The power of story
The Heath brother’s book, Made to Stick, is terrific. While it wasn’t written with presentations in mind, it all applies really well.
One of the best points in the book is the power of story. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I like it and the more I realize just how important it is. Recently I took that thought a bit further and it occurred to me that story is a darn good metaphor for the entire presentation process:
- Your words have the same place as the text in a book–they are the narrative, they carry the story.
- Your visual aids are like the illustrations–alone, they aren’t the story but they can clarify, amplify and reinforce the story.
- Like any good story, a presentation needs a strong opening and a memorable ending.
Stories are really powerful ways to connect with your audience and get them to both understand and remember your points. The key reason is that stories are concrete, not abstract. The more that your presentation feels abstract, the harder it is for people to relate to it–and that means harder to understand and remember.
Our brains are “wired” for telling stories, listening to them and remembering them (see Medina’s Brain Rules also). For thousands of generations we lacked a written language, so passing down information had to be done verbally–invariably in story form. Knowing the stories wasn’t just fun, it was survival for the individual and the culture.
To work, stories don’t need to be dramatic or fancy. Stories are about someone, doing something, with an outcome. That’s it. Simple and direct. Naturally, your stories need to be appropriate to both the audience and your topic. Your stories become concrete examples, things the audience will relate to and things they have a good chance of remembering.
Want to have more impact? Tell more stories!