How to tell a great story in harmony with technology
I can’t quite get over the reaction to our recent article on the “Art of Storytelling”. It had more viewers and comments than any recent post. In fact, many readers requested more articles on success and best practices beyond retail. So, here is a sequel. It’s not a question of either or … it’s a question of how to use technology to tell great stories that engage.
Great presenters engage audiences beyond words
The trouble with technology is that it too often becomes the crutch for logging ideas and content. Slides with just words are boring beyond belief, and rarely engage audiences. The presentation software today can truly be multi-media. Although, there is also a danger of using media because it is sexy. The key is synergy with the main story line.
There was a great article in Business Week by Carmine Gallo about the mastery of Steven Jobs as the consummate presenter. Say what you will about Jobs and his ego, there is almost no one better on stage. Steve Jobs is the premier tech showman and storyteller. If you have not seen one of Jobs product introductions at MacWorld, it’s worth a quick look on YouTube.
Using the technology to highlight the fundamentals
Steve Jobs is not a mystical zen artist. He just works very hard at mastering the fundamentals of great storytelling. And, Jobs certainly doesn’t use PowerPoint. He does use Apple’s Keynote in a very minimalistic way to highlight the best attributes of telling great stories:
· Set the theme … story line
· Tell them what you are going to tell them … simply
· Present simple ideas … with aspiration
· Use few words … very few words
· More pictures … or short video clips
· Wow them by demos with real world examples
· Write the memorable headlines for them
When you watch a YouTube video of Jobs telling a story, notice how few words are on his slides. And if there is an image on a slide, how simple and minimalist the image is. Also notice how the screen goes dark when Jobs launches into the drama of telling a good story or unveiling a product in a visual way to dramatize benefits.
Beyond the Bullets – Tips for all of Us
While I have been “giving presentations” for more than three decades, I have rediscovered the need to get better at storytelling. One of the readers of our post on the Art of Storytelling referred me to a compelling book and web site: http://www.beyondbullets.com. My key take away from Cliff Atkinson’s clever title is to focus on the main story line, not the details. In fact, the book and web site even has “story templates” as a reference guide of how to become more effective.
I will spend over 150 hours teaching Retail U workshops this year. After watching thousands of participants’ reactions to “slides”, I have personally made the commitment to find more effective ways to use technology to tell “the story”. I am very interested in hearing from you about more ways to engage the audience.
I am finding that less is more, particularly in terms of engaging audiences to take away ideas and to take action.
A major insight is that with the proliferation of email and social media, people are looking for ready made headlines that they can use as subject lines in email, tweets and posts. The headlines need to be more than factoids or features … they need to communicate value – WIIFM.
In addition to the headlines, people need visualization. They are looking for photos, drawings and links to videos. There is no time today to search all of that out. Make it easy to “re-tweet” and link to media that helps visualize the story and the key ideas.
Seven ways to tell better stories
Here are my seven ideas that can help you focus on using technology to help tell a more memorable story which captivates your audience:
1. Start with no slides – script your story on one page
2. Start your “deck” with just 10 slides
3. Write only the titles on each slide – no bullets
4. Write ready made headlines that you want to your audience to remember and rebroadcast
5. Reshuffle the headlines until they fit your story line
6. Find a visual for every main idea
7. Summarize everything in 3 to 5 “sound bites”
The sound bites of this story …
It’s not a question of either or, but one of changing personal habits of how to use technology to tell stories that engage. The best presentations should tell the story in 10 slides or less. And, the very best presentations have headlines written as ready-made sound bites that the audience will re-tweet and post.
How did we do in telling this story … does it have all the elements?