Tag Archives: story

5 Killer Ways to Open Up Your Next Presentation

23 May

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Did you know modern statistics state that you have 60 seconds or less to capture your audience’s attention?

You’ve might have heard it before, but maybe not in terms of presentations.  It’s crucial to understand the importance of grasping an audience’s attention in the first moments of a talk.  Your opening lines set the tone for your overall performance, so a great opener will prepare and intrigue the audience and ensure that your message is effectively received.

So, how do you enchant an audience right off the bat?

Here are 5 methods that we have found work the best for beginning a presentation.  

1. Stories

Stories are always memorable.  We crave stories because we all have them.  Proposing this shared experience with your audience allows them to identify with you on a personal level.  Now that you’ve established a connection with your listeners and viewers, you can merge your message with their thoughts while keeping them engaged and entertained.  Just remember to keep the story relevant to the requested topic/event you were asked to speak about in order to maximize effectiveness.

[For example, our CEO Kenny Nguyen recently spoke at a conference where the talked-about theme was the subject of serendipity. Watch how he opens his presentation here with his own story of serendipity and how his story created a playful and engaging bond with the audience, setting the tone for the rest of the presentation.]

2. Questions

A question is an excellent tool for jump-starting audience engagement.  A simple “How’s everyone doing?” opens up a forum of sorts for the audience, empowering them and making them more receptive to your message.  A question also makes the audience think for themselves about a topic that you control.  This is a great way to set and reinforce the agenda of your choice while giving the audience a sense of power.

3. Quotes

Referencing the words and thoughts of an expert in relation to your message is useful for establishing an overarching theme or general idea aout the topic.  You are imparting wisdom on your audience while creating a segway into your own topic.  Since you have primed the audience with a nugget of value, your information now appears to be equally as valuable. Just make sure you follow up the quote with an explanation of how it empowers your topic and how it is relevant.

[For example, don’t use a powerful quote such as Nelson Mandela’s “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” then go on a completely different subject that doesn’t tie in education. It’ll just seem like a sad attempt to make you seem smarter than you really are.]

4. Statistics

Normally, numbers or any type of data can seem boring in a presentation.  However, when used correctly, statistics can be very effective in illuminating your topic.  The key is to use very clear, accurate and relevant information in order to truly engage your audience.  A solid statistic places your incoming message in a concrete, irrefutable and trusted frame of reference.  Data not only provides your presentation with a trusted source, but also lends credibility to everything you say thereafter.

[For example, during Steve Jobs’ first keynote introducing the first generation Ipod music player, he stated that his new device had 5 gigabytes of data. He then made it relevant to his target market of the common consumer by explaining that 5 gigabytes of data gets you up to 5000 songs. This explanation made a normally boring description of data storage sound simple to understand, exciting (that’s a lot of songs), and most importantly relevant to his target audience. See here for video.]

5. Jokes

Humor is extremely powerful and is often used effectively.  A good joke can loosen up your audience and make them more receptive to you as a person as well as to your message.  Be warned, though, that humor is highly volatile.  A bad joke can be worse than no joke at all.  Make sure you have a scope for your target audience before you dive into a dud of a joke.

[A great resource you can reference is a book called, “Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Book on How to Think Funny, Write Funny, Act Funny, and Get Paid for It.”]

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Well, there you have it.  Use these techniques in your next presentation to prepare, engage, control and entertain your audience.  Like all things, these methods are only suggestions and their effectiveness depends heavily on delivery.  Make them your own, and you will appear more natural and fluid in your performance.

What do you think?  Are these useful? Leave us a comment below or on Facebook and/or tweet us your thoughts!  We are huge fans of feedback!

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Introduction to Characters [An excerpt from “The Art of Storytelling”]

19 Mar

We’d like to share with you an excerpt from our up-and-coming e-book, “The Art of Storytelling.”  This is a section from a chapter about Character.  

Check it out, and let us know what you think!

Continue reading

A Very Brief History of Storytelling

28 Feb

Stories have existed long before recorded history, and the telling of stories has changed forms drastically throughout the ages.  From cave painting to novels to movies, stories have always fascinated mankind.  Although the methods have changed, the desire to tell and hear stories has remained unchanged, and still greatly impacts the way we look at life.

The earliest form of storytelling that has been discovered is from the Lascaux Caves in the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France.  Discovered in 1940 by a group of French children, a series of cave paintings that date back to sometime between 15000 and 13,000 B.C. depicted a variety of animals and one image of a human being.  When closely examined, this mural of sorts actually follows a very simplistic series of events.  It tells of rituals performed and hunting practices.  It tells a story.

Flash forward to 700 B.C.  The first printed story, the epic of Gilgamesh, was created and began to spread from Mesopotamia to other parts of Europe and Asia.  The story was carved on stone pillars for all to see, which spread the story around very quickly.

In the 200s B.C., Aesop’s fables were written down, and continue to teach lessons today in many areas of life.  Aesop lived in the 500s B.C., but his stories were remembered for hundreds of years without a single shred of paper or other printed material.  Isn’t that amazing?  Oral storytelling was so powerful and people remembered Aesop’s tales so well that even 300 years later the stories were revered enough for mass production.

Storytellers began to arise as very important figures in a community.  The ability to tell stories effectively and memorably was a very valuable skill.   Why?  As wars were fought and valiant deeds were done, the people needed some way to remember them.  Instead of simply stating what happened, stories began to emerge as a way to preserve the raw emotions and sequence of events of the actual event.

The Bible’s Old Testament spoke of men and women, of tales and lessons learned that occurred many, many years before they were written.  A majority of the books relied on solid resources for their writings.  What were these resources?  Stories.  People witnessed events, heard the stories and kept them alive through word of mouth.  They told their friends, families and communities about the events, and a chain was formed, one link, one storyteller, at a time.

Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets weren’t meant to be published, but his status became legendary once they were.  He was known as a great storyteller to many of his close friends, but soon became immortalized in the pieces that he produced.  From a young street rat in London to being taught in every school hundreds of years later, he made his mark on literature forever.  How did he do it?

Storytelling.

Steve Jobs was famous for his keynotes.   Whether launching new products or making an announcement, he agonized for hours over the details of his presentations.  People were amazed at his ability to craft a narrative, to create and maintain suspense and to deliver a solid message.  It wasn’t dazzling special effects or crazy props.

It was storytelling.

History is nothing but a series of stories that, when told correctly, can teach us lessons, give us insights into a variety of concepts, or entertain us.  Every story serves a purpose, even if to simply relay a message.  Without history, without chronicled stories, mankind would never learn from his mistakes, would never dream to emulate past heroes, would never see anything but the now.  We would be clueless to the past, and therefore helpless for the future.

We all crave stories because they allow us to sympathize with characters.  Tell your audience a story, and you will gain their support.  You will create a following for your cause and inspire your audience to act and believe.

In your next presentation, remember the power of storytelling.  Remember that even in a straightforward business presentation, a story helps to illustrate a point better than a set of facts.  A story gives people a reason to care about what you’re saying.  They relate to the characters, the plot and the lessons learned.  They relate to your story, and therefore your message.

So, what’s your story?