Storytelling is our most powerful form of communication ever invented. Whether it’s the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or a team or investor presentation, stories provoke our emotions. Stories help us feel something towards the person telling the story, i.e. the presenter (that’s you), which helps create connection, credibility and trust – an absolute essential if you want to stand out in today’s competitive business world.

Present a Hollywood blockbuster

Any presentation you put together should read like a good movie – it needs to have creative visuals, a compelling script, music, rhythm and heroic characters. All these elements come together and make your audience feel something, an emotion – excited, sad, angry, even apathetic.

Yet, in business, we’ve been taught that emotion (something that comes naturally to us women) is inappropriate. We’ve been told that problem-solving and decision making should rely on our logic and analysis.  This simply isn’t true.

It has long been noted that rational decision making – for the most part – is largely a myth. This is because up to 90% of the thousands of decisions we make each day fall beneath our level of awareness and are reinforced through our feelings and emotions. In fact, studies have shown that 74% of participants changed their decision after their emotion was changed.

A compelling blockbuster, therefore, needs to have a solid structure and stories that are easy to follow. It needs to have lots of signposts that lead your audience through on a journey with you. Show them the difference between life without your product or service compared to life with your help.

Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk, ‘Your body language may shape who you are’, is a perfect example of how you balance facts with that emotional pull. If you don’t know it, then have a look and pat attention to her screen visuals, gestures and the emotion she uses to draw you in.

Structure your story

Master communicator Nancy Duarte spent two years reading mythology, philosophy, and researching screenwriting and other story methodologies that have stood the test of time. In the course of her research, she uncovered a structure that some of the world’s greatest communicators had been using for years (including Aristotle).

It’s called ‘Persuasive Story Form’. This structure takes your audience back and forth between ‘what is’ (current state) and ‘what could be’ (the future world with your idea). You can use it for everything, from a movie script to your latest presentation.

Beginning: ACT I

  1. Have an honest conversation about the reality of the situation
  2. Give them a glimpse at the solution – with your idea.

Middle: ACT II

  1. Create tension and contrast for your audience
  2. Use a balance of emotional and analytical insights.

End: ACT III

  1. Begin with your call to action, what you want your audience to do
  2. Finish with an inspiring description of the world with your idea in place
  3. Ensure they leave committed to taking action.

To see this in practice then take a look at Nancy Duarte’s ‘The Secret Structure of Great Talks’ – you won’t regret it!

Make it memorable

If the goal of any presentation is to influence your audience (which it is), then you need to balance information with logic and emotion in a way that they remember your message and are driven to act upon it at the end. This is how what you are delivering can become meaningful and unforgettable.

Any time you present, it is your opportunity to influence the way those in the room think and act. So you’ve got to make them want to do something other than run or sleep. Should they feel angry and compelled to act now? Or excited about your new vision or idea?

To help, choose images, photos, and even colours, that match that mood. Then use relevant stories to connect one-to-one with them, so what you’re saying and showing becomes not only memorable, but meaningful as well.

I’ve seen video used really effectively in presentations, like a close up visual of an eye, something that is such high resolution you just want to reach out and touch it.

 

This is your chance to share not just your point of view, but also your passion for your subject, so let that shine. (Editor’s note: Learn how to change the world with your stories!)

Above all else, remember, the ability to bring emotion and heart to your subject is, for most of us, an innate skill. And when you balance this with logical arguments, then you create the opportunity to be remembered long after the lights go down. Just try it and see.


Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of the book ‘Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations’.  Visit www.presentationstudio.com


Each of us has a story. You have a story. The world needs to hear your story and see life from your perspective. Storytelling is an art that everyone can master – even you!

You may not realise that you already have a story. It’s the one you have been telling yourself (and maybe other people) about your life. It’s the story you tell yourself when things go bad, or when things go well. Our stories make up our whole world. Our stories determine our experience of life. It’s by taking control of our stories, and of the stories the world hears about us, that we can change the world.

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Andrea Landis is a trained journalist and as she describes herself, “a natural-born creative writer”. Growing up, she was always creating fictional stories about her friends, which eventually evolved into real stories about real women and their struggles and triumphs. It was this same skill that she leveraged to tell her own story when interviewing for jobs and seeking career progression.

Here, Andrea shares how she’s used storytelling in her life, and how you can also use the power of storytelling to advance your own career.

Between ages 20 to 25, you increased your professional responsibility level, title and salary every year using personal storytelling. What is the importance of storytelling?

Effective storytelling can draw powerful connections between young women and employers that serve to illustrate a woman’s ideal fit for a particular role within an organization and incredible (potential or existing) value to them, which then compel an employer to take action in the form of hiring or promoting her at a competitive level. The same general principal holds true for entrepreneurs seeking to gain the attention and business of their ideal clients.

The ability to confidently position your passions, experiences and skills in a way that clearly resonates with the mission and needs of an employer (or client) will make their hiring or promoting you instinctively easy and move you ahead in your career and/or business again and again.

When do you use your stories? During interviews only or every day?

Stories are central to the application, interview, negotiation and promotion strategies I design and implement for myself and my clients in times of career transition. They are essentially a self-marketing tool that should be utilized whenever appropriate to iterate or re-iterate your deep connection and value to your employer or client audience.

[Stories] are essentially a self-marketing tool that should be utilized whenever appropriate to iterate or re-iterate your deep connection and value to your employer or client audience.

Telling your story to your employer or client every day—especially after a mutually beneficial partnership has been forged between the two of you—would likely be disruptive to getting the things you’ve been hired to accomplish done, but elaborating on the compelling narrative you have framed for them from the beginning of your relationship at key moments can ensure you continue developing as a professional and they continue valuing you at the level at which you deserve.

How women can find and develop their stories?

Women can identify their stories by reflecting on the “why” of their chosen career path and thinking through the recurring patterns and interests throughout their lives and careers that have led them to where they are now and where they seek to go next.

For example, I recently worked with a young female attorney seeking to transition from a specific type of firm to another that was opposite in many ways. By posing pointed questions about her reasons for becoming a lawyer in the first place and the parallels between those and the mission of the firm she was interested in, we were able to boil down the various elements of her passions, experiences and skills that made her an ideal fit for that firm—and they for her.

What is important in storytelling?

Knowing yourself and your audience and being honest with both. Trying to make your narrative fit within the framework of an opportunity that is not right for your authentic interests, level of experience or potential will only serve to waste the employer/client’s and your own time, energy and resources. Keeping it real is the best policy for all involved.

Keeping it real is the best policy for all involved

What are the common mistakes women make in communicating their career aspirations?

Unfortunately women often do not give themselves the credit they deserve when it comes to the types of career opportunities they choose to pursue. This makes communicating in support of those pursuits unchallenging and unexciting, and it shows in the professional portfolio materials they produce to go after opportunities they are overqualified for.

As was brought to light in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, research has found that—on average—men apply for positions they feel they are 60 percent qualified to fulfill, while women wait until they feel they are 100 percent qualified before applying. The most profound takeaway I glean from this finding is that (because of societal pressures and myriad other factors) women are not celebrating their accomplishments or honoring their potential to the extent that will consistently propel them forward in their careers.

Do you have many stories for different occasions and different audiences? If so, how do you keep track of the stories? How do you know which story to use?

Any audience worth my (or my clients’) reaching out to already has a clear connection to who I am and my passions, experiences, skills and career objectives at that moment in time. As multi-faceted, multi-talented and multi-interested individuals, we all have various big picture and small-detail narratives that illustrate different aspects of who we are, what we’ve achieved and what we’re capable of. Deciding which of these to use depends on which of them logically coincides with the objective of the audience in front of us. It is hard to go wrong with any story choice that says something authentic about you and is relevant to your audience. Again, effective storytelling is all about knowing yourself, knowing your audience and being honest with both.

As multi-faceted, multi-talented and multi-interested individuals, we all have various big picture and small-detail narratives that illustrate different aspects of who we are, what we’ve achieved and what we’re capable of.

What advice would you give to women starting their careers?

Trust your gut. Pursue what you really truly love—what brings butterflies to your stomach and possesses layers upon layers of mysteries and opportunities that you’re genuinely stoked to uncover and explore. Remember that even the highest of the higher-ups in your industry is human and connects with stories the way all the rest of us do. Finally, keep it real with yourself and everyone who crosses your path. Authenticity goes an extremely long way.

 

Andrea Landis Headshot 1Andrea Landris is a professional portfolio writer and career move coach and the self-proclaimed Carrie Bradshaw for Millennial power women in the corporate workplace. She is authentically storytelling her way to the top and determined to change the young professional game by helping Millennial women everywhere do the same.

She provides resume, cover letter, interview prep, promotion proposal, professional bio and personal brand writing, coaching and courses to young professional women ready to tap into the power of their stories to get the career, clients and compensation they deserve through her company A. Jayne Writes. Check out her site for weekly gems of advice and inspiration!