Pixar's 22 Rules of Story Telling

Learning from Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

Stories are powerful. They engage, inform and move people. More importantly, they stick. And if you’re really good — possibly Hemingway good — you can say them in as few as 6 words.*

For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

Presenters can learn lessons from storytellers. Two parts of the brain automatically light up when listening to a PowerPoint presentation, Broca’s and Wernicke’s area. If you’re not a brain scientist, just think of them as the gray cells that work on processing language and speech. They’re the same parts of the brain that light up when you read the phone directory. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, notes that, “We don’t pay attention to boring things.” That’s likely what’s happening in a typical bullet-infested PowerPoint deck.

When you’re presenting, you really want people to pay attention, to be engaged. But how?Stories. When we listen to stories, more of the brain lights up, according to Annie Murphy Paul, author of Brilliant, the new science of smart. Stories are the nearest thing to experiences. If you talk about kicking a ball, the motor part of the brain that would actually help you kick a ball, lights up.

Everyone can tell a story. But as you know, if you’ve listened to a typical four-year old’s and then… and then … and then … They’re not all Hemingway good. Pixar isn’t Hemingway but they tell great stories. Here’s a collection of ‘storytelling rules’ tweeted out by Emma Coats, former story artist at Pixar.

They’re all good, but file rules 2, 3, 4 and 5 under essential for your next presentation. Rule 2 and 4 particularly:

Rule #2

You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

Most presenters trip over this one, and present a topic list of their content. It’s time to change and consider your audience. Try figuring out what they want, in parallel with what you want. If you’re stuck on this, we have a simple tool to help you.

Rule #4

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

I am not advocating that you begin your presentation with, “Once upon a time…” but you do need a story structure. Every presentation should have a Hook, Meat and Payoff, a way to organize your content in a narrative that interests and engages the audience.

Remember, next time you’re up to present.

Bullets? I’m Bored. Try a Story.

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.

More at Google+Facebook and Pinterest. Comments are welcome, links are appreciated. If you’re interested in writing guest posts for this blog, please contact me.