To illustrate the story-telling principles with a story is a common sense decision you would say. That might be true, but it only came to me after my colleague remarked that I should illustrate all the high-brow storytelling stuff with examples that everyone would understand. So my thinking was along the lines “let’s take the most archetypical story that most people would be familiar with or at least heard of.” And what would be a more fitting example than the Star Wars themselves.
So here it is – let’s learn from the best archetypical storytelling.
WHERE DO I APPLY THIS?
This is essentially a short checklist on how to make business presentations/pitches or any collaborative work be more engaging. This doesn’t mean that the following tips can not be applied anywhere else.
WHAT ABOUT ETHICS?
You might think that employing storytelling techniques in business presentation environment is a diversion tactic: as in “I don’t have a good content, so at least let’s make a good story out of it”.
I personally believe that good storytelling is what draws people together and enables them to understand each other. It also helps share experiences and build a single vision. My thinking also implies an assumption that humans are not able to efficiently work together or even understand each other under normal circumstances. This is what I believe and my reasoning is that storytelling can help us overcome this innate inability.
This post comes in two parts: the first is concerned with the question of what, the second – with how. The what question denotes the essential elements that are a necessary for a story to happen. The how part is about specifics of controlling the story, or storytelling in general.
THE CHECKLIST OF 3: ANSWERS TO WHAT
1. ESTABLISH THE OBJECT OF VALUE
There is always something at stake. We always lack something or crave something. Without that something that we are missing there is not moving forward, no drama and no thrill.
There’s one thing to keep in mind – the object we are pursuing usually doesn’t hold value in itself. In most cases it is transitory, i. e. it helps us achieve some further goals. Just like the car or motorcycle you have just recently bought aren’t about the objects themselves, but the ways in which we are enabled to pursue other goals or even achieve abstract-ideological values.
The same works for the business context. Always define the object (like a particular KPI, a business or brand goal) you are trying to obtain, but also provide what would that allow to achieve in the future. Have a small plan within a big plan: like blowing the Death Star eventually leads to destroying the Empire.
“Have a small plan within a big plan: like blowing the Death Star eventually leads to destroying the Empire”
But also remember that something or somebody always gets in the way no matter the greatness of the plan! (let’s read on)
2. DEFINE THE CONFLICT
Stories work best, when you (or the character) have to overcome something. And overcoming usually denotes beating something to a (near) death. Competition rewires our brains for engagement – we just can’t stay out of it. It’s not that surprising that business and marketing jargon is based on the war-based metaphors and terminology. Just think about it for a moment: strategy and tactics, must-win battles, competition, campaign, guerrilla marketing and etc.
So let’s define what we are up against – even if it’s our own incompetence (we can always build a character out of it). Stating the enemy will bring a focus to the presentation or pitch, it will also allow us to foreground the means of fighting and the proposed path.
3. DEFINE THE JOURNEY
Well, it means a couple of things. First of all, it entails that staying in one place doesn’t get you anywhere. So journey is about moving and getting out there. Physically, mentally or both. Secondly, journey is about transformation. We don’t get to finish the journey the way we started. Just think of Stanley Cubrik’s Space Odyssey – it really didn’t work out that well for Dave Bowman (or entirely the opposite).
It could be true that most of the journeys we undertake don’t get us anywhere – but they do transform us. We come back just not as we were before setting out.
How to transfer that in a presentation?
Simply put, it’s all about defining the “how we are going to achieve what we set out to achieve”. That means depicting the road ahead. What you don’t have to do at the moment is define how long the journey is going to take or which parts of the journey involve what or where the dragons live and monsters lurk. Finding out everything on the way is what is going to create engagement.
“Presentation is about transferring knowledge or point of view – so do exactly that, but do it gradually. Remember – the transformation and revelation should come in bite-sized chunks.”