When it comes time to design an important presentation, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? If the answer is “Start with the deck,” it’s time to rethink your approach to presentations.
Unfortunately, it has become common to design our communications simply as sequences of slides. Although PowerPoint is a powerful tool, it can also be an obstacle.
A successful communication is a story that takes the audience on a journey from beginning to end. A slide deck helps illuminate aspects of that story, but it is NOT the story. YOU and your story are the main event. So, the visual realization of your story should come after your story is written. Think of a movie. It starts with a screenplay, and then is visually realized onscreen to support that screenplay. With that in mind, here’s how to go from screenplay to screen.
Think about the information that you will be conveying. Is it a sales pitch? Is it informational? What are the facts? Think through those first. But then…think through what you need your audience to know, to feel…to realize…where and when should they be surprised or delighted?
We often hear, “Tell stories. Stories are important.” And that’s true. We respond to stories. Stories make us feel. They make us believe. And, perhaps more importantly, they make us want to believe. However, sprinkling in a few stories here and there is not really “telling a story” with your overall presentation. Once you’ve assembled your facts and what emotional impact you’re hoping to have, you must find the big story. At Message Glue™, we call this the “storyfinding” part. This is the overall story that will be supported by the shorter stories you’ll tell throughout. If we go back to the movies, the shorter stories are the “scenes” in your screenplay. If your overall presentation is itself a story, made up of shorter story scenes, it will intrinsically have more impact than it otherwise would. Why? Because we’re humans. We respond to the structure of stories. We know it in our DNA. It’s built into us.
Many of our clients have trouble seeing that bigger story. And that’s okay (especially because that’s our specialty!), it’s normal. But from our outside perspective, we see it. And you can too, with a little shift in perspective. Instead of thinking of issues as business problems, think of them as human problems. Because, guess what…your audiences are made up of human beings. And you’re one, too. So, we’re all on the same team. When we see our business stories as human stories, we start to see their rises and falls, conflicts and resolutions, and climactic moments. And that’s the kind of movie your audience will be excited to see. Write it first, then put it on the screen.