Storytelling in presentations

16 March, 2020

Who doesn’t love a good story? They draw us in, keep us engaged, and often leave us wanting more. Here’s why incorporating storytelling into your presentation is a fantastic way to get your audience to really engage with your content. 

As any parent who has stood barefooted on Lego will know, a short burst of four letter words can command immediate attention. And that’s also true when those 4 letter words are “Once Upon a Time”.

The reason is simple: people love stories. They love to engage with the characters and watch (or listen to) the stories unfold. Stories engage various different parts of the brain that intrigue listeners, evoke emotions and encourage audiences to stay tuned to find out what’s going to happen next. 

When it comes to presenting, storytelling is a fantastic way to ensure audiences are really engaging with and relating to your content. 

Get emotional

No matter how great your slides are, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to leave your audience with a lasting impression if your presentation is filled with cold, hard stats and little else. If you deliver this type of presentation, the chances are you are not going to be particularly invigorated by the topic either. 

However, if you add a personal and emotive storytelling element, there’s a good chance your audience will be listening, relating to you, and engaging with your ideas.

When you’re talking about yearly sales, adding an interesting, emotional story to the mix might seem like an impossible task. But storytelling doesn’t necessarily need to involve a dramatic tale that will bring your audience to tears. And you definitely don’t need to say “once upon a time”.

Storytelling 101

To be in with a chance of really engaging your audience, it’s useful to revisit the very basics of storytelling. Freytag’s Pyramid is a good place to start. The pyramid breaks stories up into five key parts:

  1. Exposition: setting the scene for the story and introducing the characters.
  2. Rising actions: a series of disruptions that lead to the climax. 
  3. Climax: the biggest moment. The major turning point in the story.
  4. Falling action: another series of events that unravels the earlier disruptions. 
  5. Resolution: tying up any loose ends and wrapping up the story.

Many of the films we watch and books we read follow this exact type of plot. And this clever pyramid can also be used as a guide for using storytelling in your presentations.

If you’re in the business of selling alarm systems, for example, you could break the story up like so:

  1. Exposition: 75% of houses in the UK do not have any form of alarm system. Many cite a lack of valuables and the expense of a system as reasons why they do not have an alarm installed.
  2. Rising actions: In the UK, 7 homes are burgled every minute. For many, the fact that a stranger has been in their home, handling their personal possessions, is more traumatic than the physical or financial losses. 
  3. Climax: Alarm systems don’t need to be expensive and time-consuming to install. We have released a brand new alarm system that will completely change the game. It is cost-effective, easy to install and very effective in deterring burglars. 
  4. Falling action: Our new alarm costs just £89 and is so easy to use that anyone can set it up and install it in their home themselves. Our revolutionary motion sensors and video technology make this alarm one of the most effective on the market today. 
  5. Resolution: Don’t be one of the 75% of houses at risk. Protect yourself, your possessions and your family. 

Convinced? Revolving your presentation around this story frame will help you to uncover a more emotional narrative. This way, you will be able to appeal to your audience’s inherent love of storytelling to help build a rapport and deliver your message more effectively. Following the path of Freytag’s pyramid can help you to craft stories, not just deliver presentations. 

Ensuring your delivery is personal and demonstrating what the subject means to you will serve to engage your audience far more than any statistic or pie chart (no matter how colourful it is). Be emotional. Engage your audience. Tell a story

Here at Future Present, stories are at the heart of everything we do. We can help you tell your story in an impactful and engaging way, working with you to fully understand what you need to say. Get in contact with us to find out how we can make your presentation really succeed.