At Edison Red, we see hundreds of presentations over the course of a year. The audiences can vary in size from four to four thousand and the topics can range from global product launches to office stationery spends. Many of them will be easily forgotten, doing the opposite of what was intended.
However it's the presentations that stand out that we remember. They often contain stories that not only engage us - but help us understand, reflect and make sense of proposed ideas.
Our own life stories are a rich source of material for creating universal connections. Stories enable an audience to put themselves in the speaker's position, to help them see what the presenter sees. As an audience member we often ask ourselves “Would I have done that or reacted in that way?”
We all know stories have a beginning, middle and end; the journey from ‘what was’ to ‘what is’. Often we deliver a presentation to persuade, inform or challenge.
Think of stories that can fit this simple 4-point structure.
1. The status quo – What is the situation now or before the story begins?
2. The better way – What could it look like?
3. The conflict – What’s going to prevent that better way?
4. Resolving Conflict – How do we arrive at a better way?
I often tell a story to illustrate the fear of the unknown, to help people overcome anxiety before speaking publicly. Here is a condensed version to illustrate those four points.
Some years ago I said yes to a sponsored parachute jump for a charity. My status quo was that I was quite happy flying in planes; I didn’t really want to jump out of one! The better way was that the charity would raise much needed cash and I would gain an amazing experience. The conflict was my own anxiety and fear and my mother’s insistence that I would perish. On jumping from the plane I resolved my conflict and learnt a vital lesson - that fear is in the imagination and not in the doing.
All good stories need conflict, for the resolution to have real worth. Our lives are full of these stories and we are hard wired to love hearing them.
The next time you need to plan a presentation take a few minutes to consider your own stories.
Image credit: Flickr