A new year means new plans, new goals, new action items – and for many – a new business focus. Now that all of the “newness” has been created, how are you, as a leader, going to help bring your team into 2022 and make sure everyone is focused and ready to execute? Giving a presentation is likely an answer that comes to mind. But the difference between just giving a presentation, and telling a great story can make all of the difference in going from just explaining upcoming initiatives, to truly motivating your team.

We recently had the opportunity to help guide a few good (and not so good) presentations as they were being crafted. We noticed several key elements that good storytellers included that are worth sharing.

Here are six important facets that will transform your next presentation into the best story possible this year.

#1 Know Your Audience Well Before You Start Talking

Have you ever listened to a presentation and thought, “This doesn’t apply to me at all… Why am I here?” You are not alone. Too often, a leader has a presentation in mind. That presentation can have facets that might be interesting to him/her. And perhaps that same presentation was well received in another venue, or with another group of people. It doesn’t mean though, that the story will work with everyone. Therefore, your first stopping point is to think about who is listening to you, and what they care about. Only then should you create your story — be sure to touch on at least a few points that will resonate with your audience.

#2 Find The Right Theme

Any good story has a theme. It could be a scary story (big revenue hill to climb), an inspirational story (how we can emulate other successful teams to meet our goals), a mystery (unclear new initiative ahead that needs teamwork to decide how to tackle it), etc. Finding a tone/theme for your presentation is the best way to help set the stage, right at the beginning. It can lure in your audience, and more importantly, help you organize your content to match your theme.

#3 Inserting Known Characters

Everyone can better relate to a story when they see familiar faces. Too many corporate presentations sound like dry academic theories – or hollow and vague aspirations. Once you have a theme established, make your story real by inserting characters that people will know.

Hint: People in your audience are a good start. If your team can visualize themselves in the story (which is totally acceptable to do in presentations like this), they are more likely to get on board.

#4 Create A Clear Story Arc

If your story meanders (like many corporate stories do), your audience is not going to be sure what they should take away from your presentation. Clear away that clutter by thinking of the two or three most important parts of your storyline. After you have created all your slide content, ask someone to tell you what they think the two or three most important parts of the storyline are. If they don’t come up with your same ideas, go back and fix your storyline.

#5 Add In A Twist Or Hurdle

Every good story has a plot twist. So should your presentation. A twist or hurdle is a great way to inject an element of surprise (but our ability to reach our product goals won’t work if our competitors launch their offering first). Take some time to think about barriers that can get in the way of meeting your goals, and work them into your storyline.

Bonus points: During the presentation, ask your audience to think of other barriers that could affect your progress.

#6 Have A Solid Ending

The worst story error that we’ve seen recently is a story that didn’t really end. It contained a series of slides and some compelling content, but no real call to action. Your ending should be the perfect opportunity to convey expectations about what action should come next, and a (virtual or literal) extended hand to signal that you’ll be there to help the team succeed. End your next presentation on a high note – by giving direction and sharing where the expected landing point is.

Final Notes:
  1. After you have created your best story, make sure to look for places to insert questions.
  2. Then make sure to practice your story before delivering it.

Hint: Even if you have a compelling story, if you take too long, or make it a completely one-sided event, you will fall flat.

Best of luck with your stories this year!!

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