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Storytelling: A how to guide for corporate settings 

Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, has famously banned PowerPoint presentations at executive meetings of the company*.

Woohoo, you might think. No more boring slides to endure. 

Or perhaps this invokes trepidation? How can I present my topic without PowerPoint?

The response to the former, is perhaps. But really, this depends on the response to the latter. How do you present your topic without using PowerPoint? The answer is to instead use a narrative structure, that is, tell a story. 

Think about it. You have a new product idea to present to the management team of your company. You had planned slides outlining the market research, benefits, features and pricing of the new product, and you intended to talk the team through the intricacies of the new product.

But what if instead, you ditched the slides, and instead handed out prototypes of the product. Then you described how customers will use and benefit from the product, where they will buy it, and how marketing will sell the product to the public. Maybe you have storyboards too, especially if this will help tell your story.

I’m not suggesting you weren’t going to talk about the role of customers with regard to the new product, but I am suggesting you make this the focus of your presentation and let the other details follow. Show, rather than just tell.

So, how do you do this.

  • Core message. What is the one message you want the audience to take away from the meeting?
  • Characters. Who is this about: customers, staff, shareholders, and/or the public? 
  • Setup. What is the context? Is there a specific time, place or situation which is relevant?
  • An obstacle and its resolution. What is the obstacle you are trying to overcome, or the benefit you are trying to implement? 
  • The future. What happens next. After the meeting? Next week, month or year? How will you deliver what you’ve just presented. 

The other benefit to this approach is the presentation itself, and how you present it, will be much better. Because you ditched the slides, you’ve also ditched the focus on bullet points and slides, and trying to make the content fit into the template.

I will hazard a guess and suggest you probably actually thought about what you were going to say, and rehearsed it with a trusted colleague. It’s also probably written, and spoken, in plain English, and does not rely on corporate jargon, acronyms or empty words. (Reading bullet points from slides, that the attendees can read along with you, is not great presentation technique).

Some examples, and not just for presentations.

Your company has a major milestone coming up, and wants to celebrate 10 years of business. You could tell the story of the founder, and how they came up with the idea for the business. Or tell the story of an early customer who has remained loyal for this time. Or tell the story of a few employees who have flourished and helped grow the business. 

Your business has prospered during the past year. Use testimonials or anecdotes from customers to describe how your company’s product or service helped them, and why they chose your product or service.

It’s year in review time, and rather than just talking about profits and financials, and sales and growth figures, you could also quantify the number of customer visits by your sales team, and the distances they travelled. The biggest, and smallest, orders received. The number of customer service calls or emails received. The number of visitors to your website. The number of visitors to your locations. 

The benefits to storytelling are many, and include: 

  • It improves communication. Using storytelling techniques will also help you efficiently and effectively frame your thoughts in business correspondence, including email and phone calls
  • It increases engagement. Well written and told stories will help all your audiences better connect with your company and the products or services you offer 
  • It will distinguish your company’s brand. You’re not just the company which sells widgets, but you’re the company which sells widgets that was started by Frank 20 years ago from his garage
  • It develops customer loyalty. Your customers keep returning because you’ve demonstrated you understand their values and desires
  • It makes information more memorable. People will often remember more information if they can apply context or emotion to the information
  • It establishes team morale. Company values can just be words on page, but if they are presented via a relatable story, it will encourage team members to bond with each other and incorporate those values into their work
  • It helps implement company protocols. Storytelling can help team members adjust to procedures and may streamline the introduction of new employees.

Storytelling can be applied across much of corporate Australia. It may take some getting used to – for everyone – and it might even be uncomfortable when you present for the first time without using PowerPoint slides. But it will be worth it, trust me.

* In case you are wondering, meetings at Amazon start with silence, as participants read the memo that’s been prepared, which they then discuss. Bezos said, “It’s so much better than the typical PowerPoint presentation for so many reasons.”

At Mint storytelling is at the core of what we do. Whether you’re presenting to the government or implementing company protocols we can help you craft a story that resonates. Get in contact with us today!

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Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only. The information provided is based on the author’s knowledge and understanding at the time of writing. Mint Marketing Pty Ltd advises to use this information at your discretion, and Mint is not liable for any action taken from reading this information.

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