-utilized. Here are a number of ways you can easily start using gradients to boost your presentation slides easily:
a) Using a gradient background
Don’t you just hate seeing that plain, white slide with the placeholder ‘Click to add text’ on it? A quick way to give your slides an extra punch of sophistication is to add a radial gradient as a background – lighter center, darker edges.
That way, if you have any headlines or images in the center, the focus is literally ‘drawn in’ to whatever is placed there. At the same time, it leaves your background looking less monotonous than just a solid color.
Once done, just place it in your ‘Master Slides’ and all your newly created slides will sport the same background! Neat, right?
b) Use gradient boxes to frame text
As mentioned earlier in Tip #3, when your text can’t be seen on a busy background, adding a shape behind it can work great.
If you’re looking to have a more subtle shape, using a gradient is a great way to have contrast but not have it steal the attention from the background image.
Simply select one of the color anchors and turn it to 0% opacity, this creates an effect where the gradient gradually becomes transparent from your first color. This way you get legibility without sacrificing the background image.
c) Light to dark gradient shapes
Flat solid shapes in your presentations can look dull after awhile. Using different shades of gradients in your shapes can add that extra bit of interest and also be used to draw the eye to different parts of your slide.
As mentioned earlier, if you keep gradients within the same color but different shapes (monochromatic style), it’ll naturally look good without too much guess-work.
I’ve just given you 5 quick ways to look like a pro in presentation design drawn from our experiences working with our clients.
Did I miss anything out? Leave us a comment below to let us know!
Just seeing the phrase itself could send shivers down many people’s spines. There’s a stigma that public speaking is a hard skill to learn and master. That people who do it well are able to do so because they are in the right place at the right time, with the right mindset.
However, according to Simon Sinek, an ethnographer and also the third most-watched TED Talks presenter of all time, success in public speaking is achieved because of fears that were faced and erased. Success of public speaking is through trial and error and tireless practice on and off stage.
To help those of you who still have yet to overcome your fear of public speaking, here is compiled a list of 9 commandments to help you improve as a public speaker.
Follow them, and in no time, winning over your audience would be like a walk in the park.
1. Thou shall practice, practice, practice.
We’ve all heard this before and that practice makes perfect. In public speaking, this couldn’t be truer! When practicing your speech to your friend, your mirror or your dog, you are building your brain’s muscle memory to remember what to say.
Not only that, it will also help gauge where you should add appropriate pauses or intonations in your voice to emphasise certain points.
2. Thou shall ask for feedback.
This brings me to my next point.
Let your friends or family evaluate your speech so you can get feedback on how to improve. Were you speaking too fast? Or were you too slow? Was there too much intonation or were you too monotonous? You get the gist.
So let them give you a few suggestions on how you can improve as a speaker. If not, make them record your speech so you can hear – and observe – where you made your mistakes. You might cringe hearing yourself speak, but it’ll be worth it.
3. Thou shall articulate
Jack Wallen, an actor, says this about articulation: “Have you ever listened to someone speak who was hard to understand? What do you do after a while? You tune them out. You find them uninteresting and assume they’re not really knowledgeable about their subject. You can be the most brilliant person alive, but if your audience can’t understand you, you will lose them.”
Articulation is a necessary part in capturing and maintaining the attention of your audience. This is because they need to understand you as a speaker before they can be persuaded.
Hence, there is no no need to use flowery phrases or be poetic if the audience cannot understand a word you say. Instead, make sure to keep your speech simple yet informative at the same time.
4. Thou shall not read too much from cue cards/slides
This is such a common mistake that many speakers make, especially if they only practiced last minute. When you read from your cue cards or slides too much, you’re obviously not looking at your audience.
This makes you disengaged from them and is a sure fire way to lose their attention.
It also makes you look unprepared. Someone who didn’t take the time to get familiar with your speech and your topic which does not help build your credibility as a speaker.
5. Thou shall not use too many vocal fillers
How often have you heard a person speak and he or she fills the silence with sounds or words?
Compare these two statements:
“Actually, another point I want to make is that, umm like, in puppy mills, like, mother dogs are treated like production machines.”
“Another point I want to make is that in puppy mills, mother dogs are treated as production machines.”
Which one of the sentences makes you feel like the speaker knows what he or she is saying? Which one sounds more confident? There’s no doubt you would choose the latter.
This is because, according to Mindtools, using vocal fillers like “umm”, “like”, “just”, “basically” and “actually” reduces your power as a speaker. Although many know this, they are also not aware of the vocal fillers that they use unconsciously.
To avoid this, have others listen to your speech the way you would deliver it and ask them for their feedback so you can adjust accordingly.
6. Thou shall tell a genuinely emotional story
Audiences may not always remember what you’ve said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.
When a speaker talks about a personal story – whether it be a sad or happy one – the audience would be able to feel the sincerity of the what is being told.
This creates an immediate and lasting connection between the speaker and the audience. So, don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable and share your story.
With that being said, if you are uncomfortable or have no personal story to tell, you can make use of other storytelling techniques such as The Hero’s Journey Approach or Mystery Storytelling. Both are classic and simple, yet highly effective, examples on how you can engage your audience.
7. Thou shall connect with audience members one at a time.
Start in your day-to-day life by becoming “a real expert at one to one eye contact within a group,” says Eileen Sinett, a communications coach.
Great speeches are like one-on-one conversations with each audience member. So put in the effort in making eye contact with at least one person rather than just scanning the floor. It will help establish a connection with the audience, making them feel special and important.
8. Thou shall dress to impress.
The general rule of thumb is the speaker should always be dressed one level more formally than the audience. Choose an outfit that not only makes you look good, but makes you feel comfortable as well. The last thing you want is to be fidgeting in your outfit throughout your speech – especially if you’re already a ball of nerves.
When you look and feel good, you’re giving yourself an extra boost of confidence to speak!
9. Thou shall turn to TED
TED Talks are probably one of the most helpful videos to visualise what a good speech looks like. There’s so much you can learned based on the highest-rated TED Talks videos. This includes how speakers hook their audiences from the very beginning to how they engage them throughout their speech. Even from the way they stand while giving their speech!
These are professionals who are well-versed in the art of public speaking. Speakers who are good role models to follow. Take down notes from some of your favourite TED Talks speakers. Then, practice by mirroring their actions or make use of their tips when your next speech comes around.
By obeying these 9 commandments, you will (hopefully!) be a better speaker. Always remember that good public speaking skills don’t just occur overnight. You need to hone those skills by practicing and refining the way you speak with every speech you make.
Good luck! Let us know in the comments below if it worked for you!
Think that implementing storytelling in your business is a challenging feat?
We asked 30 business storytelling experts a simple question: “What is an effective storytelling tip you would recommend for business leaders?” As an emerging field, the concept of business storytelling is still relatively new. Hence, I wanted to learn the mindsets and techniques they use so that newbies like myself can get started. To recap, here are the key learnings we got from these interviews.
- Be human, it’s fine to be imperfect. This means displaying your vulnerable side and showing empathy as a fellow human being
- Present a compelling ‘Why’. By simply offering your service without a strong ‘Why’, you risk getting commoditised within a competitive marketplace
- Introduce contrast to your stories. This could come in the form of ‘good’ guys versus ‘bad’ guys OR the current situation vs a better future
Here are the responses we received in the order of time received. Simply click on the contributor’s name ‘jump’ directly to his or her response. Nancy Duarte, Joe Pulizzi, Bernadette Jiwa, Michael Margolis, Alex Barrera,Vladimir Gendelman, Cynthia Kurtz, Andrea Fontana,Casey Hibbard,David Hutchens, Stefanie Kilts, Molly W Catron, Neeta Patel, Nico Prinsloo, Sean Buvala, Carol Mon, Mike Wittenstein, Thaler Pekar,, , Lori Silverman, Paul Furiga, Lina Srivastava, Raf Stevens, Shawn Callahan, Terrence Gargiulo, Susan Luke, Doug Stevenson, Gabrielle Dolan, Ian Sanders, Valerie Khoo, John Kratz, Antonio Nunez Lopez
“Empathy is the most important storytelling mindset for business leaders. The audience is the hero. Without them, your idea will die. So, you need to take the posture of the mentor, you need to get to know your audience and understand what resonates with them. For storytelling techniques, the key is contrast.
When giving a presentation, you need to contrast the current situation with a future, better situation if they will adopt your idea. You need to move between “what is” and “what could be” to convince your audience that they should join you on the journey to the future. Change is hard, and your idea will require your audience to make a change, so you need to empathetically show them an alluring future to make the risk and sacrifice worth it.”
Nancy Duarte is the founder of Duarte Agency. She is well known for her three best-selling books, including Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences You can follow her at @nancyduarte
“I come from a publishing background and have had the opportunity to interview the most successful online platforms in the world. Each one follows the same formula – 1) focus on one content type (audio, video, textual) 2) focus on one content platform (blog/website, iTunes, YouTube), 3) consistently deliver content (every day, week, month, etc.) 4) over a long period of time. Those leaders that actually have a differentiated story and do the above, will be successful with building a loyal audience over time.”
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of Content Marketing Institute and authored “How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses“. Follow him at @JoePulizzi.
People don’t just pay a premium for different or better. They pay more for a product or service that anticipates, accommodates and sometimes celebrates the context of their situation. Understanding not just what our customers will buy or pay, but why they will buy or pay more, provides us with an opportunity to innovate and add value.
Bernadette Jiwa is a freelance brand story strategist, marketing keynote speaker and the author of four #1 Amazon Bestsellers Difference, Marketing: A Love Story, The Fortune Cookie Principle and Make Your Idea Matter. Follow her at @BernadetteJiwa.
When you’re learning how to tell a better business story, presence trumps performance. It’s not about finding those perfect words that can help you dominate the marketplace. It’s about being confident in and connected to what you do, why it matters, and why it’s a gift that makes a real difference in people’s lives.
There’s nothing wrong with selling — we’re all selling something. But how much do you really believe in what you’re offering? This reveals some part of your own humanity.
Michael Margolis is the CEO of Get Storied is a leading-edge learning community, empowering business storytellers around the globe. Follow him at @getstoried.
As a mindset, I would recommend to always look at problems and solutions as the quintessential story ground. There is no best way to communicate a problem as with story. Don’t tell me the problem, show it to me through a story.
As for a technique, it’s more about getting the whole company to think in stories. That requires a cultural change, that’s not often easy. Stop presenting boring ppt, and start getting everyone to illustrate their needs through stories.
Alex Barrera is the Chief WOWnesss Officer at Press42. You can follow him @abarrera.
Be authentic. If you’re not dishonest about what you’re selling, about your company’s character, or how you plan to interact with customers, consumers will smell your phony story coming a mile away—and they will run the other direction.
More than anything, today’s buyer wants to work with brands they can trust. Telling a story that matches your actions will show them that you mean what you say and that working with you is worth their time.
Vladimir Gendelman is the founder and CEO of Company Folders, Inc., an innovative presentation folder printing company. He is also a printing and design expert and a graphic design blogger. Follow him @vgendelman.
Stop telling stories. Start listening. Only when you have listened to all the stories that matter (to your employees, customers, whoever matters to you) should you start telling stories. And when you do tell stories, you might find that telling the stories you’ve heard has more impact than telling any stories you can create.
Cynthia Kurtz authored the book “Working with Stories” which provides practical advice on collecting and working with the unique and valuable stories of your community or organization.
Storytelling for me is like a good cup of coffee, it warms and awakens.
When I do is a “storytelling operation”:
I listen to the public
I build the great plot necessary for them
I take care of the different media platforms in which the stories will incarnate.
Andrea Fontana is the founder of StoryFactory. Follow him at @StoryFactor.
To make a connection with their audiences – whether customers, investors, shareholders, peers or partners – business leaders need to have a variety of specific stories in their back pockets. For a rich trove of possible stories, look at your most successful customers. Then systematically collect, document and practice telling them.
Casey Hibbard authored “Stories That Sell” and a champion for the cause of organizational storytelling, Casey has crafted compelling stories for dozens of companies, such as EarthLink Business, Avaya, IHS and Acxiom Corporation. Follow her at @Casey_Hibbard.
A big part of my message to leadership storytellers is that “telling” is only part of your activity… and not even the most important part of the transaction. As a leader, after you tell a story, change happens when we invite the team into a conversation about the story; and then when we invite team members to tell their stories as well. The idea is to create a storytelling culture, or an interpretive community, that builds the organization’s capacity for meaning-making and co-creation.
Thus, I would argue that story listening is an even more potent leadership skill than story telling. Leaders should be the role models for this. I like the fact that this is a surprising message, because it does sound counter-intuitive to storytelling. But this is the shift I like to challenge leaders to make.
So even though you are creating an article about “telling” steps, I think it is absolutely appropriate to say to challenge the leader’s mental model and shift them to the side of listening and meaning making. My book, “Circle of the 9 Muses,” is loaded with actionable ideas that leaders can use to invite their teams (and customers, and partners) into this critical meaning-making, story-creating conversation.
David Hutchens is the author of Circle of The 9 Muses: A Storytelling Field Guide For Innovators And Meaning Makers. Follow him at: @DavidbHutchens
The most important mindset for effective storytelling in business is thinking about your audience first. The most powerful story is not about your business or service, it’s about your customers and knowing your audience will help narrow down how to most effectively deliver that content. A clear distinction in our digital world is whether you want to develop a passive or active audience with storytelling. There are numerous platforms, tools, design and visual components, content types and messaging to build stories so your customers not only see the stories but engage and interact with the content. In the end, it’s not enough to create great stories; you need to create great stories that spread, morph and multiply.
Stefanie Kilts is passionate about harnessing the power of storytelling through multimedia and social media. She shares that passion through videography and marketing businesses. Follow her at @stefaniekilts.
Molly W Catron
The most critical element of storytelling in business is authenticity. The listeners know when someone has “manufactured” a story to influence them in some way. Change or buy-in happens from a personal decision made in the 18 inches between the head and the heart. Stories tell the facts in an emotional context. The facts must be accurate and the emotional context must be authentic. Listeners read the emotion from not only the words but from every element of the teller’s body language. Don’t fudge the facts and if you are a leader and you have not experienced an emotional connection to the story being told, don’t tell it.
Leaders are effective storytellers when they tell stories that have influenced them to change, to see differently, to learn a valuable lesson or illustrate a principle played out beautifully. Listeners sense authenticity and if they don’t see it, they will reject the story and the teller. The leader’s rejected story will become fodder for the powerful “water cooler” stories and will work against the leader’s efforts.
Molly Catron has worked with practitioners from various organizations (IBM, Disney, Harvard University, Capitol One, World Bank, etc.) to study the use of story in business. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
I think a critical skill that all business leaders need to have is an ability to paint a compelling vision of the company, where it’s going and how the company staff can help to achieve that vision.
A powerful technique that many leaders use is through storytelling. This is not about telling ‘tall’ tales or outlining fictional stories but bringing the companies challenges to life by showing analog situations and allowing people to draw conclusions from that. In my book titled ‘ Creative Business – the creation of addictive content’, my co-founder and I use analogies from the TV, Film and book publishing industries as examples of compelling and ‘addictive’ stories.
A good technique to identify the drama (a company is trying to break traditional business models), the good guys (the company and its staff), the bad guys (regulators, competitors etc) and then paint a picture of how the good guys will win. In film, the good guys always win!
Neeta Patel is the CEO of New Entrepreneurs Foundation. You can follow her @neetapatel.
My favourite practical technique for telling stories on behalf of my clients, is what I call the Why technique.
If you can answer the question why your business exists, then it is easy to get to the What (you do) and How (you do it). Most business stories answer the What and How first, but that is not what the prospective client is looking for.
If you can tell the prospective client why you exist, they will understand better what you do and accept how you do it.
Nico Prinsloo is a Business Storyteller who creates effective content for businesses’ digital platform. Follow him on Twitter @Nicp.
Most companies confuse advertising and storytelling. Leaders need to understand that advertising is not storytelling. While companies need to develop solid stories about their work and mission, the expression of those stories needs to be diverse.
Storytelling is a part of that. Storytelling can only be done live and person to person, CEO’s to reps, reps to customers, customers to other customers and other such connections. Various forms of story-expression, such as video, social media graphics and testimonials, aren’t storytelling. Yes, they are great tools, but only storytelling is storytelling.
If your “C”-suite team doesn’t know that and then model and practice it, I think you should quit using the romanticized word “storytelling” and just call it advertising or marketing. You are hurting yourself otherwise. There’s nothing wrong with creating good advertising with your stories.
Sean Buvala is a storytelling and public speaking coach. Follow him @Storyteller.
When telling stories remember this simple formula.
1. What was the world like before, give a brief background to lay the foundation.
2. What was the conflict or struggle to overcome.
3. What was the result? How was the problem solved?
Too often business leaders want to “pump up the troops” and they give presentations that are all positive. That’s not what real life is like. We have ups and downs and stories should too. Without the natural arc the audience becomes suspicious, thinking they are listening to some wild fairy tale.
Carol Mon helps people unlock the secrets of creating and telling compelling stories to strengthen communication skills. Follow her @corporateteller.
If you’re a leader, you probably achieved your position by having your own ideas and opinions–then by getting others to believe in them and carry them out. Congratulations! When you’re telling business stories, your audience doesn’t have to listen to you. You must earn that privilege.
So, remember this: others prefer to ‘discovery’ your story not to have you ‘tell it’ to them. The most important advice I have for business leaders who share stories is to first stand in your audience’s shoe–long enough to see the world from their point of view. Get close to their needs and concerns. See what they see and think about what they might want to see. Hear what they hear and think about what they might want to hear.
Then, adapt your message and your stories to connect with them. Remember to use vivid picture words, incorporate the emotions of others (especially others’ reactions), and to pause so that people can imagine what you’re saying and discover key points for themselves. The more they discover on their own, the more they will understand and the more they will care.
Mike Wittenstein speaks globally on a variety of topics to retail, service, tech, and B2B companies. He dives head-first into research, becoming a cultural scientist of sorts, discovering essential stories — the ones that resonate with customers. Follow him @mikewittenstein.
Storytelling has become the holy grail of the marketing and advertising world in the past few years, but as a former journalist, I’ve been telling stories for decades. After I shifted my career into marketing and public relations, it was a mindset that just naturally followed. Stories make ideas, facts and statistics relatable. We don’t relate to numbers. We relate to people. As Joseph Stalin said, “A million deaths is a statistic. One death is a tragedy.” We must find examples of the many and tell their stories so that facts and figures come alive. The quickest way to our brain is not through spouting statistics, but through the heart. And the quickest way to our heart is through stories. The mythographer Joseph Campbell, author of “The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” discovered in his study of world myths that they are all basically the same story. The archetypal formula he unveiled works whether you apply it to “The Odyssey” or “Star Wars.” While it is important for businesses to look for opportunities to tell their stories by creating great content, it is important to keep in mind that the purpose for telling them is so that the customer can see himself as the hero. The business is not the hero, but the mentor. So when the business is offering solutions to the customer’s problems, help the customer visualize herself as the heroine in her own life by telling stories about how other customers became heroines when they took your advice or used your product. When an organization embraces a storytelling culture both internally and externally, it not only attracts customers, it creates an ethos that inspires loyalty from its “internal customers” or employees, arguably its most important stakeholders.
Gail Kent is a business storyteller, content marketer, PR and social media consultant at The BuzzFactoree. Follow her @TheBuzzFactoree
“Although your story can feature yourself as the protagonist, the story has to be about your listener. Can your listener relate to the experience you are describing? Do the details, and, most importantly, the emotions you are offering, resonate with his or her own life? You want your listener to imagine themselves inside your story, rooting, not simply for you, but for themselves should something similar have happened or might happen to them. If you can pull them in with empathy, you can fully transport your listeners into your story.”
Thaler Pekar helps organizations find, develop, and share good, persuasive stories. Follow her @thaler.
Imagine you’re the leader of a large technology group. The organization has just completed its strategic plan, of which you’ve been a key player. In the plan is a strategy to make technology a core competence in the organization.
How will you get staff – both inside and outside of your group – to understand and embrace this? By using three types of future stories — “did we make the right choice,” dream, and vision — you’ll be able to translate strategy into to action.
“Did we make the right choice” stories inspire people to overcome reticence for embracing a desired future by leveraging a leader’s personal credibility and confidence in the chosen path. The story you’d tell here (or the CEO might tell) is a personal one. It answers the prompt: “Tell me about a time in your life when you greatly resisted a change … and when you came to embrace it, you found there were many benefits for yourself (and others).”
This is followed by your personal dream story: a story that creates desire and excitement – fueling people’s imaginations for what you believe to be possible if everyone works together. It, too, is a personal story, one that uses visual language and powerful metaphors in a heart-felt way.
Then, it’s time to sit down with a cross-section of all staff to co-create a vision story: what “done” looks like once technology is embedded throughout the organization as a core competence. Bring potential results to life by choosing a main character and work activities that everyone can relate to. When you transform concepts and ideas into concrete behaviors, you make everything real and doable.
What will you do the next time you have to translate strategy into action? Will you provide data and facts that cause people’s eyes to glaze over? Or will you turn to story to fuel peoples’ passion? It’s my hope that you’ll say it with a story.
Lori Silverman has authored three best-selling books on business storytelling: Business Storytelling for Dummies (with Karen Dietz), Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over, and Stories Trainers Tell (with Mary Wacker) and provides keynotes, training, coaching, and consulting. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Storytelling is so powerful that it should be the primary goal of all your business communications. When I say “storytelling,” I mean your capital “S” story. The capital “S” story answers why someone should work for you, invest in you, buy from you, promote you, be your neighbor, etc.
What is your capital “S” story? Once you know that, you can take your story to the marketplace of ideas by answering these questions:
• Who is our audience?
• What do we want the audience to do or feel?
• Who are the key characters in the story?
• What is the plot or plot lines for the story?
• What is the story’s climax or key success point?
• What is our happy ending?
The most important measure of business storytelling is YOUR happy ending. Your organization’s happy ending is not the same as a competitor’s. So how will you make sure your happy ending is the one that defines your story? Think like a storyteller rather than someone who is simply chasing the next sale or marketing tactic. Remember your capital “S” story, and small “s” stories will come by the bucketload, with more and more of them bearing your happy ending.
Paul Furiga helps organisations become the hero of their story through storytelling. Follow him on Twitter @paulfuriga @wordwritepr
“There are quite a few ways in which you can become a effective storyteller. One of mindsets to adopt, perhaps counterintuitively, is to become a good listener and observer. Observing the contexts in which people live and work, and listening to people’s needs, wants, grievances, and desires, is the key to understanding lived experience. And it is through communicating the richness of lived experience — your own, as well as that of your customers or constituencies — that your stories will become universal and a way to connect to people.”
Lina Srivastava catalyzes and amplifies social impact through creative media. She is a strategist who combines technology, culture, art, and storytelling for social transformation. Follow her at @lksriv.
5 techniques to achieve innovation and change through effective storytelling.
1. Using stories to empower data.
2. Not allowing your ego to stand between you and your stories.
3. Choosing ”pull” stories instead of ”push” stories.
4. Listening to stories to create a story culture.
5. Leaving fiction to Hollywood.
Raf Stevens gives keynote speeches and seminars about the power of storytelling and works as a business coach for leaders and their organizations. He previously authored the book “No Story No Fans”. Follow him on Twitter @RafStevens.
“The first thing a leader needs to do to be a good business storyteller is to be able to tell a story from a non-story. I call this story spotting. Too many people are calling things stories when they are not and you only get the benefits of storytelling when you tell a story. Here is a simple infographic that explains how to spot a story. You can test their story spotting skills here.
Second, it’s vital in business that your story has a point. Yes, it seems obvious but so often business people tell a story without thinking about the business point they’re trying to make. And to make it absolutely clear for the audience they should share their point in once sentence before telling a story. I call it a relevance statement because the audience needs to know what the relevance the story holds before the really listen. Here is a little video clip of me talking about relevance statements.
Thirdly, stories are more about pictures than words. When you can see the story happening you get the best impact. The easiest way to make a story more visual is to zoom into small moments rather than staying at the stratospheric level.
Finally, whatever a business leader does it’s vital that their story is NOT a performance. Stories in business should be invisible.
Shawn Callahan is the founder of Anecdote, a company that helps leaders become better storytellers. You can follow him @shawncallahan.
“The shortest distance between two people is a story.”
Stories are fundamental to the way we communicate, learn and think. They are the most efficient way of storing, retrieving, and conveying information. Since hearing stories requires active participation on the part of the listener, stories are the most profoundly social form of human interaction communication, and learning.
Stories certainly do a great job of encoding messages and conveying emotion
The “leaders develop leaders,” movement started 20+ years ago in places like GE, Pepsi and Shell brought forward the power of teachable moments and conversation. Story-based forms of communication are present in meaningful conversations.
Leaders need to spend more time eliciting stories than telling them. Actively listen to the stories and watch how they can improve communications and build satisfying, productive, rewarding relationships.
Story-based communication skills can be developed in leaders and throughout the organization. We’ve all got them. These skills go beyond “telling stories” skills.
Terrence Gargiulo is the founder of Making Stories, a firm that specialises in bringing storytelling to organisations. Follow him @makingstories.
In my experience the ‘mindset’ for effective storytelling for business leaders needs to be one of transparency and openness/vulnerability (not always easy for many in leadership positions). Leaders who are comfortable in their own skin, so to speak, and have a true desire to relate their own experiences to a current concern/issue in their organization, gain both understanding and can affect true change in both behaviour and decision making from their employees and/or clients.
Susan Luke is the corporate mythologist. She writes about tips and techniques on Corporate Mythology and Leadership. In addition how your Communication, Attitudes and Ability can affect your corporate culture, your working relationships, and most importantly your bottom line. Follow her @susanluke.
Every story you tell has the potential for making a number of points or teaching a number of lessons.
My philosophy is this: make one point per story each time you tell it. Keep it focused. When you force yourself to use the story to make one clear and concise point, you make it easier for the listener to learn what you want them to learn. And, it stops you from going off on tangents!
Storytelling in a business context is about strategy. You have to ask yourself: “What is the right story, that makes the right point, for this audience?” The process of deciding on the point of your story is absolutely essential to your success.
Doug Stevenson is the founder and president of Story Theater International, a speaking, training and consulting company based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter.
There are many techniques you need to learn to be a great storyteller in business but initially, the right mindset is critical.
The leaders that do this well have a mindset where they are prepared to show vulnerability and emotion. They see showing vulnerability as a strength in leadership and they have the courage, confidence and wisdom to do so.
Without being prepared to step into vulnerability, our stories are often business examples or case studies. These stories are less engaging and effective than stories that show vulnerability and emotion.
Gabrielle is the co-author of Hooked: How Leaders Connect, Engage and Inspire with Storytelling. and the co-author of Eliminate Death by PowerPoint. Follow her at @GabrielleDolan1.
First, make sure that the story you are telling your organisation fires YOU up. Because if it doesn’t get your fist-pumped, how on earth do you expect it to inspire others?
Second, make your story simple. Don’t reach for the dictionary just because you’re telling a story in a business context. Speak in the same way you’d speak to your friends or family.
Third, keep it human. Your story should be about people, not products. If you want to change hearts and minds, make sure your audience can relate with the people in your story.
Ian Sanders is a creative consultant, business storyteller and speaker. He co-authored Mash-up!: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier. Follow him at @IanSanders.
In the world of business, we are often told that data is king. But, in fact, it’s the story framing the data that can ultimately change behaviour or inspire a team or convert a customer. So whenever you are presenting data, make sure you also tell the story behind it. I’m not suggesting that you don’t use data or numbers in your presentations. Just remember that while numbers appeal to the head, it’s the stories behind the numbers that will appeal to the hearts of your audience members. And it’s your stories that will make you – and your message – memorable.
Valerie Khoo is the author of the bestselling book “Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business“. Follow her @valeriekhoo.
“Establishing trust and belief is job number 1 for salespeople meeting with prospective customers for the first time. Clients need to trust you before they will share their pain. This can be especially difficult for a 25 year-old salesperson calling on a more experienced 50 year-old manager. One of the best ways to put the prospective customer at ease, and in an open state of mind, is to share a 90-second story about a peer who you’ve helped solve a problem, meet a need or achieve a goal. We call this a peer story. Always ask permission first. For example, if I were selling cloud-based manufacturing resource planning software to a materials manager I might start the conversation with ” Can I tell you about another materials manager I recently worked with who was looking to reduce product shortages?” Try to identify an issue that is common to the title and functional area of the person you are calling on. Rarely will you get a “no.” Make sure you make the story about a person and build out the setting, complication and resolution using both facts and emotion. Pass the baton by stating ” but that’s enough about me, what is going on in your world of material management?” Most times they will voluntarily start sharing their pain.”
John Kratz runs the Story Seekers™ workshops help people learn how to use the power of story and connective listening to build trust with, and influence change in others. Follow him @streetsmartprof
Antonio Nunez Lopez
“In order to create an effective story, we must resist the human tendency to seek our audience´s total agreement about our story´s message. We must instead be bold and audacious and create debatable conflicts. If there is No conflict, there is no story. Stories work like “Case Studies”. Your audience will identify with their narrative conflicts in order to learn a real life lesson: If I were to encounter a similar conflict in my life, what would I do? How would my company, family, friends or society reward me if I succeed? How will they punish me if I fail? A successful story usually illustrates a cultural truth that is being reviewed by our audience. The existence of diverse opinions and interpretations about the conflict is perfectly normal and a healthy sign of storytelling success. If your story doesn’t provoke debate, that means that your conflict was irrelevant. As a storyteller, you cannot afford to be afraid of creating conflict. Conflicts are your stories “basic pillars.”
Antonio Nunez Lopez is a brand strategist and corporate storyteller. Follow him
Wow, thanks to everyone who contributed to this gigantic post! It has been incredibly useful for leaders who are incorporating storytelling into their business.
To recap, here are the key learnings I made from these interviews:
- Be human, it’s fine to be imperfect. This means displaying your vulnerable side and showing empathy as a fellow human being.
- Present a compelling ‘Why’. By simply offering your service without a strong ‘Why’, you risk getting commoditised within a competitive marketplace
- Introduce contrast to your stories. This could come in the form of ‘good’ guys versus ‘bad’ guys OR the current situation vs a better future.
Is there any other business storytelling experts we should include in this posts? What insights did you gain from their sharing? Do comment down below!