A man with an expensive haircut stands in front of the screen. It shows a picture of the Harvard rowing team. “We’ve all got to row in the same direction!” He waves his arms.
Then a quiet man shuffles behind the podium and mumbles into the microphone. Bullet points in 8-point font appear on the screen behind him. He reads them. One. By. One.
A woman talks about a “green belt” project, pointing to tiny graphs and spreadsheets. She speaks at a nervous pace about acronyms: DMAIC, SIPOC, COPQ. When she steps down, everyone gently claps.
A few guys in Polo shirts receive little plastic awards from a big man in a navy blazer. More light clapping.
Everyone walks back to their desks.
Another successful all-hands meeting, right?
Why are presentations so bad?
Nobody believes we can bore people into action. But at some point in the last gasp of time, we collectively settled for mediocrity—reading bullet points on PowerPoint slides. Everyone does it. It’s easy. It’s safe. And it’s boring.
But what a missed opportunity! How often do you get a chance to share your message to everyone at once? Once a quarter? Once a year? Don’t waste it!
A business presentation doesn’t have to be boring presentation.
If you want to cultivate a customer-centric culture, give people a reason to be interested. Give them something to remember.
How do you give an anti-boring presentation? Stop talking about the story and tell the story.
Here’s how to tell a good one:
A story has a hero
Every story needs a hero, and that hero is—drumroll, please—not you.
The audience is the hero.
If you want the audience to be engaged with your presentation, you have to bring them into the story.
You are the mentor. You’re Yoda, not Luke Skywalker. The audience is the one who’ll do the heavy lifting to help you reach your objectives. You’re simply one voice helping them get unstuck in their journey.– Nancy Duarte, Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. Watch her TED Talk.
You’re there to guide the audience toward the conclusion of the story. The new idea. The changed world. Their customer-centric future.
A story has conflict
Conflict makes a story interesting. There’s no Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader. There’s no Frodo without Sauron. Harry isn’t interesting until he meets Sally.
In business presentations, you create conflict by comparing how things are with how they could be.
Look how Steve Jobs, in his 2007 iPhone launch keynote, contrasts the smartphone of today with the iPhone of the future.
Smartphones are definitely a little smarter, but they actually are harder to use. They’re really complicated. Just for the basic stuff people have a hard time figuring out how to use them. Well, we don’t want to do either one of these things. What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been and super-easy to use. This is what iPhone is.– Steve Jobs, iPhone Launch Speech, 2007
Show the audience how today’s problems—customer churn, lackluster sales, market disruption—can be overcome with a renewed focus on customers.
A story has structure
Stories don’t appear—they unfold. And most stories unfold in specific formulas you can learn and duplicate. Author Kurt Vonnegut discovered that stories—from Cinderella to Hamlet—fall into basic patterns. An effective pattern for presentations is called Man in the Hole—someone gets in trouble, finds a way out, and ends up better than they started.
If you’re presenting a project outcome, don’t just explain what you did and the results you achieved—tell a Man in the Hole story! Tell the audience why you did the project, the challenges you encountered, how you overcame them, and how you were better at the end.
Bring the audience in to the drama of your struggles and challenges.
Honestly, they don’t care that you were successful. What they really want to know is, “Can I be successful too?”
Hey, CX Leader!
Don’t miss out on CXPRESSO—the weekly email for brave CX leaders. You’ll get insights like this every Monday morning to kickstart the week. Join us!