Forget slides, tell stories!
Stories fascinate the human kind. We are used to following stories 24/7: when going to watch a movie or a talk show, when we read a novel, or when we hang out with friends and listen to how their week was. After making presentations for big corporations and top executives, I can tell you that the most effective way to keep your audience awake and interested in what you have to tell them is to tell an intriguing story.
How to make the story captivating? Here we can borrow some tips & tricks from the famous presentation guru: Nanci Duarte.
First, you need to create a solid structure. You need to create a tension between “what it is today” (AS-IS) and “what it could be tomorrow” (TO-BE). The conflict needs to take place all along the story: beginning, middle, and-end. This is the most common story structure we are all used to following, which is why it will be very natural to your audience.
Craft the beginning
Start describing the current situation to your audience. They know how things are today, so they want be surprised and will immediately be following you and agreeing with what you say. When you talk about the AS-IS situation you need to focus on the issue that is causing you to make the presentation (so as to offer your audience a solution).
Then, just very naturally, move into describing “what it could be,” only if your audience has adopted your solution.
What it is today: During the last quarter, our competitor outranked us by making twice as much in revenues, because they own the price lane of $50-$99, where we do not compete with any product.
What could be: If only we had a new product developed to compete in that market price lane, we could easily get market shares back. Well, I’m here today to introduce the [new product name] that will return us to a leader in the market.
Develop the Middle
The middle is the part where you need to play on the conflict, going deeper into detail and providing examples of how bad it is in the current situation, where your audience is, and how it would be better by adopting your solution. So, the idea is to go back and forth from the AS-IS and the TO-BE situations. A good strategy is to also introduce the mechanism of sacrifice-reward, so as to reinforce the relevance of the TO-BE for your audience. Sure, it is absolutely better, , but how is this better for each individual in your audience? How does this improve their life, the life of their peers, and the life of everybody in the world surrounding them?
If we skyrocket in the market thanks to the launch of this new product I have presented, we can improve our bonuses by +10% at the end of the year.
Also, if you can, commit to being part of your audience, talk as if you are on the same page with them. This will make them feel much closer to you and they will naturally trust you.
Craft and epic ending
Remember that every presentation has the objective of changing your audience’s behavior, related to a certain situation. You, as a presenter, want these people to go out and do something they would not have done without your presentation. So, I can tell you by experience, that the best way to get them to do what you want is to finally make an explicit request–the so called “call to action.”. You spent the first 2 sections telling your audience why they need to move from a current, poor status to a new, better status and now you want them to take action, so give them the possibilities to do what you are asking them to do. If this is contacting you, leave your contact details; if you want them to download a file, leave them a simple way to get the url, etc.
Working with digital startups, it often happened to me that I would see an amazing pitch deck with the main objective of fundraising, without a final request to the investors. Therefore, even though the investor liked the project, how was he or she supposed to react to your presentation, if he or she doesn’t even know if you are asking for money or not?
I suggest you take 18 minutes of your life and dedicate them to watching this amazing TED speech from Nanci Duarte, Presentation Design Guru.
Have you ever changed your audience’s behavior thanks to a super effective presentation?