Want to Sell? Tell Stories!

Michele Warg
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Whether you’re pitching a project or hosting a seminar, weak presentation skills make your audience prone to brain drain and unlikely to recall any relevant information. Sharing relatable stories instead of bare facts lets you convey easily digestible bites of information and define your personal branding message. The idea of becoming a charismatic speaker may seem intimidating, but tapping into basic storytelling techniques can help you hone your presentation skills.

Get Your Audience on Board

Think of how effortlessly you quote entire scenes from movies or TV shows you watched years ago, and compare that to your ability to remember facts and figures you heard minutes ago. Engaging stories use identifiable characters and conflicts to appeal to the emotional components of your memory, while nonessential facts fall to the wayside if you don’t make repetitive efforts to retain them. The same holds true for interviews, marketing campaigns and presentations, in which the audience is awaiting evidence that your solutions are effective and good results can be duplicated.

To breath life into dry presentation skills, you must humanize the facts by evoking empathy from your audience. Your story must also be simple enough for others to quickly process and summarize. Consider the example of pizza franchise Domino’s. The company rebranded with a campaign that publicly acknowledged customer complaints, including poor ingredient quality, and illustrated Domino’s taking steps to fix each problem.

By recognizing past flaws, the company positioned itself as an optimistic underdog, and by giving consumers the power to point out problems, customers became the heroes and facilitators of the revitalized products. Unsurprisingly, Domino’s emerged victorious during the economic recession of the late 2000s, boosting fourth-quarter sales by $23.6 million in 2009.

Tell a Complete Story

Develop versatile presentation skills by balancing different types of storytelling, such as case studies, quotes, jokes and personal anecdotes. Stories don’t have to be lengthy or triumphant, but they should always follow the basic format of having a beginning, middle and end. Craft a cohesive narrative identifying the “who,” “what” and “why” of your story. Presenting an incomplete story arc is like ripping the final pages out of a book, making your audience work harder to relate the story to your call to action.

Make sure your story is appropriate for the occasion and the audience. In motivational settings, an audience that wants to overcome past obstacles may benefit from stories highlighting a major recovery from discouraging setbacks. You can also test presentation skills by adjusting the delivery and tone of your stories to suit different purposes. While sharing your own life experiences isn’t mandatory, willingness to show vulnerability builds trust with your audience and makes approachability an attractive feature of your personal branding.

Sharpening your presentation skills helps you identify engaging story arcs in any marketable entity, including yourself. Overcome nervousness by choosing stories you’re passionate about and feel natural relating to others. As you gain practice and confidence, you develop a conversational tone that gradually eliminates the dreaded stale-personality syndrome.


Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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