Presentation Story Structures: Overcoming the Monster

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Who can resist the thrill of seeing the Hero’s hard-fought victory over a monstrous adversary play out? This classic narrative arc, Overcoming the Monster, has been an audience favourite for as long as there have been stories. Let’s look a little closer.

Understanding narrative arcs

Okay, time for a super-speedy recap of narrative arcs, in case you’ve somehow managed to skip all our other blogs and get here as your first stop.
A narrative arc is the overarching shape of a story. It’s the thread that binds together beginning, middle and end into a recognisable pattern. Here at Future Present, we craft presentations around six major narrative arcs: Rags to Riches, Overcoming the Monster, the Hero’s Journey, In Medias Res, Man in a Hole and Sparklines.

Each narrative arc serves a particular purpose and provides a unique perspective for presenter and audience. Today we’re going to focus solely on the exhilarating arc of Overcoming the Monster.

Why Overcoming the Monster?

Incorporating narrative arcs into presentations isn’t just about crafting a fanciful and dramatic tale. An audience’s inherent familiarity with the shape of a narrative arc can help you to take complex information and make it more digestible, memorable and relatable for your audience.

The Overcoming the Monster arc provides an engaging narrative of near-defeat, struggle and eventual victory, which makes it an excellent choice for presentations that aim to solve a specific, significant challenge.

This arc helps to maintain audience engagement the whole way through your presentation whilst also making your content more emotionally impactful. But how does it actually look when it translates into a deck?

Unleashing your presentation’s monster

Let’s break it down.

Step one: defining your cast. As always, understanding the characters playing a part in your presentation is step one. This remains the same regardless of the arc you choose to use. In the context of your presentation, there are always three characters: the Hero (your audience, their brand or sometimes their customers), the Guide (you, your company and your solution) and the Villain/Monster (the challenge you’re solving). Define your cast and we guarantee you’ll already begin to see how the story will come together.

Step two is to set the scene. In this narrative arc, as you can see from the diagram above, we begin with our Hero at a steady point of success. Then we’ll see that triumph ripped out of their hands by our dastardly villain. In presentations, this often means highlighting the potential havoc our Villain (or challenge) will wreak on the Hero if left unchecked. We use the presentation to paint a picture of a bleak future, where the Hero comes dangerously close to total failure.

Step three is sketching out our Hero’s path to triumph. Illustrate how a partnership between the two of you will equip them with the tools (your product) they need to overcome the Monster (their industry challenge). Your deck should revolve around these solutions, keeping your Hero the central focus of every slide.

Overcoming the Monster irl

When you start looking for it, this is an arc you can see all over the show. In business think Apple battling the “monstrous” status quo with their innovative products. In public figures, like Greta Thunberg and her battle against climate change. And in media there’s Star Wars, Jaws, Harry Potter yadda yadda). It’s an arc that resonates because it portrays the universal human traits of resilience, innovation and triumph over adversity.

It’s all about the balance, yo

While the Overcoming the Monster arc can be incredibly effective, it won’t fit every narrative. The key to using it well lies in pulling together a detailed understanding of your story, your audience and your message. It’s vital to nurture your creative flexibility here and view all these narrative arcs less as rigid blueprints and more like creative springboards.

The goal here is to use a familiar structures to tell your presentation’s story in the most authentic and engaging way possible. In a way that catches the eyes across your entire audience and supports your key messages simply.

More than just a story

Presentation storytelling goes beyond just stirring up the drama pot. It gives your presentation content a context that makes it incredibly memorable.

So the next time you’re prepping a deck, consider framing it around the Monster your Hero is facing. If you can name it and build a solid story around how you’re going to help them defeat it, this narrative arc could be the key to turning your presentation into a riveting tale of heroism, making your audience into the champion of their own story.

Keep following our narrative arc series for more storytelling tips and tricks. Or maybe just get in touch today to see which arc one of our master Storytellers thinks is right for your brand?

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