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The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling

Our lives are full of stories.

In our distant past, we huddled around a campfire, sharing stories passed down through generations. Not only was it a fun way to pass some time, those entertaining stories helped people to remember what they heard, enabling us to share information across long stretches of time. Today, we gather around the projector screen to learn about a new software update or product release.

What is storytelling?

Storytelling is a deeply human practice, one that is rooted in our ability to learn. It’s more than just a fun thing to do, or a skill that’s relevant for writers and teachers: it’s actually one of the best ways for people to learn and retain information.

And while the topics may have changed, the method hasn’t.

Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why you should take a storytelling approach to your next PowerPoint presentation.

How is storytelling used in presentations?

When we talk about "stories," we're talking about more than historical anecdotes or fictional accounts. Business storytelling means shifting the way you communicate to focus on conveying information in context, rather than isolated points.

There are a few ways this can happen. In a keynote address or TED-style talk, your entire presentation might be built around a detailed personal story.

In a town hall or large corporate presentation, your story might center on showing the difference between where you are today and where the company can be if they implement the ideas in your presentation.

For your day-to-day presentations, where grandiose narratives might feel like too much, storytelling becomes more about relying on story format and narrative techniques to shape your content like a story.

Contrary to much of the most common presentation advice you find online, storytelling is less about specific frameworks than it is about a mindset or way of approaching your content.

Storytelling helps the audience to retain information

If you want your audience to remember what you share during your presentation, storytelling is perhaps the best way to do it. That’s because it gives them something to connect the information to. Similarly to the way that you still sing the ABCs song in your head when recalling order, a story is like a map to where the information is stored in your brain, making it easier to find your way back in the future. This is likely because telling stories has been shown to engage more of the brain than simply stating a series of facts.

Storytelling creates stronger connections with the audience

When’s the last time a business presentation got your heart racing? If you’ve ever experienced the anxiety and tension of a high-stakes car chase in an action movie, then you know how storytelling can take you to another place. Storytellers call this “transportation”, and while you may not get the same reaction as your favorite action hero, incorporating stories into your PowerPoint presentations can help you create a connection with your audience like you’ve never had before.

Storytelling helps you to keep the audience engaged

We’ve all been there. A speaker is halfway through an hour-long presentation, while you started browsing recipes 15 minutes ago. Even when the topic is important, it can be hard to keep people engaged through a long PowerPoint.

But that’s a problem with content, not with format. And storytelling can fix it.

Using storytelling techniques can help you to actually make your audience more engaged as time goes on: by increasing narrative tension, what was once a standard business meeting becomes a gripping tale, one where the audience is more interested in your next slide than their dinner plans.

Storytelling techniques help you to keep your audience engaged throughout the course of your presentation by continually increasing "tension." This is a clear example of how story structures can strengthen your presentations. If a story sets up a problem in the beginning, the audience will follow the rest of the story anxiously awaiting a discovery of how the characters will resolve the issue.

Presentations can do the same, at least structurally. By adopting a story format, you can keep the audience engaged by teasing out the reveal of your solution, for example.

You should use storytelling techniques in your next presentation

The benefits of storytelling map directly to the basic goals of any presentation: to introduce a topic, build interest in it, and ensure that the audience keeps your message in mind.

And this blog covers just a few examples of the ways that storytelling can benefit any business presentation. In a future post, we’ll dig into some specific tactics you can use to add stories to your presentations, but the good news is that you don’t need any special training to start telling stories! Just start incorporating stories into your presentations, and before you know it, your business presentations will be as powerful as a Hollywood blockbuster.

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

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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