Storytelling for business presentations

about Presentation skills, Presenting with powerpoint, storytelling


You have experienced this before. Those presentations where the speaker has crammed a lot of information into a PowerPoint and then fires it at the audience slide by slide. That doesn't make anyone happy. Let alone that we will remember all that information. Even in business or technical presentations with lots of data, graphs and information, it is important to give your information meaning and the best way to do that is with storytelling.

If you only show data and statistics, then you are mainly appealing to the analytical brain of your listeners. With storytelling you manage to be even more convincing because you not only appeal to the logical side of the brain, but also to the creative and emotional side. Stories trigger interest and ensure that the information is better understood and remembered.

And this works for any kind of presentation. Whether it's a sales pitch to sell a product or service, convincing management of a new project, or even a technical presentation for your team, storytelling is a crucial technique for making more of an impact and getting your ideas across in a compelling way.

How to get started? How do you draw an audience into your story using great storytelling techniques?

For your next presentation, remember that numbers and data have little meaning on their own. They become much more interesting when a story is connected. So, ask yourself the following questions as you prepare.

What do these numbers mean? How did we arrive at this information? What effect does this have on our organization? Why is the impact of this data important?

Use the answers to these questions to shape the content of your story (or stories). Every good story has a form, a structure, and one or more characters.

The structure is very simple: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Often the beginning and the end of a presentation are somewhat neglected. And that is a crucial mistake. It is just at the beginning and the end that the audience's attention is the greatest. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, so grab your audience's attention with a strong opening to your presentation. Check out some tips here.

The middle or body of your presentation should ideally contain 3 key messages (preferably no more). Now try to bring these key messages to life in a story. The very best stories consist of visual scenes that inspire people and evoke real emotions. Graphics don't motivate people, emotions do.

So close your PowerPoint and do the following. Think about the main message you want to convey and what you think is the importance to your audience? (Why am I giving this presentation and what sense/benefit does it have for the listener?).

Now think of a character you can use to shape this story. The character can be yourself, a colleague, a customer, or another person. Bring this character to life by adding details. In doing so, use your voice, body language and your senses to tell an inspiring story that makes an impact. Watch the video below to see how best to do that.

Now that you've captured your story, motivating emotions and visual triggers, start filling out your slides. Remember, PowerPoint is just a tool to get the story across. You are telling the story and not your PowerPoint.

A strong presentation can move people, but a poor presentation is often a turnoff. By applying better storytelling techniques and the power of storytelling, you'll gain a better connection (and goodwill) with your audience, increase attention span and gain more conviction.

Get started with storytelling.