Tell your story to connect with your audience

Have you ever attended a presentation that put you to sleep? (Maybe one of your presentations had that effect!) Or, how about the presentation that all but slipped your mind by the following day?

A presentation can fail for a number of reasons. One cause is a lack of stories. Good stories are powerful tools, noted Rob Biesenbach during this month’s Milwaukee PRSA meeting.

Rob BiesenbachBiesenbach, who owns Rob Biesenbach LLC, kicked off his presentation with a few stories of his own. A long-time Chicago resident, Biesenbach has “commuted” to Milwaukee at least 150 times over the years. He has also traveled around Wisconsin. He learned to ski in the state, observed the infamous goats atop Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, and got married in Lake Geneva.

As a result, we in the audience developed a connection to Biesenbach. Which is one of his points. “Story telling is one of the most powerful forms of communication,” Biesenbach says. “It breaks down barriers.”

Our brains are naturally receptive to stories, Biesenbach says. Research has shown that 63% of an audience will remember stories told during a presentation, while only 5% will recall the stats that were provided.

Stories work because they:

– Tap into emotion (“Emotions help stories stick,” he says.)

– Put a face on issues

– Connect us

– Humanize us (the presenters)

– Appeal to shared values

Contrary to conventional wisdom, creating a story is not that complicated (but it does require some work). Biesenbach offered this formula:

A character in pursuit of a goal faces a challenge or obstacle.

How the person resolves that challenge, he says, is where the human interest lies.

What’s left out of your material is important too. “One more factoid or anecdote isn’t valuable by itself,” Biesenbach says. Remember this axiom: “Name the known, and omit the obscure.”

It’s OK to generalize with numbers. 52.3%, for example, becomes “about half” or “just over half.” Same with dates. Don’t mention an exact date unless it’s germane to your story.

Wrapping up, Biesenbach offered these additional suggestions:

1. Show passion and enthusiasm.

2. Be original, or find original stories.

3. Always be looking/listening for stories, and keep a record of good ones.

4. Get personal: tell your own stories. You’ll connect better with your audience. They’ll have a better understanding of who you are and what you stand for.

For related reading, see “5 common presentation mistakes to avoid” and “5 tips to keep your presentation on time.”

Do you incorporate stories in your presentations and other material? How do you feel this has helped you? Feel free to comment below. And if you found value in this post, please share it so others may benefit from what you and I have written. To contact me, send an email.

Tom Fuszard


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