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How to tell a story in a presentation

How to tell a story in a presentation

Whether you’ve been reading our blog or just following the latest LinkedIn articles, you’ve probably seen the concept of presentation storytelling popping up in your daily browsing.

While this concept is simple, it tends to feel a little unusual to people who aren’t familiar with the technique. So in today’s blog, we’re going to walk you through some simple ways for you to use storytelling techniques in your next presentation.

How do you tell a story in a presentation?

First off, let’s clear up one big thing. It’s common that, when people are introduced to PowerPoint storytelling for the first time, they ask how they can make a story appropriate for a business meeting, or where they come up with ideas for stories.

We aren’t necessarily talking about adding anecdotes or historical examples. Those things are definitely storytelling, and can be used to great effect in presentations. But those examples are very situational. What we want to do is create simple, replicable techniques that can easily be applied to any presentation. Here are a few ways you can do that:

Start with headlines

The easiest way to add storytelling to your presentations is to think about the headlines, the key message (that’s usually) at the top of your slide. Headlines are the most visible, and typically most memorable, bit of writing on your slides. They are also what people look to to orient themselves to the content of your slide.

To make them more story focused, there are two things you can do. First, instead of simply describing what’s on your slide, let your headline give some context to your information. Second, instead of thinking of headlines as a summary of that slide's content, think of each one in relation to your other headlines. Here’s an example:

Descriptive headlines

  1. Introduction

  2. Product Overview

  3. Product Features

  4. Next Steps

Storytelling headlines

  1. The state of the industry

  2. How our widget will change everything

  3. What makes our product unique

  4. Where we go from here

From features to benefits

Another way to use storytelling techniques is to focus your content on benefits, rather than features. We often describe presentation storytelling as the act of putting information into context, and the movement from features to benefits illustrates this quite clearly.

A feature describes something: "Push-button starter," or "3-Year Warranty."

A benefit describes how things will change as a result of using that product: "Faster start times," or "Worry-free operation."

It features are the "what" of a product, benefits are the "why." To go a step further, features are the wheels on your car, and benefits are the gas the makes it move.

By focusing on benefits, you'll automatically start to show how things will change with your product/service, and you'll be telling a story while you do it!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with storytelling

While the term “storytelling” may seem unfamiliar to some, the techniques are tried and true.

After you learn the basics of storytelling techniques, you can start to improvise and find ways to integrate stories more directly into your content. Ultimately, the goal of learning presentation storytelling is to weave stories into your content fluidly and naturally, not force fit your slides into a generic format that may or may not actually work for your content and audience.

So start revising your headlines, adding in benefits, and telling stories with confidence. We're sure you'll see the difference almost immediately.

Update (03/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new details on best practices for storytelling in presentations

Looking for more information about presentation skills and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.

About the author

Kyle Kartz is the Creative Director of Storytelling at VerdanaBold. He is an expert copywriter and strategist, with experience driving major campaigns for global brands in multiple industries. He is passionate about communications, the outdoors, and cooking.



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