7 tips for crafting an engaging storytelling presentation

Josh Storie

Written by

Josh Storie

Storytelling has become quite the buzzword when talking about presentations. You may have heard that storytelling is important or that stories move audiences, but you may have questions about how to incorporate storytelling into your presentations.

Being a presentation storyteller doesn’t necessarily mean that you tell stories in your presentation – although you might. Presentation storytelling is about utilizing tried and true storytelling techniques in your presentation to communicate ideas in ways that engage and move your audience.

If you’re looking for examples on how to incorporate storytelling in your next presentation, look no further.

7 storytelling presentation examples to try out

When crafting your storytelling presentation, it might help to have some examples to follow. Below we’re giving seven storytelling presentation examples to help you get ideas on how to incorporate storytelling into your next presentation easily and seamlessly.

1. The structure: Hero’s journey

The basic structure of a story goes a little something like this.

We open on our hero. The hero encounters a challenge. But they can’t overcome the challenge alone. So, along comes a mentor who provides the hero with the tools necessary to overcome the challenge and they all live happily after.

When it comes to presentation storytelling, establishing the right structure is crucial. There must be a beginning, a middle, and end. There must be a moment in the presentation when the hero realizes they have a problem. There must be a moment when the mentor provides a solution. And there must be a moment when the audience can see what “happily ever after” looks like.

To pull off this structure, however, you must have a clear understanding of who plays the hero and who plays the mentor.

 

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2. Your audience: The hero

Have you seen someone present their business and spend most of their time talking about their storied history as a company, their impressive client list, or the number of accolades that line their shelves? That is an example of a presenter playing the role of hero.

The best storytelling presentation examples, however, position the audience as the hero. Why? Because your audience is the one who has the challenge to overcome. Your audience is the one who needs a mentor to guide them through the messy middle. Your audience is the one you should be rooting for to live happily ever after. Yet, to build credibility with their audience, many presenters end up positioning themselves as the hero, rather than the mentor.

3. Your role: The mentor

If you watch experienced presentation storytellers, you’ll see example after example of presenters who position themselves as the mentor. They’re not interested in playing the hero. They’re not interested in receiving the glory. They’re much more concerned with providing the tools necessary for their audience to overcome their challenges.

For example, let’s say that you’re giving a presentation designed to sell your company’s meal kit delivery service.

A “hero” presenter might say something like, “We’re the best in the business. We have the freshest ingredients. We have the most creative menu. And we have over 1,000 five-star reviews to back it up.”

The focus in that example is on the company and how amazing they are. There’s no mention of the customer’s problems or challenges. A “mentor” presenter, however, might say something like this:

“One of the most difficult things about being a parent is feeling torn between spending time with your children and cooking them a fresh, healthy meal. But what if someone could come alongside you and cut the time it takes you to cook for your family in half? That’s what our meal kit deliver service does. By sending fresh, pre-prepared ingredients straight to your door, we save the average family 5 hours per week. No more choosing between time in the kitchen or time with your children. We allow you to do both.”

That’s a much different message, isn’t it? When you make your audience the hero, it frees you as a presenter to focus on the problems you get to solve.

4. Adding contrast: Presentation Sparkline™

Another key to great presentation storytelling involves the addition of contrast. It’s easy to think of storytelling in a linear fashion:

Sarah wakes up and she gets in her car to go to work and attends a meeting with her boss and she gets lunch with her best friend …

The best stories, however, create contrast by replacing “and” with “but then.” For example:

Sarah wakes up and gets in her car to go to work. But then she has a flat tire on the way. She catches a ride to the office for an important meeting, but then she realizes she went to the wrong conference room …

You see the difference? Providing contrast makes for a much more engaging story. And presentations work the same way. When we present in a linear fashion, it doesn’t keep our audience engaged. That’s why we need contrast. But what does contrast look like in presentation storytelling?

Every presentation follows a shape. The classic report looks like this:

 
Presentation-sparkline-report-example
 

The bottom line represents “what is” and the top line represents “what could be.” In a typical report, you spend the majority of your time talking about the current status of things. The good, the bad, the ugly. Then you might suggest a recommendation at the end that could change what the future looks like.

The classic pitch looks like this:

 
Presentation-sparkline-pitch-example
 

In a typical pitch, you open with the status of things, then spend most of your time talking about how amazing the future will be once you adopt this new idea, product, or service.

The problem with a report is that it’s boring. The problem with a pitch is that it sounds too good to be true. There’s not enough contrast in either shape to keep your audience engaged. That’s why the best storytelling presentation examples look like this:

 
Duarte-persuasive-presentation-form-graphic
 

The Presentation Sparkline or Persuasive Presentation Form™ constantly switches between “what is” and “what could be” using the contrast to keep the audience engaged. In one of the most compelling storytelling presentation examples, Nancy Duarte gives a TED Talk where she shares that both Steve Jobs’ 2007 iPhone talk and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” follow the Presentation Sparkline.

5. S.T.A.R. Moments

A S.T.A.R. Moment™ stands for “Something They’ll Always Remember.” And the best examples of presentation storytelling include these types of moments. Why? Because people have a hard time remembering loads of information, but they’re much more likely to remember a specific moment in time.

For example, when Al Gore brought Duarte his findings on climate change for the presentation that inspired his Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, he needed a memorable way to communicate the rise in CO2 concentration predicted over the next 50 years. It was time for a S.T.A.R. Moment.

In his presentation, he followed the data off the charts in a lift that rises alongside the numbers. Rather than disseminating information, he created a memorable moment that brought the audience into an engaging story.

 

6. Data storytelling

A major challenge for those trying to adopt presentation storytelling is figuring out how to communicate data in a compelling way.

Data on its own can’t provide meaning. It needs a presenter to do that. And when it comes to data storytelling, presenters have a few options. They can marvel at the magnitude of a data point. They can humanize the data. And they can surprise the audience with the unexpected.

One of the most compelling storytelling presentation examples of surprising the audience with the unexpected comes from Steve Job’s 2008 MacBook Air reveal. Instead of simply saying that the thickest part of the device was .76 inches, he illustrated the size by sliding it into a manila envelope – a unit of measurement most would be shocked could house a laptop.

 

7. The new bliss

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But how do great presentation storytellers end a presentation? By giving their audience a vision of what could be. We call it the “new bliss.”

The new bliss is the “happily ever after.” But it’s not a fairytale. It’s a real vision for a future that is attainable. Why? Because you, as the mentor, have real solutions for the problems your audience, the hero, is currently facing.

Want to grow in your storytelling presentation skills?

There is an easy way to improve your presentation skills. It’s to take a workshop or course! Now there are a lot of offerings out there, so do your due diligence and research the one that is best for you, your needs, and budget.

But, while we’ve made the case that you absolutely need storytelling training, you might be surprised that Duarte has a few highly-rated options to choose from. Here are some of our favorites:

Duarte’s Resonate® workshop helps you create persuasive narratives using the principles of empathy, story, contrast, and variety.

Our Duarte DataStory® workshop helps you employ data storytelling techniques to distill key insights from data and shape them into clear, actionable recommendations that speed up decision-making processes.

Our VisualStory® workshop uses design thinking to organize your content and transform ideas into a visual storyboard for your presentation.

Whether you need to build and deliver a presentation to be more persuasive or to communicate data, we have a time-tested workshop that can teach you storytelling presentation techniques to make your next presentation a success!

 

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