The Simple Way To Find Your Story

Everyone wants their presentation to be simple, but, as we all know, achieving simplicity is incredibly difficult.

One reason it’s so difficult is actually a bit of good news. It’s probably because you’re really smart. And, I’m not just brown-nosing you, here. The weeds, as they say, are packed with smart people because smart people have one big handicap: they can hold a lot in their heads. That’s great for so many things but not for being simple. Combine that head capacity with, let’s say, the fact that you’ve been working deeply and passionately on your project for a long while, and the challenge to stay out of the weeds becomes even more difficult.

So how do we get out?

Great question. Luckily for us, movies have an answer, and it’s a really good one. Guess how many key scenes the average movie has? 20? 30? Actually, most big movies are based around three key scenes: there’s the inciting incident that kicks the story into gear, the turning point, where we see the hero buy into the theme of the story, and, of course, the climax.

So instead of starting at the beginning, screenwriters start with those key scenes. That makes the job not only smaller and more manageable, but, with those three key scenes as guide posts for the rest of the story, those scenes also help screenwriters stay out of the weeds.

This strategy is how movies can often be written very quickly. Rocky, for example, was written in just 3-1/2 days. Imagine that. A Best Picture that set up a six-movie franchise, written in 3-1/2 days.

So how do you find your three key scenes? It starts with two big questions that will lead you to your key three and to the heart of your story.

Question #1: The one very few people ask:
What do your stakeholders need to do with your information? Not, what did they ask for? But, what do they need to do? Do they need to re-position a brand, launch a project, get buy-in from a board of directors? Thinking about what they need to do will automatically set you and your smart brain up for…

Question #2: What are the three things in your deck that can help them do it right?
I say three not just because I’m copying the movies, but because it will force you to get to the heart of what really matters to your stakeholders. Also, three concepts is about as much as they’ll be able to remember. So if you, like a screenwriter, choose those three concepts ahead of time and give them greater emphasis, you’ll be able to dictate what your stakeholders remember. If you do what most people do and evenly emphasize 10-15 points, you won’t get to make that decision. They’ll remember what they remember.

So that wraps it up for what to highlight in your presentation. In our next blog, we’ll cover the other side, how to whack the weeds that get in the way of your ideas. So stay tuned, and we’ll get you set. Or, if you don’t want to wait, click on over to Amazon for the paperback version of Get to the Heart or to iTunes for the interactive version.

How Movie-Style Storytelling Takes You Farther

We all want our work to have more value and influence––anything that can help us to make a bigger difference. Here, step-by-step, is how movie-style storytelling takes you beyond normal storytelling to get it for you.

Make it simple and you make it easier for your stakeholders to grasp

Stakeholders are overwhelmed and weary from the endless parade of charts they see everyday. So if you make your presentation concise, you’ll automatically feel your stakeholders’ appreciation, and with it, their cooperation. The screenwriting strategy of emphasizing three key points will also help them remember much more of what they heard.

Make it visual and everyone will grasp it in the same way

Because pictures enable you to deliver much more information than text, and in a fraction of the time, making your presentation visual will make it even easier to be simple, concise and understood. But it will also ensure everyone understands it in the same way. And because a photograph in particular feels much more real, it will also raise your work’s credibility. After all, seeing is believing.

Make it tailored and they’ll be more likely to use it

Tailoring your story to the natural learning and working style of your stakeholders will make it so much easier for them to use it. If you’re speaking to an exec, deliver a quick, but memorable package they can take with them and use to lead their teams. If you’re speaking to engineers, give them the data in a way that lets them spend time with it so they can own it. Both will greatly increase your chances for adoption.

Open strong and they’ll listen

The first five minutes are when your stakeholders will decide if you’re worth listening to. Open strong, relevant and clever and you’ll get them intrigued. Create a sense of urgency and they’ll have to listen to you.

Frame your facts in human action and your stakeholders will care

Pure facts are too abstract to evoke emotion, so instead of numbers, show people who personifies those facts and you’ll instantly make them relatable. Show their struggle and need and you’ll increase your stakeholders’ emotional investment because they’ll see someone they can help.

Give them a joinable cause and you’ll see the action you’ve been waiting for

Once you’ve sparked your stakeholders’ desire to help, give them the keys by showing how. Show them not only the opportunities, but all the assets they can leverage and initiatives already underway. That maximizes inspiration, while minimizing the risk of going at it alone. If you’ve got a rallying cry and/or an anthem, even better.

I’ll go into detail on all these steps in upcoming blogs. So stay tuned and we’ll get you set. Or if you don’t want to wait, click on over to Amazon for the paperback version of “Get to the Heart,” or to iTunes for the interactive version.

Storytelling That Truly Works for Corporate Presentations

In the last blog, I promised a method of storytelling that will consistently engage and inspire your stakeholders, is easy to learn and applies to real corporate presentations. That’s because it’s based on exactly what execs and stakeholders have been asking for: being simple, quick, visual and powerful. I actually found this method of storytelling in a very familiar place: the movies.

Why movies?

Besides being universally loved, movies are incredibly persuasive and memorable. Just look at these five lines from movies. How many do you recognize?

Theres no place like home.

Go ahead. Make my day.

“Toga! Toga! Toga!”

“I’ll make him an offer he cant refuse.

Use the Force, Luke!

I’ll bet you can identify most of those—and they’re all from movies at least thirty-five years old. The most recognizable quote is from a film released in 1939.

What if your projects had that kind of resonance? Can you imagine your colleagues as they leave your presentation, quoting your words and evangelizing your ideas as they walk into another meeting?

Yeah, but doesn’t that mean you need video?

Nope. There are definitely times when video is advantageous. But I know that PowerPoint decks are your bread and butter, so first and foremost, I want to find movie strategies you can bring to your deck.

So let’s map the strategies of screenwriters, directors and editors, and apply them to the kinds of decks and presentations you actually do.

Movies cut to the chase

Watch your favorite movies or TV shows and you’ll see how concise they are. That economy is baked into movies and TV because fewer scenes and shots mean less time and budget. So screenwriters are trained to cut scenes that aren’t necessary, because they discovered we don’t need the incidental stuff in between. We not only don’t miss it, but we actually remember more of the story because the important scenes aren’t bogged down by unimportant ones.

The same is true for presentation decks: if you want your stakeholders to remember more, cut out the unimportant slides that get in the way of your key points.

Movies make that chase real

Because movies use a visual and sensory story format, they make stories even more real for us, with far less effort from our brains. They show it to us onscreen, so we see it, hear it, and feel it. Not only that, we experience it in the same way as the people next to us. With words or charts or bullets, there are often multiple ways your information can be interpreted, but with a visual, people align with it and are able to absorb and share your information correctly.

Movies make you scared and excited to be in the chase

A film will take its message one step further by making you feel what the characters feel. They make it emotional. And that’s what gives movies so much power. They make us forget about our own world and go into the hero’s experience, leading us into their cause.

It’s a power that few other forms of communication possess, and you can harness that emotional power so your stakeholders feel the need you want them to feel and inspire them to join your cause.

In our next blog, I’ll bring a method to that magic and lay out exactly how movie-style storytelling gets you from A to…making a bigger difference for your work and yourself.

 

Get to the Heart – Episode 6: The Challenge Statement

Especially in the beginning of a presentation, engagement comes from evoking a sense of urgency. In this blog episode, you’ll learn how to do that, so your stakeholders will feel like they need to listen to you – and listen to you right now.

Will storytelling give your presentation the engagement you’re looking for?

In our last blog, we discussed trying to engage an audience with the same charts and bullet points utilized by all the other presenters that day, and how that method actually does the opposite. It’s also why data-overloaded execs are increasingly asking for something different: stories

Execs hope that if people present with stories, they’ll finally see the context that makes the data meaningful. They’re hoping it will give them something to remember so they can use it to lead. And they hope it will make all those presentations they sit through a lot less boring.

The good news is that story can do all of that. But it can also do more—a lot more.

The science

Dr. Paul Zak heads the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Zak and his colleagues have conducted many experiments on the way our brains and bodies react to the delivery of information. Dr. Zak: “Effective stories change people’s behaviors. We’ve shown that in laboratories and field studies we can, through storytelling, induce people to engage…”

What about the power of story to unite a group? Princeton professor Dr. Uri Hasson studied the brains of five people listening to the same story. Before the experiment began, their brains showed different activity, but once they began to hear the story, their brain activity aligned. Story brought them together, not only figuratively, but also neurologically.

That’s amazingly powerful when you think about a multinational company. But on a smaller scale, it means that with story, you can unite everyone at the conference table around your insight and idea.

The timing for story couldnt be better

While execs are clamoring, people haven’t exactly been answering the call. In fact, the bar has never been lower. So if you strike now and bring your stakeholders a story, you’ll stand out and make a huge and meaningful difference.

But are all stories equal?

I’ve been in corporate America a long time and I’ve seen countless examples of storytelling. I’ve seen data visualization, improv, and dozens of “meet so-and-so” slides. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen many presenters get mired in the muck of it all. I’ve witnessed their confidence and credibility crumble in the room, and I really felt for them because they were giving it their best. They just didn’t have a method that fit the information, objectives, and situations unique to corporate environments.

So I decided to find a storytelling method that would work for corporate presentations. One that could give stakeholders what they’re clamoring for, and beyond. One that does what scientists say it will do: align audience brains to be more open to your ideas.

I wanted it to be a natural, easy-to-learn tool. Something that won’t weigh you down or crush your confidence, because when you and your team work as hard as you do, you deserve a method that will get your information heard, while making you look and feel like an expert.

And, as we’ll cover in our next blog, I found this method in a surprisingly obvious place that everyone already knows and loves…