Making presentations has always been a part of business life. But for many years the idea of a good business presentation was to simply read the content of your slides aloud to an audience. If someone had a presentation due tomorrow the tendency was to just start dumping information onto slides and then wing the talk-to-people part. The resulting presentation had no theme, no core message, and no memorable result.
Fast forward to today and it is clear that the most successful presentations all start with a compelling narrative. The right story can pull the audience into a presentation and make them become more emotionally invested in the issue at hand.
So what does storytelling have to do with a business presentation? And can this new approach, akin to the type we see regularly at a seminar or conference, really be used to speak to a business audience? I believe it can, for two reasons.
1) Stories spark the emotional side of your audience’s brain
The working of the human brain is a factor here. We like to believe we are logical, we base or decision on facts and figures. But in reality the brain use facts and figures to post rationalise the decisions our emotions have already driven us to make. None of the data really matters until we have taken some sort of emotional stance.
Because of this, it is crucial to make your listeners or readers feel some sort of emotion. when you speak. Whether that emotion is sadness, happiness, fear or fulfilment doesn’t really matter. The point is that feeling something makes your listeners more alive and alert to what you are saying. Telling stories is a great way to connect emotionally.
Learn more in the post How To Connect With Any Audience
2) Stories provide a platform to persuade your audience
The ultimate purpose of a business presentation is to persuade. Even if you are not looking to make a sale, gain a contract or change audience members’ minds, you are still attempting to persuade them to listen to you, and to accept your point of view.
In business, particularly when speaking to customers, stories allow the audience to see the world through the eyes of the presenter. As your audience begins to empathise with your story, their tendency to be defensive and counter argue, begins to recede.
Take the example of presenting a new product. By taking the customer along a journey, by sharing set-backs and milestones along the way, you allow the customer to identify with the presenter’s struggles. This helps to keep them engaged from start to finish. Contrast the ‘storytelling approach’ to the not uncommon approach of displaying a series of bullet points that describe the product. Which version would you prefer?
In the social media era we as communicators are continuously challenged to find ways to be memorable and to persuade our audience. The good news is that studies have shown information retention to increase as an audience is drawn in, and ultimately persuaded by a call to action to take the next step. Stories stick.
Learn more in the post 6 Ways To Be A More Persuasive Speaker
Almost any business presentation can be transformed into a story. Still not convinced of the benefits? Think back to a presentation you attended recently – was it memorable? Or were you checking your phone? Humans are hardwired for stories. So go ahead and share your story. Both you and your audience will be glad you did!
Check out my detailed guide about how to structure and deliver stories in a presentation here