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Last updated on 9/27/23

Tell a Story That Engages Your Audience

Storytelling has played an increasingly important role in design business. In a world where we're inundated with information, stories help make content memorable and stand out. 

Find the Story in Your Message

When people hear about the idea of storytelling, they may think it's not appropriate for a presentation as it's often associated with children's fairy tales. However, storytelling for business doesn't always begin with "Once upon a time." It can be made up of anecdotes or references to previous projects.

If you think about it, most stories, especially in business, follow the same equation: the problem + the recommended solution = benefits.

As you plan your story, consider the following components:

Picture of hero, opponent, auxiliary characters, quest and objective.
The ingredients of any great story!

The audience needs to like the hero. So if you are the hero, make yourself likable, and your quest understandable. If the hero is your company or the project you want to launch, have a clear objective, and communicate why it's important and necessary.

Once you have settled on your characters, objective, and quest, then you can fill in the blanks.

Analyze Your Audience

The first thing is to know your audience. You wouldn't use the same language and style to a room of aerospace engineers as you would a group of 20 year-olds at an advertising agency. Adapt the content and vocabulary if necessary.

For seasoned presenters, this might be second nature. However, if you're just starting, or find that your style isn't working, this is a good place to start.

As mentioned previously, storytelling requires anecdotes or references to previous projects, so make sure you use suitable ones.

Check for Signs of Boredom

As an opener, you might want to give a promise, a reason why they should be there, and why it's worth their time. This will catch their attention!

During the presentation, look for signs of distraction or boredom. Are they:

  • Yawning

  • Chatting 

  • Looking at their phone 

It's a two-way street. The energy they give you will fuel you to keep going.

Watch and Learn

In life, we learn through practice and failure. Do your research! Watch good presentation videos on TED, for example.

I suggest reading Chris Anderson's book on TED Talks- The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. It's jam-packed with tips on storytelling and formatting your speech, as well as delivery. This video about the book has a few great tips to start.

Finally, watch how your colleagues or classmates present. See what you like, and what you don't. That's how you learn! Adapt it to your presentation, give it your own identity and special something, and before you know it, your experience and research will pay off.

Let's Recap!

  • Storytelling allows your audience to follow you and feel involved.

  • Assign characters in your story such as hero, opponent and quest.

  • Always know your audience!

  • Check for signs of boredom.

  • Observe others.

    Storytelling is a huge part of successful presentations. Speakers who are passionate about their subjects can tend to rattle on. In the next chapter, we'll be looking at the idea of keeping it short and sweet!

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