The Art of Storytelling Through Presentations

Creating an engaging presentation is true art. And, the creation of the presentation is only half of it. The person giving the presentation is the other half. They need to engage, understand their audience’s worldviews and be able to weave in consistent themes in order to tell a story. Presenting is storytelling. People oftentimes forget this and think giving a presentation is the same thing as relaying information to people that may not already know the content. This may be one of the main reasons for giving a presentation. To educate others. But, if you’re able to tell a story while educating, you will also inspire others to take action. In order to inspire others, you need to appreciate and respect their perspectives. If you’re able to trigger inspiration during a presentation, your story will resonate with your audience. They’ll appreciate and respect your perspective.

For me, going to presentations is one of the main ways I stay up on the latest trends and insights in interactive marketing. More importantly, I seek out presentations that offer a different way of thinking and inspire me. My way is only one way and more oftentimes than not there is a better way. When presentations do inspire me, I make sure to write a blog post a day or two after the presentation. This is my way of spreading information and inspiration to those who follow me. Examples of these posts include Seth Godin, Robert Stephens, Alex Bogusky, Edward Boches, past MIMA panels and conferences I’ve attended.

So, you’ve got a presentation coming up. While none of us will ever perfect the art of presentation, there are a few common ingredients to success based on my experiences and watching people like those I mentioned above give presentations.

  • Your first step should not be creating slides. The slides you create will be the end result of the information you’ve gathered and summaries of your main themes as you tell your story.
  • Your first step should be research and information gathering. As you’re doing this, you’ll surface a main theme and / or subthemes for your presentation. You will also have found relevant examples that help move your story along.
  • Once you’ve collected all of the information needed, put an outline of your presentation together. From here, continue on to a longer, narrative format. That could be in a Word document or even pencil sketches of a few slides.
  • Now you’re ready to create your presentation. You can do this by taking your long-form narrative and consolidating it into a shorter format based on the confines of your slide dimensions. Or, you can continue pencil sketching the remainder of your slides and then create your presentation slides in Keynote.
  • Use Keynote, not PowerPoint. I’ve only been using Keynote for the past three years, but it’s a far superior presentation software program than PowerPoint. For many reasons I won’t get in to. Trust me. It’s worth giving it a shot.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Once your presentation is complete, go through it at least three times before game time. You’ll become more comfortable with the content and fancy transitions you’ve made in Keynote. There’s no reason you should need to reference the “presenter notes” during your presentation.

Most importantly, relax and have fun. Remember, you know the content if your presentation better than everyone else in the room. The more your make the content of your presentation your own; the more comfortable you will be storytelling. Create your presentation in a way that nobody else could give it but you. Stay away from heavy copy and work towards using images and key phrases to tell your story. If people don’t understand your presentation by just clicking through it on SlideShare, you’ve succeeded. And if you’re worried about a “take away,” give your audience a copy of your longer narrative or some other deliverable. But don’t compromise your presentation because the audience your presenting to might share it with other people. If you’re needed to give the presentation, you’ve told a story that nobody else can. And these are the stories that are remembered and make you successful.