Once Upon a Time

By June 1, 2010March 30th, 2020SpeakerNotes


Recently I was engaged to provide speakers’ training for a group of prestigious physicians launching a groundbreaking new therapy in Europe. Each member of the group was extraordinarily committed to the success of the launch, and their approach made an indelible impression on me.

Why? Though their presentation styles varied, what upped the ante was their collective commitment to clarity of message — and their recognition of the importance of storytelling to move their listeners so that the message had the desired impact.

When I later reviewed my notes on the project, the three observations below stood out as the keys to success for this group of high stakes presenters.

1. Identifying your message

The session began with the physicians reviewing an existing PowerPoint deck. An observer at this point, I watched as they explored, discussed and collaborated to come to a consensus on their core message. In one simple sentence, they were able to articulate its essence and tailor their slides to support it.

By pinpointing their focus, the group was able to significantly reduce the overall number of slides, add real-life examples and turn a scientific presentation into an engaging story that described the therapy more effectively than even the most impressive statistics. That’s the power of storytelling!

Takeaway: A clearly defined core message — told via powerful stories or examples — adds human interest and depth, while making the facts easier to digest and share with others.  As author Annette Simmons observes in her book, The Story Factor, “Stories can work double time, making both you and the issue at hand multidimensional.”

2. Making it your own

Though their PowerPoint deck was developed by a third party, each physician embraced the opportunity to personalize it with his/her own style, perspective, and stories.

The result was a cohesive, highly effective group of presenters that took advantage of each speaker’s unique strengths and point of view, while maintaining a solid focus on the core message.

Takeaway: Shaping basic content to make it your own increases your comfort level with the message, making it feel more authentic to your listeners while helping to keep you in the moment and engaged with your audience.

3. Maintaining a meaningful connection

Integrating stories into their presentation paid multiple dividends for these physicians; it allowed them to engage emotionally with their audience, gave them increased opportunities to make valuable eye contact, and made them less reliant on the slides themselves to reference data points.

Rather than becoming the central focus of the presentation, the slides were reduced to an effective supporting backdrop for the speakers and their message.

Takeaway: Delivery, specifically eye contact, teamed with stories and carefully chosen supporting visuals contribute to making a presentation a success, not the quantity of data you present.

Storytelling is an integral part of human history, relied upon for centuries as a proven means for sharing information and galvanizing an audience to take action. By allowing your data to take a back seat to an effective story, you’ll turn a so-so presentation into a showstopper.