Monday, 4 November 2013

Turn the Storytelling spotlight onto yourself - to add memorability and conviction to your business presentation

Having mouthed off last week along the lines of there being too much talk about storytelling and not enough about how and when to apply storytelling techniques, I am now going to suggest you tell more stories about yourself.

Some years ago I was doing some Presentation Skills coaching for a marketing executive whose job was to develop travel agency business throughout Russia and Eastern-Europe. As part of this responsibility he was expected to be - and to be seen to be - the expert on all things travel within Russia and Eastern-Europe. He hailed from the region himself and made mention of his credentials within his presentation. It all sounded fine but I wouldn’t remember him today on the basis of that simple extract from his CV. The reason he remains clear in my mind several years later arose from a chat we had over coffee as we took a break from preparing his presentation.

“In Russia”, he said, “we have all the big brands, such as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, except they are not the real thing; they look and act very much like the real thing, but they are all fakes”. I urged him to talk about this in his presentation. “But what has it got to do with travel and the services I am selling?”, he asked. “Nothing directly”, I replied, “but it provides a little insight into life within the region. People will relate to and be intrigued by the topic, and they may even go home and talk about it. With respect, they are not going to home and talk about those extracts from your CV. Most importantly, they will remember you. Those stories of Russian rip-offs will fix you in their minds; you will be remembered as the person who really knows what’s going on in Russia and Eastern-Europe”.

I sensed I had not entirely convinced him, so I asked him if he had seen Top Gear on TV the previous Sunday evening. “No”, he replied, wondering what on earth was coming next. I told him how Clarkson and May had visited China and found what appeared to be Minis, BMWs and Rolls Royces, until closer inspection revealed them to be fakes. “Ah yes, I heard about that”, replied my client. “Precisely”, I said, “people are talking about it – the team identified a great opportunity to entertain as well as inform as they filmed their trip. You too could achieve that degree of engagement”. So we set about a bit of reconstruction of his presentation, building in some stories that we teased out by juxtaposing real brand images with their fake equivalents and my client discovered a whole new level of self-confidence as he progressively became known as the ‘go to’ man for all things Russian and Eastern-European.

None of this takes anything away from the most important principle of a business presentation, which is that the more time you devote to thinking and talking about your audience, the more you will be getting straight onto their favourite subject. There does, however, come a time when it’s appropriate to talk about yourself and it often pays to go a little deeper than you might realise. Compelling content aside, allowing a little light to shine on yourself makes your audience warm to you; as a result, everything you say becomes that little bit more convincing.

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