I recently watched a comedian strutting his stuff on stage and was struck by his ability to tell a simple story and have the audience respond with gales of laughter. What was it he was doing that was so successful? After all he was only telling a story about buying Christmas presents with his wife. The trials and tribulations, the misunderstandings, the ultimate denouement and the punchline. The story itself was very simple and ordinary but what he was doing was very clever. He was tapping into other people's perceptions and experiences and turning them on their head. Like most great comedy, it was taking the ordinary, making it extraordinary and evoking emotion along the way.
For centuries we have used stories to pass on information. But in much of modern business life we have forgotten how to use them effectively. This is particularly true when it comes to presentations. We all know that there are millions of presentations made every day, the majority of them less than riveting. So what can you do to stand out from the crowd and make you presentations really memorable?
But why are stories so powerful? The impact of stories lies in the fact that they provoke emotion which is known to be a major influencer in maintaining interest and memory retention.
The brain processes meaning before detail. So starting your presentation with a story so that people get the gist of what you are going to say and then going into the detail improves both concentration and understanding.
It provides a series of hooks on which to hang further explanation. So you can refer back to the story and say "so when the comedian said....the audience rocked with laughter!"
By adding relevant stories at suitable intervals throughout the presentation it is possible to introduce new ideas and spark new interest and re-engage through emotion at a point when the attention might be flagging.
So next time you create a presentation, try starting with a relevant story. It doesn't have to be funny unless you are confident that you can make people laugh. If you can't immediately think of one, pinch a story line from somewhere else such as a movie or a fairy tale. Just make sure you create a relevant link.
Want to find out more about creating stories for presentations or training? We provide story telling coaching to help you find your own stories.