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Tell a Story, Make it Stick

Stories are emotional. As children, our parents tuck us in with a bedtime story. As we get older, stories are how we share who we are. We’ve heard them our entire lives—in fairytales and folklore, on the big screen and in our homes. When a story is told with honesty and conviction, it can be more effective than any other medium of communication.

Stories help us connect to each other.

The greatest presentations are simply well told stories—they tell us what we need to know, but also inspire us to see the world in new ways, and adopt new ideas. They resonate with us, and stay in our hearts long after we leave the room.

As a designer and creative director, I often find myself trying to weave together a visual story. How can I best share my thoughts and ideas? How do I bring folks along for the ride? I’ve found 3 storytelling tricks that go a long way when preparing for a presentation—business, or pleasure!

Take risks, lose the fear.

Taking risks is so important—it’s how we keep our creativity alive. Bring a great storyteller comes with the ability to be vulnerable. Kids make the best storytellers, because they’re unafraid. They’ll convince you their Mom’s kitchen is the Milky Way if that’s what they want you to believe.

Second-guessing isn’t in a child’s nature. As we get older, we second-guess ourselves more and more, and lose the spark that comes with vulnerability. Yet, some of the best stories require us to be vulnerable—to lose our fear. If you truly believe in the words coming out of your mouth, people will connect with you quite naturally.

We can all relate to happiness, sadness, and the spectrum of human emotion. Raw honesty, whether on stage or in a conversation with a friend, resonates. Losing the fear means being able to let yourself go enough to share the stories that will bring your audience along with you.

Keep your audience in mind

A presentation isn’t about power. It’s about connection. One of the most common misconceptions is that the presenter is the most important person in the room. That’s simply not true. You may be presenting, but you’re not the focus. Your audience is.

You’ve already written the story, and taken the journey. Your audience has some work to do. They need to follow along, see things with fresh eyes, and get on board with your ideas. You’re simply helping them get there. As a presenter, you’re like a mentor—a voice that guides the audience. Connect your data to relevant stories and engage your audience.

Know your tool, use it well.

Finally, get technical. Think about all the boring PowerPoint presentations you’ve had to sit through—with charts and graphs and numbers and clip art and words and words and more words.

A presentation doesn’t have to be ugly. PowerPoint is simply a tool. How you use it makes all the difference.The trick to a good presentation, like a good story, is to always focus on the north star. There’s only so much your audience can absorb in the time it takes you to get through a slide—so think about what really needs to be on it.

Visualization can be powerful. Use BIG PICTURES and BIG IDEAS. If people can visualize the journey you’re taking them on, you’ve won half the battle.

Ask yourself: What’s the story you’re telling? Why are you telling it? Where are you taking your audience on this journey?

Stories give people a reason to care. Stories make people feel. It’s not just about what’s on the slide— it’s about getting to know your audience, giving them your authentic self, and drawing them in. People relate to people. Let empathy be your guide. Use your presence to create trust and connect with the audience; don’t instruct them.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou



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