7 Lessons Presenters can learn from Storytellers

7 lessons presenters can learn from storytellers

Everyone loves a good story.  Thag and Ugg* told stories of their hunting prowess and the time they brought home a particularly large woolly mammoth for dinner. Homer (not Simpson) gave us the Iliad. But when it comes to Ursula** giving a boardroom presentation, they are somehow, well – just not that exciting.

It’s as if in the fine-print of ppt, buried somewhere deep in the license agreement, there’s a line that says, PowerPoint reserves the right to remove all personality, humor and human connection for the duration of this presentation.

There’s a lot presenters can learn from storytellers. Take a look at this from Moran Cerf a the Moth GrandSlam. A competition for master story-tellers.

For anyone giving a presentation, there are a few things you can learn from Moran.

1. Start with a perfect hook.

“10 years ago, I used to break into banks to make a living.” Not just an unusual statement, but he went there straight away, no preamble, no excuses, just BAM, straight between the eyes. The hook for his whole story. With that one line he delivered on a good hook – he put you on the edge of your seat and gave you a sense of what’s coming.

2. Make it personal and authentic.

I love this job.”  “it was such a cool thing” and later, “I started having doubts.” Moran kept telling you how he was feeling, and what he was thinking. He wasn’t the hero or a big piece of stuff. It wasn’t a story about how great he was. He told you of his doubts and fears. It made him authentic and his story human.

3. Use a solid structure.

Moran started at the beginning, and told the story from there. It’s surprising how few people do that – pick an easy structure for the audience to follow. He chose a simple timeline to hold the story together. No dancing about, no side-roads and non-sequiturs. It gave the story flow and made it easy to follow.

4. Tell us about people. 

It seems like character driven drama is always making a comeback. Or maybe it just never goes away. People like hearing stories about people. Moran delivered. Tami the 35-year-old unstable instigator who just broke up with her boyfriend. The 25-year-old teller, and the youngest team member who tries to pick-up her up. We should not forget that business is about people too.

5. Make sure you can relate.

There may not have been many hackers or bank-robbers in the audience, but Moran made sure that there were ways you could relate. “There was not much about it on the Internet at the time.” Everyone has surfed  the Internet for more than a few hours, so you know what’s out there. The line is funny and gets a laugh, but it’s also relate-able. You need to find ways to make what you are talking about relate to the audience.

6.Tipping points and unexpected moments.

There is a moment, before you say this is a bank robbery, where you can take it back.”  Momentous decisions move the story along. Moran punctuates the story with these to keep the action going. It happens in the interaction between the characters, “We can’t take this we have to put it back.”  The story isn’t a list of items or an agenda of points. Little conflicts make you care. Problem comes with resolution. That’s a useful lesson for presenters, who are always tempted to present a sanitized version of events.

7. A Payoff that works for you.

” This was a pretty good day. It comes from saying yes to things.” It’s very tempting to say, “and that’s the end of the story.” or the presenter equivalent, “any questions” because finding a good payoff is hard. Moran does that when he ties all this together with his viewpoint on life, how it got him there, and something the audience could take away.

*Thag and Ugg didn’t exist. Only in my imagination. They were average woolly mammoth hunters, but the best tellers of tall tales.

**Ursula is Ugg’s direct descendant. She would be a terrible woolly mammoth hunter, and she’s had all her natural storytelling gifts removed and worn away by too many years of the corporate grind.

Gavin_Animated-GifGavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

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