October 29, 2019 / 

Brad Hawkes

Why you're not the star of your presentation, and who is

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We need to tell you a tale about stories. Why? Well, people have been sharing their stories since the dawn of time. According to research, it's still by far the best method for making a message stick. It probably won’t surprise you to know that our brains are wired to absorb narratives better than bullet lists or long informative texts.

Therefore, wherever possible, try to find ways to include stories that illustrate your points. And when you can’t tell a story, you can still use a story structure to help make your presentation more compelling.  We'll show you how.

 

Story

 

Almost every good book or movie follows this format:

  • The Setup This is where you set the scene, present the protagonist and main characters and introduce the problem, challenge or conflict.  
  • The Conflict This is where you spend time exploring the set of obstacles the protagonist needs to overcome to achieve success and reach their goal. 
  • The Resolution Now it's time for the protagonist to finally overcome the problem or resolve their conflict, learn to accept it, or to be ultimately defeated by it. This is where the journey ends.

 

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You are NOT the hero of the story

The most important takeaway here is that stories have heroes and guides. There are usually some friends, foes and random bystanders in the mix too, but let’s focus on the hero and guide.

Many presenters assume that because they’re in the spotlight, they must be the hero. This is not true. To really make an impact, presenters should let the listener be the hero and take on the role of guide. 

 

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What does this actually look like in a presentation? 

Mostly, it's about taking the stage with the right attitude. If you take the stage as the hero, you tend to talk too much about yourself, your achievements, your credentials or your company. If you're aware that your role is to guide the audience and help them be the heroes of their story, your presentation will tend to focus more on helping them overcome their challenges, solve their problems and achieve their goals. 

A good way to figure out if you're approaching the presentation from the right angle is to ask yourself some questions while you're creating your script and deck. 

 

Questions to help get you into guide mode:

  • What are your listeners struggling with?
  • What shared problems can you address?
  • How can you provide info, solutions or guidance?
  • Can you include content that helps lead them forward?
  • Are you showing off? If so, stop.

 

My hope is that this post will help you rethink the way you approach your next presentation and give you a taste of how harnessing the power of storytelling can help you connect with your audience and become the best possible guide next time you hit the stage. For more on storytelling and other presentation tips, subscribe to the blog. 

 

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Who wrote this?  

This was posted by Brad Hawkes, our Content Marketing Manager here at Pickit. He's not a professor of rhetoric and he's never given a TED Talk. He has, however, clocked up over 1000 presentations, seminars and talks over the last 15 years, picking up a few ideas along the way. He once spoke to a crowd of 5000, but mostly he's spoken to crowds of 5, and he's always looking for simpler, clearer ways to say things and get a message across. He also makes a fine cup of coffee.