Presenting Like a Pro – Becoming a Corporate Storyteller

One key area of focus for every marketer should be their presentation skills. Whether you are a new employee or a seasoned marketer, you should continue to strive to deliver informative and engaging presentations. “Corporate Storytelling” uses marketing and communications to leverage the power of stories – the profound effect stories have on people.

Thus far as a new Associate for eBoost Consulting, I have delivered three presentations for clients, and dozens more as an intern. In every presentation, I have either been proposing a strategy or presenting the work I have done. While these two tasks differ greatly in what needs to be communicated, the goal here is always to satisfy your audience’s need for information in a way that makes spending time in the conference room enjoyable.

So, what does a good presentation need?

In any interaction with an audience, it is important to be:

  • Comprehensive
  • Knowledgeable
  • Straightforward

But that doesn’t mean your presentation needs to be dull. A good presentation includes a presenter who is:

  • Charismatic
  • Genuine
  • Enthusiastic

Just last week, eBoost’s Chief Marketing Officer, Johnny Chan, worked with the company on storytelling. He highlighted that a good presentation works like a good story. Experiment with these four components, working towards integrating them into every presentation:

  • Develop a pith – a good story has a creative tension
  • Provide a setting – place the tension in a setting
  • Introduce characters – color the setting with the personality of the characters
  • And take a bow with a solid ending, preferably a one-liner – this is where the tension is resolved; close with a bang

Who can we look to as the best example of storytelling in presentations?

I recently came across a book written by Carmine Gallo, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. This is our example!

In the wake of Steve Jobs’ passing, never has it been more apparent how much of an impact this man had on thousands of lives. As I comb through the plethora of articles written for him in the past month, I am overwhelmed by a sense of his charisma, personality, and dedication to Apple. But I have never met Steve Jobs. Until now, I did not know a lot about his life or career history. So why, after only reading these articles In Memoriam, do I feel as if I can connect mere words to his personality on a deeper level? Then it dawned on me: his keynote presentations.

For the past three years I have faithfully awaited Steve Jobs’ keynote presentations, excited to see what would be new to Apple this time. Aside from the innovative products themselves, Steve Jobs’ presentations are legendary – he brought so much more to the table than just the facts. He raised product launches to an art form. He was truly a corporate storyteller.

What tools did Steve Jobs use that we can use, too? Every keynote was:

  1. Understandable
  2. Memorable
  3. Emotional

First let’s consider understandable. Quite simply, you need your audience to understand what you are talking about. One step in accomplishing this goal is to consider your headline – how you articulate your product or service – by creating Twitter-friendly titles. Try to keep your headline to 140 characters. In this endeavor, be mindful of the fact that “your brain craves meaning before detail,” so give the big picture before delving into specifics.

  • “The world’s thinnest notebook.” (describing the MacBook Air)
  • “The ultimate all-in-one goes all out.” (describing the iMac)
  • “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it.” (describing the 2009 iTunes/iPod keynote)

Second, a memorable presentation should allow your audience to easily relay information back to their colleagues. You can structure your content and messaging in a way that people are going to remember by breaking it into three’s – termed the “Rule of Three.” In storytelling, authors create triplets or structures in three parts, the simplest of which being beginning, middle, and end. Steve Jobs often broke both presentations and products into three defining characteristics.

  • OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCould (software updates announced in Worldwide Developer’s Conference 2011)
  • “It’s thinner. It’s lighter. It’s faster.” (describing the iPad 2)
  • 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB (models of the iPad)

In addition, make your presentations more memorable by bringing numbers to life. Put numbers into context, in relation to something your audience can identify with. Phrasing and communicating in this way will be infinitely more attention-grabbing. The iPod was introduced as having a 5 GB storage capacity, equivalent to 1,000 songs; one step further, that’s 1,000 songs in your pocket.

Finally, third, the emotional portion of your presentation excites your audience, keeps them awake instead of nodding off on the conference table. Create what psychologists call “emotionally charged events,” or those events that create a mental Post-It note because they are connected to feelings of joy, laughter, fear, or surprise. Do this through visuals – use the “picture superiority effect” to your advantage (the idea that concepts are much more likely to be remembered if presented as pictures rather than words). Overall, your slides should act as a complement to your story, as a complement to you as the storyteller.

  • MacBook Air was introduced to the world as being able to fit in a manila envelope (at the Macworld keynote 2009)

People remember stories. Stories give your presentations power. Looking back, Steve Jobs’ keynotes are a lesson in presenting and storytelling. If we strive to incorporate storytelling into our presentations, we will become infinitely more valuable as marketers. Try to be “insanely great” in your next client meeting (quote – “Steve Jobs: The Next Insanely Great Thing” In WIRED Magazine).

Interested in experiencing a Steve Jobs keynote? Watch a few of Steve Jobs’ keynotes here:

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