It has been my experience that we don’t use stories frequently enough in formal presentations. We tend to lean on data and facts as a means to persuade. Yet the evidence shows that stories are more persuasive.
The first story ever told might have happened in the gloomy recess of a cave. When and wherever they began, stories are an integral part of how we communicate with each other. We use stories to educate, entertain or convey our values. And importantly in the context of selling, we can convey meaning and make complicated concepts or data understandable through storytelling.
Here are some tips for how to craft an effective business-related story in your presentation. Your story will be more relevant and impactful if you use the following structure:
Start with a business context. “Our customer service score has improved by ____ percent”
Tell the story. “I'm waiting in the reception area to meet our largest client, and my phone rings...”
Say what you learned from the story. “We heard loud and clear …”
Translate what it means to this buyer. “What this means to you …”
Your story will be well told if you use the following techniques:
Create emotional resonance. Tell a story that will resonate at an emotional level with your audience.
Use bullet phrases. Rather than long, descriptive sentences, use concise language that lets your buyer draw conclusions.
Use your body, face, and voice. Your body is a 3-D picture. Use it instead of words.
Tell stories that use data to support your key points rather than the other way around. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a well-told, relevant story is worth a thousand data points in a sales presentation. According to Harvard Business Review, a data-driven presentation is now a crucial skill for many professionals, since we often have to tell our colleagues a story about the success of a new initiative, the promise of a new business opportunity, or the imperative of a change in strategy—stories that are much more compelling when they’re backed by numbers.
However, it is important to use it sparingly. Data should support your story rather than become a distraction from your main messages. Don’t bore your buyers with needless or irrelevant data.