Storytelling: Are You Getting Better?

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Delivering a business presentation involves telling a story – with the punchline designed help the audience to make a decision. All stories follow the same approach, focusing on:

  • The protagonist – which may be a company, a product line, now team members, etc.
  • The antagonist – what is our hero up against; e.g., competitors, insufficient funds, regulations, etc.
  • The critical moment – why now does the protagonist have to take action now
  • The transformation – what changes take place as action is taken
  • The impact – how is the protagonist’s change also affecting others.

In One Perfect Pitch, Marie Perruchet focuses on business presentations, and notes that the starting point is vision; where do you want the protagonist (which often is the audience listening to the presentation) to end up when they take the desired steps. She lays out many of the steps you should include in your pitch.

Most important, she recognizes the importance of being very succinct – and identifies a process of getting to the essence through questioning what’s the information, and then practicing and rehearsing to get it down to as short as necessary.

For instance, if you’re preparing to present to a Board or a public meeting (e.g., investor conference), you should always prepare two versions of your presentation: one for the time allotted (e.g., 25 minutes within a 30 minute session) and one much short (e.g., 3-5 minutes), which you can use if something changes and you need to be briefer. For instance, at one investor conference, a fire drill cut half the time. Rather than try to rush the longer presentation, the presenter delivered the shorter presentation and used the extra time to answer questions – which endeared him to the audience!

How do you build your stories and keep delivery succinct? Share your experiences.