If you want a plant to grow, you would never just stick a seed into the dirt and hope for the best. Plants also need water, sunlight—maybe even a bit of conversation if you’re feeling quirky.
It’s the same with creating presentations for your business. You can’t just focus on one single thing, ignoring the big picture, and expect the company to grow.
Delivering a presentation is one of the most essential and fundamental methods of cultivating your business. But there’s more to creating a great business presentation than just including all of your most persuasive statistics and testimonials.
If you really want to attract clients, you have to consider every single aspect of the presentation—both on the screen and off.
With that in mind, here are 4 simple presentation tips you can use to help your business flourish to its full potential.
1. Consider Your Audience
Before you even begin writing your presentation, go over any relevant prospect data or market research about your audience that you have access to. Who are they, and why specifically might they use your product or service? Be sure to tailor your presentation specifically for them.
For instance, if your company specializes in cookware and you were presenting to a group of restaurant owners, they would most likely want to hear about how your products can be best used in a restaurant’s kitchen.
You wouldn’t present those products in the same way to an organization of outdoor enthusiasts; they’d be more interested in how the cookware could be used on a camping trip.
Trim your presentation down to the elements that will be most relevant to the people you’re speaking to. This way, you’ll get higher engagement and it’ll be much easier to ask for a sale or action.
2. Don’t Skimp on Visual Design
Seeing people use the same old PowerPoint themes over and over is enough to make me cringe. A premade template is a fine place to start, but if you want your slides to stand out, you have to add your own personal touches to make them fresh and original. Imagine going into a venture capitalist meeting with your investor pitch deck wholly made from a default template.
Pick out a color scheme that complements your brand; a few contrasting colors are usually pleasing to the eye. Use plenty of white space so that your slides won’t appear cluttered and difficult to digest.
There are a couple of ways to quickly get your presentation looking great:
a) Using Photos
A good photograph can go a long way; don’t rely too much on text. When you’re looking for photos, try to stay away from ones featuring subjects who are obviously posed in an unnatural way; these can make your presentation feel cheesy and artificial. Not sure where to look? Check out our compilation of 33 free stock photo sites for your next presentation.
b) Using non-default fonts
We’ve all been to presentations where Arial, Times New Roman and Comic Sans (blech) make their constant appearances. If allowed at your workplace, why not try some non-default fonts? Head over to fontsquirrel.com where you’ll find commercially available non-default fonts that you can use for your next presentation without any legal consequence!
Picking a couple of fonts that stand out for headings will give your presentations that extra pizazz as well as help it stand out in a sea of sameness if you’re at a conference presenting along with other speakers.
Sometimes audiences engage better with information if they have something tangible they can hold in their hands. Printed handouts are an excellent way to capitalize on this, especially when you’re explaining a particularly complicated subject.
One tactic is to have a printed copy of your digital presentation that audience members can take home with them. This acts as a lasting reminder of your business (especially if you use binders custom printed with your logo) and gives prospects a visual aid that will help them explain your concepts to others later. You won’t necessarily want to include every single slide; it’s not like you’ll be there to
You won’t necessarily want to include every single slide; it’s not like you’ll be there to explain them after the presentation is over. Adapt your presentation into a format that your audience can easily comprehend on their own. A great way to do this is to create your own handouts that don’t necessarily repeat what’s on the slide, but instead adds depth and elaboration on the pointers that you make within your presentation.
Alternatively, you could create binders full of materials that supplement your points and hand them out before the presentation starts for corporate settings. Just be careful with this strategy; you don’t want people looking down at a binder when they should be focused on you and your words. Don’t overload the recipient with text; stick to simple visual aids that reinforce the things you’re saying.
4. Don’t Just Talk, Listen
The worst thing you can do in a presentation is read off your slides word-for-word without ever actually engaging with your audience. The most effective presentations aren’t lectures where you simply dictate information—they’re conversations where you tell your audience a story and respond directly to their questions and concerns.
This doesn’t mean you should tolerate audience members constantly interrupting you with irrelevant comments, or force them to hold off all of their questions until you’re finished speaking.
Even better, consider asking them questions as part of your presentation. Their answers might give you better insight into the direction your presentation should go and you’ll be able to engage with them on a deeper level.
Rather than just talking at them, you’ll be talking with them.
Keep these 4 handy strategies in mind, and your next business presentation will be a hit!
Do you have more tips for creating a solid presentation that will attract business? Let us know in the comments below!
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.
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!
Talking is easy, but presenting? Not so much. Regardless of whether it’s a business presentation, an internal discussion or a meeting with a potential client, we all face the same challenge – Persuading the listener to achieve the desired outcome.
Here’s a scenario, you’re trying to sell your company’s services to a prospect that has shown interest. You feel you’ve hit all the right notes in your presentation, but they still are not biting. What’s going on exactly?
Try thinking of presentations as a journey, where you need to bring the audience to the goal. Of course, there will be obstacles getting in their way, like gaps that prevent them from crossing over, and it’s your job to bridge those gaps.
In most presentations, these gaps can be sorted into three categories – Knowledge (how they think), Feelings (how they feel), and Capabilities (how they do). When you recognize the gaps, you can then identify relevant and impactful solutions that will help them ‘get over the hurdle’ to improve your chances of obtaining their approval.
As a presenter, you probably have an in-depth knowledge of your topic. In a business context, you’ll have information such as the history of the company, the products it’s selling, and the benefits. However, when it comes to sharing with an audience, not all that data is necessary.
A common misconception many presenters have is that the more data you put on your slides, the better it will be. After all, having more data should make you sound more credible, right? Not exactly. In fact, unnecessary data may serve as a distraction from your core message(s) instead. With so much to process, your audience will have a tougher time focusing on the key points of your presentation, which are overshadowed by non-essential information.
By identifying the gaps in the audience’s knowledge, you can then prioritize the content to put in your presentation, and remove those that are irrelevant or unnecessary. This is a fundamental part of your presentation that sets the stage for the rest of the ‘gap-fillers’. You need your audience to believe that your idea is necessary and that they need it.
What you can do: Ask yourself three important questions.
What is the audience’s current perception / thinking / knowledge that I want to change?
What should they be thinking after my presentation?
What information should I give to help them move from A to B?
Take an internal business presentation for example. You’re looking to convince your management to upgrade the office computers.
What could they be thinking right now? You can take a guess, that they believe an upgrade would be unnecessary or too costly.
What would you like them to think after your presentation? You’d want them to leave feeling like the upgrade would be worth the cost, and it is a necessity for the team’s productivity.
Now that you’ve answered both questions, you can decide on the information that is relevant, such as the cost breakdown, the benefits of upgrading, and other details that are essential in persuading your audience.
Facts and data help your audience understand what you’re sharing, but it is not sufficient. More often than not, the most successful business presentations rely on appealing to the audience’s emotions by making it relatable to them.
An example would be the winner of the World Championship of Public Speaking, Darren Tay (who coincidentally is also from Singapore). In his speech, he uses a pair of briefs to illustrate the shame caused by childhood bullying, before throwing them aside to emphasise that we do not need to live with it.
To bridge the emotional gap, you need to create an image as a motif as well as a story for your audience. Clarity is essential here, and they’re more likely to remember what you say if you are able to stimulate their imagination. Scientists agree that using imagery and visuals help increase recall.
These are techniques not meant just to entertain, but to build common ground and trust. Your audience or prospect might be in a situation where he/she is aware that they need what you have, but they might not want to work with you.
What you can do: A common way to reach out to your audience is to share something personal, such as anecdotes and analogies. Dozens of articles have been written on how to create powerful beginnings and endings, with devices to evoke an emotional response being one of the frequently suggested ways.
For example, if you were sharing about a program, talk about how it can be so frustrating dealing with manual work, and how big a relief it would be if your audience had the software to deal with it. You can even use an analogy, calling it ‘the Panadol to their headache’ (it’s cheesy, but you get the idea).
There are times where the audience has bought into your idea, but they’re not able to make it work. Let this sink in… They need it, they want it but they are physically unable to take action. In most scenarios, you may encounter either or both of these problems:
Your audience is not the main decision maker.
Your audience does not have the resources to do it.
To ensure that your presentation is a success, you need to figure out the problems that they’re facing, and offer solutions to counter their objections.
What you can do: Increase the ease of execution for your audience by reducing or removing the barriers.
If your audience is not the one in-charge, ask for a follow up with the decision maker. Even if you do not get a face-to-face meeting, a phone call or email is better than nothing. If you can’t contact them, provide a tool kit (such as a credentials deck, a detailed document, etc) for your audience to pitch on your behalf.
When your audience lacks the resources to accomplish the desired outcome, you can provide alternatives to solve the problem. If your business presentation is about a product, and they have a low budget, can you offer alternatives? Are you able to scale back by reducing the price and features proportionally?
Make your audience’s experience a smoother one by helping them eliminate the barriers they face in moving towards your common goal. This includes outlining the path of action that they’ll have to take.
There’s no easy way out when it comes to a business presentation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do well at it. The first step to success is always to understand your audience, and it starts by identifying what your audience needs to reach the same goal as you, be it knowledge, envisioning the possibilities, or easy execution of ideas.
“I’ve come to the end of my presentation. Any questions?” you ask, hoping to hear a response from your audience. Unfortunately, you get nothing but an awkward silence.You think you pulled off a pretty great presentation, but then find yourself falling flat at the end. In this article, we endeavor to de-mystify how to end a presentation with style.
Let’s face the truth. Unless you present like Steve Jobs, the likelihood of an audience remembering your public speaking performance from start to end is extremely low. But this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to make a lasting impression. Studies have shown that when an audience is given a series of information, they have a tendency to remember the first and last items best. So use this to your advantage, and make an impact with your closing statement. Not only will you create a memorable moment, but your audience will also have an easier time retaining the message you’re trying to bring across.
We’ll show you 5 proven ways on how to end your presentation.
1. Inspire Your Audience with a Quote
Quotes are one of the most commonly used methods and with good reason. It has been a tried-and-tested way to reach out to your audience and connect with them on a deeper level. But here’s the thing: You need to figure out what resonates with them, and choose one that fits the presentation theme. If you’re up to it, you can round off the quote with your own thoughts as well.
For a great example, take a look at Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, ‘How to escape education’s death valley’. When he was concluding his presentation, he used Benjamin Franklin’s quote:
There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don’t get it, or don’t want to do anything about it; there are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it; and there are people who move, people who make things happen.
However, instead of ending it there, he then continued, “And if we can encourage more people, that will be a movement. And if the movement is strong enough, that’s, in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that’s what we need.”
Not only did he use the quote to inspire the audience, he also added his own thoughts to provide perspective and illustrate his point further.
The quotes you share do not have to be from well-known authors. In fact, unusual quotes that have been rarely used can work in your favor by providing a different perspective. Just remember, it pays to exercise caution, as an inappropriate quote in the wrong situation may backfire instead.
2. End with a Compelling Image
We all know the saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. It’s pretty cliché, but true – Images do help to bring your message across in an impactful way. Ever heard of the ‘The Burning Monk’? In 1963, photographer Malcolm Browne captured a stunning photo of a monk who self-immolated in protest against the persecution of Buddhists. That award-winning photo sparked outrage around the world, and brought the situation into focus for many who were previously unaware of the situation.
Image Credit: rarehistoricalphotos.com
If the news had been reported without this image, would it have the same impact? Unlikely. Of course, information can’t be shared without text, but ultimately, images are the ones that leave the biggest impression.
When you’re selecting an image to put on your final slide, ask yourself these questions to guide you along.
What do you want to show your audience?
What are you trying to illustrate?
How should they feel after looking at the image?
3. Leave With a Question
While it is not often encouraged to leave your audience hanging, suspense can be a fantastic way to create a memorable ending if you use it appropriately. Round off with a question that they can reflect on after the presentation, to keep them thinking about what you’ve shared. Keep it closely related to your topic, and use it to put the spotlight on a point you which to bring across.
Take a look at Scott Dinsmore’s TEDx talk, ‘How to find and do work you love’. In his presentation, he talked about discovering what matters to us, and then start doing it. For his conclusion, he ended by asking the audience, “What is the work you can’t not do?”
This ending can also useful if you know that you will be following up with a second presentation that will answer the question. Pose a thought-provoking question, then hint that you will be answering it in your next presentation, to give them something to look forward to.
4. Encourage Action
Sometimes, it’s great to be straightforward, and tell the audience what you’d like them to do. Would you like them to try doing something? Buy a product you’re selling? Commit to an event?
When you’re inviting the audience to act on something, be sure to make a clear statement. Ensure that your words are not vague or misleading, and bring your point across in a confident and firm manner.
Don’t make it tough for your audience to do an action. Who likes to leap through dozens of obstacles to get things done? Get your audience moving by starting slow. For example, if you’re presenting about environmental protection, don’t ask them to cut out all wastage immediately, that’s an impossible task. Instead, ask them to start by recycling whenever they can.
Alternatively, if you’re daring enough, make a bold statement. Share your belief in something, and involve the audience in it.
Not sure how you can do it? Watch Kakenya Ntaiya’s talk, ‘A girl who demanded school’. In her concluding statement, she passionately declared:
“I want to challenge you today. You are listening to me because you are here, very optimistic. You are somebody who is so passionate. You are somebody who wants to see a better world. You are somebody who wants to see that war ends, no poverty. You are somebody who wants to make a difference. You are somebody who wants to make our tomorrow better. I want to challenge you today that to be the first, because people will follow you. Be the first. People will follow you. Be bold. Stand up. Be fearless. Be confident.”
5. Reiterate Your Message
You’ve spent a lot of time preparing the message you’re sharing, and now it’s time to reinforce it. To do that, summarize the key points of your presentation, and repeat them so that your audience remembers it once more.
A great technique to use when you’re repeating your message is the Rule of Three, a rule that suggests that people generally tend to remember concepts or ideas presented in threes better. Some commonly used examples would be ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ and ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’. Think of your presentation, and distil your key message into three words, phrases or sentences, before structuring your conclusion.
Neil Pasricha’s TEDx talk, ‘The 3 A’s of awesome’, is a fantastic example to learn from. In it, he talks about 3 secrets to lead an awesome life, i.e., Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity, which form the message for his entire presentation. But to further strengthen his message, he then repeats it at his conclusion by saying:
“And that’s why I believe that if you live your life with a great attitude, choosing to move forward and move on whenever life deals you a blow, living with a sense of awareness of the world around you, embracing your inner three year-old and seeing the tiny joys that make life so sweet and being authentic to yourself, being you and being cool with that, letting your heart lead you and putting yourself in experiences that satisfy you, then I think you’ll live a life that is rich and is satisfying, and I think you’ll live a life that is truly awesome.”
Sounds great, isn’t it? Not only did he reinforce his points, but he also captured his audience’s attention with a positive statement.
As presenters, we always hope that our presentations will end off on a high note. So now that you know how to end a presentation with style, take some time to prepare and practice, and you’re good to go. All the best!
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
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.”