Just distributing slides is not an insurance your stories get told

share your story on sticky note

© Tweeter Linder 2016 – All rights reserved. Photo by iStock

PowerPoints have been the backbone of corporate storytelling for almost 2 decades. Most of us are good at cranking slides on corporate templates.  Few of us exploit the potential to allow the stories to be retold as intended by the author. So what are the simple tricks the best PowerPoint artists use frequently.

Professional story tellers know the role of the visual support in business communication settings. The look and feel of the visuals represents 1/3 of the job.  The remaining 2/3 of the job is up to the presenter and the support he/she gets from the author. You can improve the odds of telling the right story by focusing on the the 2 missing parts. Supporting your story teller with what to say, beyond what the visual already says. And supporting him/her with questions to ask and expect to get.

Story telling enablers in your visuals

When distributing visual story telling support, e.g. slide decks, you have three choices.

  1. You distribute the slides raw – and hope the story teller picking them up knows what to say to each slide.
  2. You distribute complete slides with notes included – and hope he can “read up” on before the storytelling moment.
  3. You distribute the slides with a voice over by the guru behind them – as if you got briefed the night before.

These three ways of distributing slides have different impact when the stories are retold. Option one is pretty useless. To work the slides need to be full of text, which make the audience read rather than the storyteller telling them the story. Option two is a big step forward and option three is attractive as a base for retelling stories as created.

Speakers notes is a misleading word for the task at hand

In the new B2B communication environment clients are less interested in what you want to tell.  They are more interested in learning from you. In smaller groups, conversations are replacing presentations. The support to the story teller needs to be conversation notes rather than speakers’ notes. Great conversation notes support the story teller with three main areas. First we have to be clear on what the 2-3 main messages are. Second we need to prepare the story teller for which question to expect, and associated answers for the most basic ones. And third, you want to learn as a storyteller by engaging your audience around key questions you ask.

Less informal parts of the notes is to add anecdotes, one-liners and impressive facts.  It is easier to remember each slide as a vital part of the story when it comes with the right spices to it. When you get to the point where each visual is an element carrying the story forward you master this art.

The best stories in the B2B community become obsolete fast. Either the messages get outdated or the questions to ask and/or get are not relevant any longer. Since the role of the story teller is to bring insights most conversation notes need frequent refreshes.  Time stamp all your visuals with a clear best before date.

Free up time to create conversation notes

Your master story teller has limited time and interest in crafting the notes. She/He know the story by heart, knows all the questions to expect and can engage with clients any time. A better alternative is to have one or several of the targeted story tellers to listen to the master and have them crafting the notes. The story tellers will listen more for messages and key points to convey when they know they are on the spot to retell the story. It is also likely to find a better level for the notes for other story tellers than the master would have done.

Set a new ambition for your visuals

Based on these ideas you can now set a new bar for your visuals. Each visual in your most important stories should wave notes covering:

  1. 2-3 main insights or messages for each visual – anything beyond that will be hard to convey or for the audience to remember.
  2. 2-3 key questions to expect – and suggested answers
  3. 1-2 questions to ask to engage your client – after all you want to gain insights too
  4. 1-2 anecdotes, one-liners or surprising facts, not already stated on the slide.

Additional insights

For further insights in this field consider the following:

The creative collaboration credits for this subject go to CN for being a great sparring partner.

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