I invited Andrew Brammer, a Distinguished Toastmaster from Toastmasters International, to write a guest post for us about storytelling in corporate presentations. You’ve almost certainly heard of Toastmasters, a worldwide organisation that teaches public speaking, leadership and communication. If you’ve not yet discovered them, do follow the links to find out more.
Over to you, Andrew!
How Stories Can Be Essential For The Corporate Presenter
What have Johnny Rotten, Tracey Emin and Samuel Beckett all got in common? Well, they all broke the rules in their respective fields, and they will all be remembered for their work for a very long time. And that’s one of the main aims when you’re trying to get your message across – you want it to be remembered.
So, what better way than to think about using stories within your presentations?
‘What!!?’ some people may say. ‘No, no, no, we need to stick to corporate language, illustrate with PowerPoint slides, support with facts, figures and data, plus a smattering of the latest management-speak quotations. We don’t want stories; drama and emotion are not part of the corporate world.’
Well, perhaps it’s time for a re-think. Business storytelling is now being recognised more and more as a compelling technique within the world of corporate presentations. Stories have been used by humans ever since we were cave-dwellers, and business speakers are increasingly using them to enable that crucial empathetic and emotional link to made with their audience.
The very best corporate presenters I have heard, and the most inspiring and motivational corporate leaders, are all great storytellers. And if you listen to such people presenting, they all have one crucial thing in common – they all use stories to illustrate their main points, and to keep the audience held in the palms of their hand.
And stories can be used in all sorts of presentations, even with subjects that at first may appear to be about as exciting as a mediocre balance sheet. You can use stories to tell your company’s story, communicate its social ethos and responsibility, illustrate what it stands for, what its mission is, what it is like to work for and how its products contribute to the world we live in.
One of the most successful business presentations I personally gave was at an engineering conference. I had to get across the corporate message of the remanufacturing and recycling of power steering products. Now, on paper, this was hardly the most stimulating subject, particularly as it was to be delivered to an audience who had just finished lunch. However, I had decided to do something completely different, and instead of ‘playing it safe’. told a story about a bus company customer who had desperately needed a particular steering part to keep a Routemaster bus on the road, and how a remanufactured product, supplied by our company saved the day.
In this story, I used many of the main storytelling ingredients – drama, suspense, conflict, characters, dialogue, and sensory language. I acted the tale out on the stage, re-creating the events rather than just telling them, and I was able to draw the audience in. On this story, I hung all the main elements of the corporate message – including how remanufactured products are good for the planet and the environment, how they are readily available, how they are far cheaper than new equivalents, and how they can keep customers’ very old vehicles on the road.
The presentation was a great success, but even more important is that some years later, I still get people coming up to me at events who can remember the story, and even more importantly, because they have remembered it, they can recall the main points I was making.
So that really emphasised to me the main reason to use stories within corporate presentations. If you want your presentation to be exciting and different, if you want your message to be remembered, then there really is no better way than to include stories to hang your main points on.
Stories are always remembered, and people love to hear them, to be drawn in by them. People love to hear about dramatic situations; problems and difficulties overcome; stirring achievements and successes; to have their imaginations and feelings stimulated, and emotions touched.
There are various types of corporate presenters, and probably the most startling contrast is between those who want to get up and do an efficient yet straightforward job, and those who want to be exciting, daring and, above all, to be remembered. If you tell stories within your corporate presentations, you stand a far greater chance of your corporate message being remembered, and for all the right reasons.
Andrew Brammer is a member of Toastmasters International where he holds the highest qualification of Distinguished Toastmaster. In 2000 he won the UK and Ireland Humorous Speech Championship. See: Toastmasters International.
About Toastmasters International:
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Founded in October 1924, the organisation currently has more than 270,000 members in 13,000 clubs in 116 countries. Each week, Toastmasters helps more than a quarter million people of every ethnicity, education and profession build their competence in communication so they can gain the confidence to lead others. There are over 250 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit www.toastmasters.org