Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Wow! I Didn’t Know That! – Presentations that Promote Your Business without Turning People Off – Part 3 – I Want What She’s Having

In Presentation Tips on February 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm

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Tell a Story

The speaker seemed like a nice enough guy when he took the stage.  He set up the premise to his presentation.  It was similar to how most people open their presentations – in other words, it was pretty ho-hum, but not horrible.  Finally a few minutes into his presentation, he told a story about one of his clients.  The client had had a successful business.  Her numbers had gone down dramatically in the past year.  She was considering selling the business.  The speaker talked about working with the client and turning her business around.  He gave concrete numbers, concrete time frames, concrete results.  It was impressive.  It left me thinking, “I want what she’s having,” and it made me want to listen to the rest of his speech.

(By the way, when the speaker asked me for feedback, I said, move that story to your opening and drop the whole “ho-hum” pieces!)

Tell Your Stories

One of the best ways to help an audience to get to know, like and trust you is to weave stories from your personal life and your business life into your presentations.  Stories let the audience get to know you as a person.   Stories help the audience see how you think and how you respond.  Stories paint a picture for the audience of what it would be like to hang out with you or work with you.  Stories are great for building a connection with your audience.

Plus – stories engage and entertain an audience.  See for yourself.  The next time you’re listening to a speaker or a preacher, see if your attention doesn’t sharpen when he or she starts to tell a story.

Consider these “Do” and “Don’t” Scenarios as You Develop Stories for Your Presentations

Don’t – Be Salesy

If any of the stories have an air to them that says, “I helped Mary.  If you want to see how, you have to hire me,” then chances are, you’re being too salesy.  People like to buy.  But they don’t like to be sold to.  What do you do instead?

Do – Tell the Recipe to Your Secret Sauce

Ironically, I’ve found that telling a prospect how I do what I do actually increases their desire to work with me.  My first major Fortune 500 came to me this way.

I’d done a presentation at a conference on storytelling, and as I often do, I used PowerPoint slides.  Afterwards, a manager for the Fortune 500 company asked me how I did my slides.  I told her about the great book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  “It’s totally transformed the way I do slides,” I told her.  She wrote down the name of the book, we chitchatted a little longer, then we parted ways.”  A few weeks later, she called me and said, “Our VP of Learning wants us to do our slides more like Steve Jobs.  Our people don’t have time to learn on their own.  Do you have a training program on doing PowerPoint slides?“  I’d given her the formula for how to make the slides herself.  But she preferred to hire me instead.

Don’t – Be the Hero of Every Story

If you are always the person that saves the day, you run the risk of being perceived as arrogant.   People love confidence.  They hate arrogance.  So how can you avoid being the hero of every story?

Do – Feature Other Heroes

Feature others as the heroes of your stories.  It could be the person who taught you a valuable lesson.  It could be an employee who saved the day.  It could be a customer who made a courageous decision.  You can avoid appearing arrogant if you show respect for others and the contributions they make.

Don’t – Disrespect Others

Don’t make a habit of putting others down.  Whether it be a competitor, a prospect who didn’t hire you, or someone that you simply don’t like, don’t take the low road and put them down.  Be better than that.

Do – Protect the Innocent (and the Guilty)

Unless you have express consent and a reason to reveal names of people you’ve worked with, protect their anonymity.   Personally I prefer to use people’s actual names because it makes it easier to tell the story. Names make the story more personable.  But I ask before I use the actual names and I slip a comment in there that my client is OK with me telling this story.

If your audience member feels that you’re revealing the secrets of the people you work with without their consent, they won’t want to work with you for fear that their dirty laundry will be aired out later.   So whether it’s a story that flatters a client or points out a error, be sure that you protect the innocent and the guilty.

Don’t – Make the Audience Uncomfortable with Your Stories

Now this needs a little clarification there are times you want to make your audience uncomfortable so that you encourage them to make a change.  But what you don’t want to do is make them uncomfortable about the story or the situation.

For instance, if you’re currently going through a messy divorce and have a lot of unresolved anger and resentment about the process, chances are this topic is too close and too raw for you to discuss.  Years afterwards, you may be able to use stories related to the divorce.  But when it’s an emotional trigger, stay away from it.  A presentation is not a substitute for therapy.  Don’t bring issues into your speech that you can’t yet handle.  It will make your audience uncomfortable in an unhealthy way that wont’ server you or your audience.

Do – Start Out Vulnerable

While you do want to tell stories of successes within your business so others will want to work with you, also find ways to weave in stories where things didn’t go so well for you.  It may or may not be a work related story.  You don’t want to appear incompetent.  But showing your human side, being vulnerable with an audience will help them respect you more and feel more connected with you.   The earlier in the presentation you can be vulnerable with your audience, the more they’ll be on your side as you go through the remainder of your material.

Stories Make Connections

Stories build connections between you, your ideas and your audience.  Have valuable content.  But don’t forget that no matter how great your content or logical your audience, they’re still human.  They want to be connected to us as a person.  In the next post, we’ll discuss how to continue to build that relationship.

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