Whatever happened to storytelling? When I was growing up in Texas, I was surrounded by storytellers. My grandfather and all his pals would often sit around out in front of the county court house in Center, Texas (East Texas, but don't try to find it on the map) and spin stories all day long, while they "whittled" on their wood pieces. Subjects ranged from WWII battles to Joe-the-local-drunk's latest antics. Their stories would often get bigger as the evening wore on, and by dusk they bore hardly any resemblance to reality--but they'd talk on anyhow.
Stories have been around for a long, long time, and they're powerful communications tools--whether used in presentations, formal speeches or, yes, even blogs. People rarely remember more than a couple of stats, but they'll remember a good story for years. Stories can create an emotional link to the speaker, and help facilitate even complex messages. Think in terms of popular culture--example, King Kong or Spider Man. Each had a story that captured our attention and pulled us in.
Yet good stories are rare when it comes to corporate presentations. Stories are considered to be interesting luxuries, or entertainment--not a feature that belongs in a "serious" corporate pitch. Most presentations, instead, are packed with statistics,
specs and other quantitative information. It's as if we think we can beat people into buying into our arguments by overwhelming them with information. This is the heavy stick approach. Stories are more like sweet honey, pulling you in one step at a time.
So, what to do?
* Start thinking in terms of stories from the
beginning as you outline your pitch. Where could you insert a story to
help build your case (or break up a long presentation)?