Posts Tagged ‘Story Season’

NATIONAL STORYTELLING WEEK: HOW TO BLEND STORY AND PRESENTATION

Monday, January 30th, 2017 by Matt<

This weekend marked the start of National Storytelling Week, so we are taking a closer look at the wondrous world of story (and how it relates to presentations.)

It’s a well-known fact that story can be a very powerful thing. Only last night did the offer of a story to my little boy, Jack, convince him to give up his favourite vice of Paw Patrol.

Yes, that promise of any story he would like, got him to put down the iPad (never an easy feat), shoot upstairs, get into his pyjama’s (without force) and snuggled up next to his daddy, all in double quick time.

Of course, one story, became three, but that’s fine, because I’d much rather spend my time reading to him, than chasing him around our house with a pair of pyjama’s in one hand and a nappy in the other…

Speaking of children and stories, the shortest story ever written is by Earnest Hemmingway and went like this…

“New baby shoes, never worn”

Your mind reads into those words and constructs several very different positive, neutral and very negative connotations…

That’s the power of story.

Like we’ve said many times before, this power can be applied to presentations in a number of ways…

“We LOVE the smart use of stories and story structure in presentations. They’ve formed some of the most compelling, engaging, passionate and memorable presentations ever created. The use of ‘story’ in presentations makes a lot of sense – get it right and you’re onto a good thing…”
Simon Morton, CEO, Eyeful Presentations (and Chief Storyteller to Beth and Peter).

You can prepare a whole raft of stories and keep them in your proverbial mental back pocket for when opportunities arise.

You can turn your entire PowerPoint presentation design into a story by looking at story themes and structures and applying these to your presentations. There’s a great chapter on ‘Business Storytelling’ on page 42 of The Presentation Lab book, that explains how to do this.

Another great way of using story to support your presentations messaging is through case studies. These don’t have to be formal case studies, they can simply be stories about real events and projects that you can relay in your presentation, to your audience, to back-up and reinforce what you are trying to say.

Telling your audience that your product or solution is fantastic is all well and good – but these days messages that simply big you up, just won’t convince your audience…

If you really want to engage with them and get their buy in, think of a real example of a problem that relates to theirs and tell them a true story about how you solved it for another company in a similar situation as theirs.

Blending story into your presentations has lots of other benefits too…

  • Encasing your product or solution in a story makes it more real and believable.
  • Telling a true story makes your delivery style authentic.
  • Maybe the story has an element of drama or action to it? Play on this and use this to make your story more interesting and memorable. It doesn’t have to be Lord of the Rings, merely explaining how you solved a tough problem at the last minute can have enough drama to enthuse your audience.

Your presentation being remembered after the event is also a key element in gaining presentation success and because of the all the things I’ve mentioned above, people remember stories.

To discover more about applying story to your presentations, check out Eyeful’s Story Season…

Story Season’s goal is to discuss the importance of story within presentations, look at the scientific case for using story, and ultimately to provide information, advice and general tips on how to incorporate story into your presentations.

Check it out, it’s a good read!

Story Season – 3 Story Themes To Help Connect With Your Audience

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 by Matt<

Story ThemesWelcome along to this week’s Story Season, this time round we are going to look at how to use a story theme to help deliver your messages to your audience in a more effective way.

As let’s be honest, trying to turn a presentation into a story isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.

So if you are struggling, using an external theme might just help give you a place to start. Inspiration can come from anywhere – a news article you read earlier that week, a story shared by a friend or a chance remark from a member of your family. They can all act as a powerful catalyst.

There’s nothing tricky about it – applying a theme to your presentation is basically delivering your messages with a particular angle. This helps the presentation to carry the right levels of emotion, motivation, or even bravery that will empower your audience to act on your message.

How do you do this?

There is a chapter in our founder, Simon Morton’s book, The Presentation Lab – that details story themes. I’ve picked 3 of these to use as an example.

The first thing to do is consider your own presentation scenario and audience. I cannot stress how important it is at this stage to understand your audience, use audience heatmaps, find out who they are and what makes them tick.

Then choose the situation and audience scenario that best fits and apply the relevant theme along these lines to your presentation.

Pick Yourself Up and Try Again

Your Situation: You’ve taken a hit, things have gone wrong. But you’re a plucky company not ready to give up.

Your Audience: In this case it’s your staff. You’re looking to motivate your team, you need them to dig deep, find the passion to go again and make it work this time.

Real World Example: Steve Jobs bouncing back after being fired from his own company, before returning to lead Apple to its current level of success.

David & Goliath

Your Situation: You’re either a start-up or an established company entering an industry you’re not established in.

Your Audience: They are demotivated and don’t believe in the venture. You need to convince them that hard work, dedication and commitment will pay off.

Real World Example: Apple moving into the smartphone market to take on the might of Nokia. Look where they are now.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Your Situation: You are within a large corporate organisation, where things have gone so stale that change is a four letter word. But, you have a new idea.

Your Audience: Uninterested and stubborn. You really need to paint a firm picture of how your idea is going to make a difference.

Real World Example: 3M’s post it note was invented by accident, but instead of throwing it out and employee pushed and persisted for 5 years that it was a good idea – After its release the development team won 3M’s Golden Step Award, for major new products that are significantly profitable.

These are just a few examples, but there are literally hundreds of stories out there, both fictional and your own personal stories that could be used to help deliver your message to your audience.

So hopefully this blog will give you a place to start and you will be in a position to begin creating a presentation that uses story to engage your audience with the right tone and helps get you the results all of your hard work deserves.

If you need any help in creating a compelling presentation story, then just send us a message

Story Season – 6 Real Stories To Inspire Creativity

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 by Matt<

We know what it’s like… We’ve all been there sitting in front of either a blank PowerPoint screen, or worse still, spent hours crafting a presentation accompanied by a nagging thought – could it be better? Could it be clearer? Why are there so many damn bullet points?

Part of the problem is knowing what PowerPoint can do (and take my word for it PowerPoint is one of the most over abused, under-appreciated and downright powerful pieces of desktop publishing software available to every man and his cyber dog).

The truth is that PowerPoint is capable of soooo much. At Eyeful our designers are graphic experts – they know how to get the most out of PowerPoint (and when to use programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator to really enhance the slides they create).

But lest we forget, no matter how much time and effort we pump into a PowerPoint slide, it should never, ever be just about making it solely look good. Good visuals only work if they are there to support strong stories. In fact it all becomes a little ‘chicken and egg’ – the more planned and structured your story, the bigger the scope and opportunity for creativity in slide design. It’s a match made in heaven.

After some inspiration? Why not check out the series of customer stories from our Irish and Dutch offices and take a moment to view these from two perspectives:

Firstly the story – these videos exist to show potential customers what its like to work with Eyeful, what we do to help our customers and the difference our involvement makes.

Then from a visual point of view – the design perfectly supports the message (and, as if to prove a point, the only program used to create these videos was PowerPoint!).

rsz_3netherlands_pics

rsz_2ireland_pics
Inspired? We certainly hope so (and if it any point you need some help, you know where we are).

Story Season – What Is Your Favourite Customer Story?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 by Matt<

In this week’s edition of Story Season we join the Eyeful team for the final time as they reveal their own favourite presentation that used story in a significant way.

In here we have some pretty interesting examples, ranging from a book tour presentation for “The Wisdom of Phsycopaths”, how a brewery used a time travel concept and a presentation that tells the story of Noah’s Ark in a very visual way…

And we’ve included clips of the actual presentations so you can really see how it’s possible to merge story and presentations together.

Perfect image width is 675pixels

We hope you enjoyed the video and found some motivation and ideas on how to take your next audience on a journey through your own presentation story.

If you need any help with authoring the perfect presentation story, then just get in touch.

Presentation Lessons Learned At A School Assembly

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 by Simon Morton<

I’ve had a smashing morning. The stars aligned and my schedule cleared enough for me to attend a special assembly at my children’s school to celebrate ‘World Book Day’.

The assembly had all the key ingredients in place to make it special… The introduction by the squeaky (but definitely improving) school orchestra, a cute play put on by the tots in the Reception class and the excruciating moment where parents grunt/falsetto their way through a long forgotten hymn.

But the real magic happened when the stories started.

As children of all ages took their place on the stage, we were treated to self-penned stories that were brilliant, creative and thought provoking in equal measure. World Book Day was off and running…

What made it all the more special was how the children actually delivered the stories. Despite nerves, they were beaming from ear to ear, obviously delighted to be sharing their stories with the world. Their proud smiles were only matched by those on their parents faces, a wonderful sight to see.

So how does this relate to my stock in trade, business presentations?

There’s an obvious link to the importance of authenticity (something I have become somewhat maniacal about) but also the sense of pride that comes with sharing a story you want the world to hear.

It occurs to me that a gazillion books/blogs/articles have been written about how to beat glossophobia (the fear of public speaking) but a pitiful few focus on the joy of sharing a message you’re proud of.

My advice to nervy business presenters is simple – attend the next school assembly you’re invited to. The enthusiasm and joy of children sharing their stories is both infectious and priceless. Oh, and in the spirit of World Book Day, if you’re still after glossophobia-beating-inspiration, who better to turn to than Roald Dahl:

Story Season – The Tightrope of Authenticity

Friday, February 27th, 2015 by Simon Morton<

Those who have been following Eyeful’s Story Season over the last few weeks will have spotted a theme.

Yep, we truly love the power of story in presentations. We love the heightened levels of engagement they bring, the spark they create in audiences and the unforgettable images they create. In the right hands, they are a very powerful tool.

Yet we’re also consistently cynical about those that claim that ‘story’ is a presentation panacea. Stories fall flat on their faces when used inappropriately, out of context or as a short cut to a properly thought out proposition. They are also bound to fail if they are inauthentic.

Outside of all the science, the scenarios and hype, there is one simple truth – powerful stories rely on authenticity. They work because they connect, forming a bridge between the storyteller and the audience, sharing emotions, experience and ideas. In short, you have to ‘feel it’ to effectively share it.

Inauthentic = Ineffective (To The Point of Being Pointless)

We see inauthenticity everywhere, from the singer who mimes their way through an old standard to the stand-up who ‘phones in’ a performance. It just doesn’t work – the connection is lost.

It’s this authenticity issue that is one of the flaws that those with blind faith in ‘business storytelling’ seem to conveniently overlook. Marketing folk beware – foisting a pre-canned, generic and inauthentic story upon a business presenter is bound to fail for the simple reason that they don’t ‘feel it’.

Too Authentic?

The power of authenticity can, of course, go the other way – some stories are simply too emotional, too heartfelt to work effectively in a business presentation.

By way of example, allow me to share a personal presentation flaw. Shortly after the publication of The Presentation Lab, I shared a story to illustrate the power of visuals. I talked about how I felt as a spotty teenager seeing the extraordinary and shocking pictures of the Ethiopian famine for the first time. I recalled the emotional rollercoaster of Band Aid, from singing along to Spandau Ballet one minute and then sobbing with millions of other viewers as we watched the harrowing CBC news report of a skeletal child, near death, struggling but determined to stand (to a devastating soundtrack of ‘Drive’ by The Cars). And then, 20 years later, that incredible moment when she was introduced, fit and healthy, to the audience at the Live 8 concert.

The story was powerful and helped audiences understand the point I was making…but was frankly too personal and emotional for me to deliver. I choked up each and every time I shared it – the story simply proved too raw for me to tell without going to pieces so in the end I dropped it. It was too authentic.

So where to draw the line? In the world of business presentations, the power of stories come from the connection they make with an audience. Authenticity is a key element in ensuring that connection is made so treat it with respect.

Oh, and as ever, put yourself in the shoes of your audience – what would help you engage better? When traversing the tightrope of authenticity, I’d take a heartfelt but shoddily told story over a slick but inauthentic one every time. Or, like Don Draper, you can strive to get the mix just right:

Story Season – Science and Stories

Friday, February 20th, 2015 by Matt<

We continue our journey through Story Season now by taking a dip in the mysterious pool of Science and Stories. You’ll come out refreshed, thinking differently and in more detail about your presentations in the future.

Which in turn will lead to you becoming a better presenter, who has a higher chance of getting the end results that those other ‘death by PowerPoint’ presenters can only dream of.

In short, to avoid these horrible gut-wrenchingly awkward situations, we respectfully suggest you use parts of ‘story science’ to help you construct more engaging and compelling presentations.  Here’s how…

THE SCIENCE OF SUBTEXT

Subtext is the story within the story. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading a book, watching a movie, or receiving a presentation – subtext is right there.

Think of it as levels.

Level 1 is the story being told out loud. The words we actually hear and the visuals we actually see.

Level 2 is the subtext. The story underneath this that the audience creates based on what they experience.

In regards to the subtext in presentations specifically, our very own Simon Morton’s book, The Presentation Lab, has a chapter dedicated to ‘The Super Powers of Visual Subtext’.

In this he focuses on how slide visuals, such as a photograph or graphic, can illicit different emotional undertones with the audience. The choice of visual though really depends on your audience – more on this in a moment.

In regards the context in stories, in story development consultant, David Baboulene’s blog, he discusses subtext using (allegedly) the shortest story ever written by Earnest Hemmingway.

“For Sale. Baby’s Shoes. Never Worn.”

Ok, so ‘War and Peace’ it isn’t, but for such a short, nay minute story it certainly evokes a strong response from the reader.

There’s the melancholy interpretation, where you think that a baby has sadly passed away – or there’s the more positive humorous assessment, where you might think the baby was born with huge feet and grandma and granddads first gift was just way too small!

It all depends on how youthe audienceinterpret the story and create the subtext.

AUDIENCE CENTRIC STORIES

And this is where when it comes to presentations you need to be so careful and really consider your audience (and when we say ‘consider’, we mean more than just a passing thought – truly ponder what makes them tick, the dynamics within the group and why they are listening to you in the first place).

Again the ‘The Presentation Lab’ book recommends that you need to consider the type of personality the key members of your audience are and which group of Visionary, Factual or Emotional they sit in – in the book Simon uses something called Audience Heat Maps which can help build this picture for you easily.

Once you know what makes your audience tick it’s time to start thinking about what you are going to say and what you are going to show in order to create the right message and subtext.

THE SCIENCE OF STORIES

And this is where the science of story really comes into play…

Your audience, for the most part, will be living, breathing, heart pumping, brain controlled human beings. And it’s in the grey matter department that your presentation needs to be the equivalent of a Red Bull overload.

There is a part of our brain called Broca’s area. This gets switched on when we either hear someone speak or read some text, as it interprets and makes sense of the words.

Now that’s nothing to get too excited about. More interesting things start to happen when we get past this area to the Primary Olfactory Cortex (linked to smell) and the Motor Cortex (which is for planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements), with more and more areas of our brain working we start to really listen, understand, engage and get excited about whatever it is we are experiencing.

To get these areas started though, you need to really think about what’s coming out of your mouth and what’s written on your visuals.

Boring, flat, uninspiring words won’t get much past the Broca…

But start thinking a little bigger and adding more meaningful content and using words that really mean something then this is when things start to happen.

Talking about things with odours such as describing the smell of fresh coffee, or the smell of a new-born baby’s head – these will get the Olfactory Cortex activated, whereas the Motor Cortex is stimulated by words relating to movement, so perhaps relating to sport, or as specific as kicking or running.

Now it’s merely a case of marrying up the right words to get the audience’s brains going and turning it into presentation content that’s relevant…get the mix right and you’re onto a winner.

And if you package this up in a story, the audience will find it easier to digest and the scientific content of your presentation will see them constructing the information and subtext you want and heading towards the target outcome of your presentation.

Net result?

Improved engagement. Increased message retention. Presentation success.

You are now a million miles ahead of those presenters currently sitting in front of the TV creating tomorrow’s death by PowerPoint.

If you need a hand in putting this all together, just give us a call, we’re ready to help keep your presentations ahead of the competition.

Story Season – Talk About Who Did What To Whom

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 by Simon Morton<

65% of the time we are speaking informally, we’re talking about who did what to whom…

Dunbar, R (1996), Grooming, Gossip & The Evolution of Language, Harvard 

Businesses thrive on successful communication. A simple concept but incredibly difficult to pull off. For it to work, it has to be clear, engaging and have a purpose but, a cursory review of the e-mails, presentations and meetings that swallowed up your diary last week will demonstrate that the ideal is a long way off the reality.

In my opinion, much of the problem lies with the way we’re conditioned to behave at work. Armed with impressive sounding TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), an unquestioning adherence to business etiquette and ready access to technology like PowerPoint, Keynote and Excel, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of speaking as business robots whenever addressing an audience. The net result is that we gum up the cogs of business communication and ultimately grind to an unsatisfying halt. 

So how to ‘un-gum’ communication to your audiences, be they internal or external? Well, one of the options is the use of story. Used carefully and selectively, story can break down the barriers built up through corporate waffle and engage your audiences in a refreshing and effective way.

Let me share a very personal story to demonstrate my point…

A couple of years ago, my business went through an unprecedented and, frankly, unplanned growth spurt. On paper it looked like great news – the numbers were growing at a truly remarkable rate and we were winning new customers left, right and centre. The reality within the business was somewhat different – the stresses of demanding customers, changing goalposts and ever tighter deadlines made working at Eyeful less than fun for a while.

The first casualty was communication – and in retrospect, the signs were there for all to see. People began resorting to email more and more. This inevitably led to people misconstruing one another’s emails more frequently, which resulted in some tense conversations. The consequence was that, in a frighteningly short period of time, key people were not really communicating or engaging with each other at all. It was horrible.

I knew I had to address the issue. So I did it with storytelling.

With so many people now dotted across the world, we had no alternative but to schedule a conference call. Not my preferred method of communication, but necessity compelled us to do so.

We had no formal agenda. No slides. No spreadsheets. No visuals whatsoever.

I also set a limit of ten minutes for the entire call.

I started by thanking people for joining the call and then recalled the vision I had for the business when I started it back in 2004: to build a company that would deliver the best possible presentation services to it’s customers through a mix of great people, smart thinking and the need to ensure that each and every member of the team feels valued, respected and engaged with the business. 

I told a few short stories of how we convinced longstanding team members to join us in the first place – Sally over a cheap pizza in London, Liz through a series of increasingly bizarre interviews and the embarrassment of having my dog pee on poor Vicki when she first visited the office. I spoke of the excitement we all felt when moving to our company headquarters, “Eyeful Towers”, the peculiar novelty of our own dedicated server and the buzz we all felt when winning each new customer.  

I underlined that these everyday things defined “Eyefulocity” and made our company a special place to work. Our customers frequently commented that they felt this in the way we supported them and each other on projects. We were living the dream.

I then shared more recent and slightly less uplifting stories – when a team member was reduced to tears as a result of receiving an angry e-mail from a colleague; when a team felt demotivated by unrealistic deadlines; and the awful feeling of fear I had one morning when arriving at the office and sensing that we were slowly morphing another “normal” company.

Ultimately the presentation was little more than a series of heartfelt but authentic stories – stories that, frankly, I’d chosen to pull at the team’s heartstrings and ensure they felt the same pain and disappointment I was feeling.

It’s all too easy to overlook the importance of authenticity in the stories I chose to share – they were stories that everyone could relate to immediately. The raw sense of disappointment expressed through the stories allowed the audience to reflect on how the changing behaviours described had impacted the business’s culture, and their colleagues and friends’ happiness. With authenticity and emotion comes real power.

Without a solitary PowerPoint slide, the presentation touched everyone on that call and set the more positive agenda going forward, something we still feel today across the business. People still refer to the “Eyefulocity presentation” today as a crucial point in our business’s development —one that, appropriately, relied totally on authentic storytelling.

So ask yourself one simple question – how can you incorporate story into the next communication you share with your audience?

For more insight into the use of story, structure and visuals as part of improved communications, check out The Presentation Lab: Learn The Formula Behind Powerful Presentations

Story Season – A Prologue

Monday, February 9th, 2015 by Simon Morton<

Occasionally the team at Eyeful Towers gets a bee in our collective bonnet. A couple of years ago we went all out to stem the overly effusive praise for Prezi* and a while before that we were getting ourselves hot under the collar about the curse of OSMCs (Old School Management Consultants).

The topic that has become the focus of our attention? Stories.

Now don’t get us wrong – we LOVE the smart use of stories and story structure in presentations. They’ve formed some of the most compelling, engaging, passionate and memorable presentations ever created. The use of ‘story’ in presentations makes a lot of sense – get it right and you’re onto a good thing…

Yet there’s a problem…and it’s not too dissimilar to the Prezi fanboy postings that created such a fuss back at Eyeful HQ.

Our issue is that people understand the IDEA of story in presentations but have little or no sense of how to INTEGRATE them into the finished product.

The net result is lots of noise, opinion and phrases like ‘narrative arc’ being thrown around with little real understanding…and minimal improvement to presentations.

Well…we’ve had enough. So over the next 6 weeks we’re going to share our views on the good, the bad and the plain confusing of story in presentations. In weekly instalments delivered via the Eyeful blog and LinkedIn, we’ll ask the people on the front line to share their experiences, look at the science behind it all and provide valuable ideas and structures for business people just like you.

In short, Eyeful’s Story Season will help you step back from the hype and take time for figure out how it can truly help you, your presentation and, most important of all, your audience. We think that’s something worth sharing…

* In summary, Prezi is great when used appropriately and designed sympathetically BUT it is far from the presentation panacea so many people proclaim it to be. Nuff said.