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  • Melanie Evans-Rivera

The Basics of Effective Presentation Storytelling

There are lots of techniques you can employ to create a compelling presentation, but, when done effectively, weaving stories into your presentation can be among the most effective, and engaging of them all. Like anything else connected with a presentation though there are right and wrong ways to go about creating a story - or stories - for a presentation. Here are some of the basics.

Tell a Story for a Reason

Before you even begin to craft a story you need to make sure that you are adding it to your presentation for a purpose, not just because you have heard it it is a good tactic to employ. People hate pointless stories so ensure that yours will add something - a moral, an objective or a lesson, that the audience will be able to clearly identify as making sense in connection with the rest of the presentation.

Choose a Story Type

Standing up and merely rambling off any old story won't work either. You need to decide what kind of story you are going to tell:

A Success Story

When we were children, almost all of the stories we were told ended with a 'happily ever after'. Such stories still appeal to - and inspire - adults as well. A good success story, especially if you can adapt a real life example, can be both engaging and memorable.

A Parable

A parable is a story that has a moral message to send or lesson to teach and people have been telling such stories for centuries now. Such offerings can be especially useful to salespeople. For example, a presentation on a new software that provides Internet security could easily include a story about the terrible things that happened to a business who failed to pay attention to their network's security when their inaction led to a data breach.

Personal Stories

One of the most successful TED talks in the series' short history was that given by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on the lack of women in leadership roles. The biggest reason it resonated with most people is that the normally very private Sandberg began her talk with a rather personal story about her 'other' life as a Mom and the guilt she felt leaving her child behind to go to work. Adding that story was not, Sandberg admitted later, even her original intention, she acknowledges that her last minute decision to do so was a great idea.

Personal stories are possibly the ones that resonate best with an audience. Such tales make the presenter seem less like a distant figure on a stage and more like a relatable person. They don't have to be dramatic or over involved to be successful, just genuine sounding and once again, relevant to the presentation.

Putting it All Together

When it comes to actually putting the story together, it is important to remember you are adding it to the presentation, not writing it for a high school composition class. Outline your story on paper, making sure that it does indeed have the right beginning, middle and end, but never plan on reading it - or learning -a written piece verbatim.

Instead, practice actually telling the story out loud. You will find that by doing that you will actually improve it with each retelling and by the time you come to give the presentation your story will flow as it should, naturally and confidently in a very engaging manner.