Business storytelling – a story about telling stories

Make an impact and stand out from the crowd to deliver your message

I have been involved in helping others be the best they can be in front of groups of people for the past 25 years, and in my view, this core business skill is underrated, usually poorly executed, and probably one of the most significant ways you can make an impact on your colleagues, customers and stakeholders.

It’s a question of; “what kind of impact do you want to have?”

Is it lunchtime yet?

Think of all the presentations that you have been in the audience for. Now, think of all the ‘virtual’ presentations that you have witnessed. Then, think of all the conference calls you have been part of. Be honest – how many of them stood out for you, delivered a clear outcome and have stuck with you, for the right reasons?

My guess is, not many. Now ask yourself another question. “How many of them delivered a clear outcome and call to action, that was bought by, believed and acted on by the target audience.

And finally, ask yourself “what impression of the speaker did the audience form?” Hmmmmm. Not good, is it?

It’s not ok to ‘wing’ it

I find it extraordinary that this core leadership skill is overlooked and that leaders in our businesses today do not put the energy and focus needed into making sure that they really do stand out from the crowd.

But, do you know what? It doesn’t need to be difficult…in fact, quite the opposite. Making it seem effortless, clear and compelling, surely must be one of the most attractive things that a leader can achieve, helping them accomplish their goals and standing out in peoples’ minds as a clear and motivational communicator.

So, what is the ‘secret sauce’?

What do the very best people do? Well…I am not going to repeat what is so widely available online – go have a look for yourself….but if there were a ‘top ten’ – this is what it would look like: (and this applies equally well for virtual sessions as well…although there are a number of other considerations as well (see the excellent article below by my colleague Nick Todd to get a flavour of that!))

  1. BEFORE you go anywhere near your computer, know, and WRITE DOWN your outcome….what do you need to happen as a result of your time with your audience?

2. Know your audience and engage them BEFORE the session… do not assume you know what they are looking for.

3. ONLY tell them what they need to know….NOT everything (they won’t know what you don’t say, after all).

4. Ask yourself – “how can I make this relevant to this group of people, with anecdotes, stories and examples?”, and weave that into what you say.

Preparation is key

5. Plan a journey, and NEVER start with “Good morning, today I want to talk to you about….” (only the very worst presenters do this 😊). Instead? Give them a reason to listen.

6. Plan how you are going to support your story visually (the most dominant sense, after all – you must support your words with something for them to look at).

7. Remember, if you have more than 25 words IN TOTAL on a slide, it’s TOO MANY. Your audience cannot read and listen to you at the same time. Really. Do what you can to make it visually appealing, and feed in the information as you tell your story, rather than share it all at once.

8. Now…do what the very best presenters do……think about how you will use YOU…after all….YOU are the presentation, not the PowerPoint slides!

9. Use purposeful physical movement that adds value to your messages and think about your voice as an ‘instrument’ – vary tone, volume and cadence to bring life to your words.

10. Finally, rehearse and get feedback…..your audience has to experience that…it is only fair on them that you do your best to get that right before you try it out on them.

So there….that is my ‘top ten’. Few do these things consistently which is why so many fail. Turbocharge your profile, leadership and success by being one of the stand-out presenters in your field. You never know where it might lead……

If you value this article, or know of others who may find it useful, please like, comment or share, as appropriate.

Many thanks,

Alex Selwood

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