Create a Compelling Presentation Narrative
“The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives.”– Lilly Walters, author and communications expert
When I started my Government contractor career as a systems engineer after retiring from the Air Force, I was fortunate to be assigned to a proposal for the largest contract my company had ever sought.
I remember what the company’s Vice-President told us during the proposal preparation. She said the proposal had to be more than convincing to the customer. It had to be compelling. What did she mean by compelling?
By compelling, she meant the proposal had to cause the customer to lose sleep, worrying what would happen if they did not select my company for the contract.
The contract proposal was compelling. How do I know this? Because my company won the contract.
In the same way, as we successfully won that contract many years ago, your presentation has to be more than convincing to your audience. It has to be compelling!
Below are three ways you can make your presentation compelling:
You wouldn’t think of traveling to Chicago, Illinois, without setting your GPS navigation to that city. In other words, providing structure to your journey. Why would your audience be compelled to accept your presentation message unless you gave them a structure for their presentation journey?
Think of the structure of your presentation as your audience’s GPS navigation for the journey experienced by your audience during your presentation.
A well-structured presentation narrative follows a clear and logical flow. Therefore, it is wise, to begin with an engaging introduction that captures the audience’s attention and states how your main points support your presentation’s message.
Organize the content into sections or key points, ensuring a smooth transition between each. Finally, conclude with a memorable ending that reinforces the main message and leaves a lasting impression.
Your presentation’s structure gives your audience the roadmap to get from where they are to where you want them to be. Similarly, telling stories puts your engagement with them “on steroids.”
Everyone loves a good story, including your audience. Just make sure your stories are relevant to your point when you start your story.
Storytelling elements make your presentation engaging and relatable. Use anecdotes, examples, or case studies to illustrate your points and connect with the audience emotionally.
Remember, people buy emotionally and rationalize logically. So appeal to your audience’s emotions in your stories to sell your message.
Craft a narrative arc that builds anticipation, tension, and resolution to maintain interest throughout the presentation. Weave in personal experiences or real-life scenarios that resonate with your audience. Personal stories are the most powerful.
Your stories should grab your audience’s attention. You want to keep them on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what is to come in your presentation.
The late radio personality Paul Harvey was a master storyteller. He was able to mask the name of the subject of his stories with such deception that after he told you “The rest of the story,” you would find yourself saying, “Of course, that’s who it is.”
Paul Harvey used the power of the story to lure his listeners in and increase their anticipation as the story unfolded. It was a true gift that you should emulate.
For an example of Paul Harvey’s story mastery, go to YouTube.com and search “Bored High School Dropouts Change History.”
Use Paul Harvey’s story technique to get your audience to focus on your presentation.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “They will not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
Your presentation’s structure gives your audience the roadmap to get where they are to where you want them to be. Storytelling puts your engagement with them “on steroids.”
Yours and your audience’s minds visualize their thoughts.
You will make your presentation more compelling if you include visuals.
Enhance your presentation narrative with visually compelling elements.
Utilize powerful images, videos, infographics, or slides that reinforce your message and aid comprehension.
visuals simple, uncluttered, and aligned with the overall narrative. Visual support should complement your spoken words and help convey information effectively rather than overwhelming or distracting the audience.
Below are three additional powerful reasons why visuals are so important to your presentation:
Enhanced Understanding: Visual support, such as slides or graphics, can significantly improve the audience’s understanding of your content. It helps convey complex information concisely and visually appealingly, making it easier for the audience to grasp critical concepts and follow the flow of your presentation.
Retention and Engagement: Visuals significantly impact your audience’s engagement and information retention more than verbal communication alone. Studies have shown that people remember information better when presented visually alongside verbal explanations. Visuals can also capture attention, stimulate interest, and create a lasting impression, leading to a more memorable presentation overall.
Clear Communication: Visuals act as a powerful tool for clear communication, especially when dealing with data, statistics, or complex processes. Visual representations, such as charts, graphs, or diagrams, can simplify complex information, highlight significant trends, and facilitate effective communication across different audience member backgrounds and language barriers. This promotes clarity and ensures your intended message is conveyed accurately and efficiently.
Visuals are indeed worth a thousand words. Don’t leave home without them!
So, to make your presentations compelling for your audience, (1) structure your presentation to give your audience the roadmap to get where they are to where you want them to be, (2) use storytelling to appeal to your audience’s emotions to aid their retention of your message, and (3) use powerful visuals will allow your audience to remember more presentation details.
Strive to make your presentations more compelling for your audience!
Call to Action
Provide a “roadmap” for your audience to follow as they experience their presentation journey.
Use relevant stories during your presentation to appeal to your audience’s emotions and, therefore, remember the details of your presentation.
Use the power of visuals during your presentation to give your audience a powerful way to remember your message.
“Naturally sticky ideas are stuffed full of concrete words and images.”– Chip Heath, co-author with Dan Heath of the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”