Partners in Performance Blog

Use Stories in Presentations to Persuade

Stories-in-presentationsIf there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years teaching and coaching better presentations and sales, it’s this: Stories persuade. Using stories in presentations capture the audience’s attention. Stories engage our emotions. They make us want to take action. They make us want to buy: stories sell.

I’ve seen it time and again. My clients in the financial services industry love their numbers and understandably so. But the most successful presenters move beyond facts and figures which aren’t as memorable as narrative They bring their message to life with stories about customer experiences, stories about internal inefficiencies or a department that has consistently failed to meet sales goals. They distil the most important facts and wrap them in an engaging story.

Just recently I read a great post about storytelling over at Copyblogger: On a Blog or In the Boardroom, This is Still the Most Powerful Way to Persuade by Jerod Morris. But not just any stories. We need to “find ways to connect with your audience on an emotional level.” 

These are the words of Cliff Atkinson, author and communications consultant, as quoted recently in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, even a publication known for numbers and news knows that when it comes to persuasion, stories succeed.

So how do you tell a good story?

You make sure that you have the five elements that every great marketing story needs:

  1. A hero
  2. A goal
  3. An obstacle
  4. A mentor
  5. A moral

As a presenter, whether you want to sell a product or service, or to persuade them to adopt your ideas, you become the mentor for the story. Your audience depends on you to interpret the story’s meaning and explain how it relates to them and their needs. In other words, you’re their guide.

Of course, you can’t do that without really knowing what your audience needs and wants. When you know that, you have a firm idea of what kind of story your audience needs to hear.

Finding the right story is where many presenters struggle. Which story? A personal one? A fable? A famous one? If you don’t know your audience, then you won’t know which story to use or how to frame it so that it will resonate.

I teach and coach presenters how to use stories in presentations to persuade audiences. Some people are natural storytellers, others aren’t but can learn how to do this. One of my students was sitting on a gold mine of stories, but didn’t know how to figure out which ones were relevant and which were just simply interesting but not persuasive. Once your stories are nailed then pay attention to how you tell them. The delivery can make or break a story.

What about you? How do you use stories in presentations to persuade? Are you a natural storyteller, or an informed, persuasive one? I’d love to hear from you, leave me a comment!

Image via Wikimedia Commons


This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on December 2, 2013 in Persuasion, Storytelling. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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