As a presenter, it is important to capture and continue to engage the attention of your audience throughout your entire presentation.

A very effective way of doing this is to use stories.

Stories have the power of drawing people into your message.

Think about what people love about watching movies. Movies are simply stories about people, enacted in a powerful way.

In the business world, it is similar. There will always be people behind a fact, statistic or number. Go ahead and tell the story of the people behind the fact, statistic or number.

ONCE UPON A TIME......THEN ONE DAY......LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER

The above is a story telling structure that we are familiar with since we were young. Even in business presentations, we can still apply this simple structure.

Let’s talk about the Steve Job’s story. In 1976, he co-founded Apple. It developed the Macintosh computer and was very successful. Then one day, Steve was fired from Apple. That turned out to be a big mistake, and subsequently Steve was rehired as the CEO in 1996. Today, Steve has turned Apple into the world ’s most valuable technology company, overtaking Microsoft.

Can you see the basic story structure at work?

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR USING STORIES IN PRESENTATIONS

Stories revolve around people, whether as problem which the audience would want to know CEOs, customers, suppliers or service staff, taking certain actions or making certain decisions.

People are interested in what other people do, and that is why stories (as well as Facebook and Twitter) are so popular.

When you start with a story, people begin to infer something about you or your company.

Hence plan your stories appropriately, and use them to convey important qualities about you, or the values of your company. This is far more powerful than telling customers about your qualifications or the vision and mission of your company in a direct manner.

You can still tell them about your corporate values--after you have told them a values-in-action type of story that demonstrates how your company walks the talk.

A good story leads the listeners to raise questions they want answered. It usually contains a problem which the audience would want to know how it is resolved.

Appealing to the fundamental human nature of curiosity is what makes stories so appealing. It makes the audience captive to your ideas when told through your stories.

THE PRIME MINISTER AND THE BUFFALO

A Prime Minister from ancient China was travelling incognito at the countryside one day. He came across two men fighting. During the fight, one of them was injured. The Prime Minister said nothing and moved on with his followers.

Next, his party came across a water buffalo. It was panting heavily. The Prime Minister got very concerned. He started to talk to the villagers about it.

His followers were very puzzled. They asked him why he was not concerned about an injured man, but got worried about a panting buffalo instead.

The Prime Minister said that the injured man, while a serious matter, was under the jurisdiction of the local magistrate. If he got involved in meting out justice, that would be overriding the authority of the magistrate.

On the other hand, the panting buffalo could mean that there was potentially the risk of a drought. If so, that would have widespread implications for the country, as no one had been placed in charge of drought prevention.

Hence he had to take charge and find out about the problem.

What do you think is the lesson for leaders?

James Leong C. Foo, Distinguished Toastmaster, is a gold medallist in public speaking (LAMDA) and Toastmasters International Humourous Speech Champion (PanSEA). He can be reached at jamesleong@visions1.com.sg or http://www.visions1.com.sg
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