You are NOT the Hero of your presentations
Leave your fragile egos at the door. We’re here to dash your dreams of ever being the Hero of your presentations and show you the right role for you.
Why making yourself the Hero of your presentations is your biggest mistake
There are a few components that play a vital role in every kind of presentation. Whether you’re trying to push a slick pitch or entice investors, put together a boastable creds deck or looking to captivate a conference hall.
Pixel-perfect design is a big one, of course, as are the skilful slide animations that make any transition a breeze. Delivery also plays a big part of any good presentation, but far and away the most important ingredient you need to liberally sprinkle across your presentation creation process is storytelling.
You’re probably sick of hearing about storytelling, because we prattle on about it all the time. But, even though we talk about it constantly, we still see people getting our no.1 rule wrong all the damned time. What is this no.1 rule I hear you ask? It’s this:
You are not the Hero of your presentations
Falling into the trap of making yourself the Hero of your presentation is easier than convincing yourself that you can safely meet a mate for just a couple of 2-4-1 margs on a Sunday night. Because who doesn’t love talking about themselves?
But if you make your presentation all about you, you’re in for a one-way ticket to Snoozeville. Because that’s the thinking that leads to classic death-by-PowerPoint presentations. You know, the kind that start with a painfully detailed and completely irrelevant slideshow of a company’s executive team and end with an out-of-place list of outdated accreditations.
Just because making yourself the Hero is an easy mistake doesn’t make it any less of a mistake. Maybe it makes the mistake itself more embarrassing; you’re not even being original in your blunders.
Your audience is the star of this show. You, my friend, should be nothing more or less than their ever-wise Guide. If you’re casting yourself as the Hero in your story (hello big ego), you’re going to end up with an unfocussed, flat and forgettable presentation that’ll miss the mark.
Your audience is always the Hero, no matter who they are. And at every point across every slide, in every bit of copy and every stat you’re throwing onto the screen, they need to feel that spotlight shining onto their eager little faces. Properly casting your audience as the Hero is what’s going to give your presentation the emotional resonance it needs to cultivate engagement and memorability. And let’s be real, that’s the endgame of any deck worth its salt.
So, how do you make your audience into the Hero of your presentations?
Easy there, champ, let us break it down for you. First thing’s first: a solid persona map.
“But FP, my super-complex audience is too broad for a single persona.”
We get this sort of concern in a lot of our Storytelling and Discovery workshops. Our response is always the same, and it’s meant with kindness (even if it feels a bit harsh). If you can’t figure out your ideal audience, then you’ve got bigger problems than this presentation. Because attempting to speak to everybody all at once does little more than fill a room with hot air and white noise.
Here’s a little secret, from one storyteller straight to your screen – not every story can be for everyone. Think about it – have you ever had a heated argument as you valiantly defended your favourite book, movie, play (or presentation, if you’re super keen) against someone who just didn’t get it? That’s because all the greatest stories are tailored to specific audiences. So forget trying to please everyone and focus on your niche. It’ll save you from a snooze-fest presentation that no one remembers.
So here’s the advice: forget mass appeal and get personal.
Make your messaging ultra-individualised and watch as your audience becomes the hero of the story.
Penning an audience persona
Getting as specific as PowerPointedly possible is the secret sauce behind all the most effective copy campaigns. Because, simply put, spray-and-pray generic messaging doesn’t work. Pivot that wisdom into your presentations to make the most of other people’s mistakes.
If you’ve been through a branding workshop, a product design sprint, or any type of user testing, you’ll know the basics of persona mapping. It involves sketching out (sometimes literally) a clarified picture of your audience so you can easily create content tailored to them. Each word, tone, challenge and benefit falls in line with their pain points, passions, aspirations and wider aims.
Once you’ve got a persona (read: Hero) in mind, you can focus on finding the meat of your messaging with these three handy thought springboards
1. How can we relate the problem?
Figure out what’s keeping your Hero up at night, what’s on the line if they fail, and what happens if everything goes up in smoke. If that doesn’t work, flip it around and work backwards from your solution to find a relatable and engaging challenge for your presentation to discover, detail and defeat.
2. How can we give them hope?
Once you’ve planted the seeds of whatever villainy your Hero’s fighting against, it’s time to take some action. Explain how your super-smart solution, combined with the Hero’s own cleverness and moxie, is going to fight and emerge triumphant.
3. What does the future look like?
Clarify how much better the future is going to be once your solution is part of the Hero’s picture. The happily ever after, if you’ll allow us to labour the metaphor a little further, where your Hero skips away into a lovely sunset. Find the Hero, flatten the Villain and finish on an emotional peak.
Memorable, engaging resonance for days.
Do you really need a villain in your presentations?
Yep. No matter how extensively you plot out your audience persona, if they haven’t got a worthy adversary your story isn’t going to hit the right emote-notes. Even the biggest narcissist won’t fully engage with a total ego-stroker of a presentation.
Your presentation’s Villain is the obstacle your Hero must overcome throughout the course of your deck. It could be a pesky competitor, a frustrating market trend, an internal challenge or even an ominous glimpse into a murky and unsettled future. Whatever your Villain is, find it and name it to sharpen your presentation’s focus.
The Villain serves to add satisfying tension and conflict to your presentation. All stories, regardless of their narrative arc, follow a similar setup → conflict → resolution pattern. Without a formidable foe to fuel your Hero’s journey, the presentation’s central conflict will lack emotional depth and fail to captivate your audience.
So what role should you be playing?
You’re the Guide, of course! You’re there to help your Hero navigate the treacherous waters of their problems and vanquish the Villain once and for all. You could be their mentor, teacher, expert in a field or the tack-sharp process that’ll help your Hero overcome whatever obstacles are in their way. You’re there to provide the clarity, direction and support to your Hero that’ll help them achieve their goals.
If your service or solution is hyper-specific, it might make the most sense for your presentation to leverage a metaphorical representation of that service or solution as the Guide. This means utilising the same three-act pattern, but uses the credibility of your solution to guide your Hero towards your desired outcome.
If you’re struggling to cultivate the right perspective, consider the following list of handy q’s to get you thinking in a more Guidey mindset:
- What crucial bit of info about their Villain does the Hero not know yet?
- What are the worst-case implications if the Hero don’t listen to your advice?
- What are the best-case implications if the Hero heeds your warnings?
- How is the Hero currently solving the problem you propose to solve for them? Why are you a superior solution?
- Why does the Hero need to make a change? Why are they just realising this now?
- What could connect your solution to the Hero’s deeply-held beliefs?
If you’re still feeling a bit stranded by this extended Hero/Guide metaphor, it might be useful to understand your pop-culture contemporaries: Yoda, Gandalf, Mary Poppins, Doc Brown and Mr Miyagi are all in the same position as you (or your product).
Feeling wise and ready to Guide? Great! Same here. Feeling more confused than before? No worries. Book in a Storytelling and Discovery Workshop and we’ll storify your presentation for you.
Don't struggle with your presentations, let us
help you with your next project.