Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When stories don't work in a presentation

Earlier this week I attended a full-day conference with a number of speakers on the agenda. I advocate using stories, but not the way two of the speakers did so at the conference. Both of the speakers started their presentation with a story - not a bad idea. But each of the stories lasted at least seven minutes and were mostly about how great they are. We didn't see a hint of content in the first seven minutes. They were only speaking for 45 minutes each, so they spent the first 15% of their time telling us how great they were. Not a good way to connect with the audience.

One of the speakers continued to use stories, but started a few by saying, "This happened in the 80's." Telling your audience that your illustration comes from over 20 years ago does not inspire confidence. Is it because the ideas only worked once so the speaker doesn't have any more recent examples? Is it because the ideas no longer work today? I'm not sure, and so I discounted that point. And it gave me cause to be concerned about the other points as well.

Stories are a great way to illustrate your point, but make sure they are focused properly. Use recent examples that everyone can relate to and see that it is relevant to today's world. Use examples of similar situations that they might find themselves in so they can relate to what you are saying. And remember that the presentation is all about the audience, not about you the presenter. If you need the audience to know about your credentials, put it in your introduction, not the opening 15% of your presentation.


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