Whenever you are introducing a new product or idea, you are proposing change. Change, however, is often met with skepticism.
You have to invoke strong mental images in your audience to which they can relate to in a good way, or otherwise your proposed change may not be perceived as positive change at all.
Facts and figures may only get you so far here… But once an audience sees your message in a context that translates into a sensory experience, it will literally make sense. As a result, you are bound to get the necessary emotional response that will lead to action.
“People don’t really buy
your product, solution, or idea,
they buy the stories that are attached to it.”
Michael Margolis, author of Believe Me
So storytelling is important and stories can be useful in all aspects of communication, not just presentations and product demonstrations.
How to become a better storyteller in your presentations?
- Actively Listen to Good Stories
You will find them everywhere… Great stories are what makes the world go around and they are found in large scale as well as on a very small scale. The key is to become a good storylistener. A listener who has a good ear for the words and ways in which a story is delivered. What is the plot? How are the characters described? How is the story chunked and sequenced? Those are all aspects that will make a difference in how a story is being received. Start to tune into those finer details in other people’s stories and your own storytelling will automatically improve.
- Hang Out with Storytellers
The world wide web is a fabulous place for people of like minds to gather. Drop in to some of the places that cater specifically to storytellers. Places like the International Storytelling Center, the National Storytelling Network, and the Society for Storytelling are great places to find inspiration and information to make you a better storyteller.
- Join a local theater group
Great storytellers often have a theatrical way in which they deliver their stories. I’m not proposing you should present your next product demonstration in the ways of Othello. What joining a theater group will give you is a greater appreciation for the elements of your voice (volume, intonation, pitch, modulation) as well as the knowledge and skills to better use these elements.
Where to find your stories?
- If you are in a large company, ask your co-workers to tell you the stories they know that relate to your business or industry. If you have access to the founder of the company, even better – ask him or her what made them so passionate to end up starting their company. Look out for those stories that people tell with passion, laughter, and enthusiasm.
- If you are the founder of your own company, take a trip down memory lane. What were the stories that led to the company in the first place? I’m convinced there are many neglected stories worth telling in there…
- Ask your customers and prospects about their issues. What are some of the stories around your field of activity that they are passionate about?
- Look at any area of your business and then chunk up and chunk down. What do you see when you look at the bigger picture? What do you find in the details? Taking different perspectives will often lead you to discover some interesting facts just waiting to be told as a story.
The power of stories doesn’t end with the presentation or product demonstration. There is room for great stories at every step of the sales cycle. I worked for a few companies that provided high quality products that came with an appropriate price tag. As a result, I often had to deal with discussions about the price of our products. I never did it in a direct way. I rather told a story:
Many years ago I attended an industry event where Jim Lovell was the keynote speaker. His presentation was excellent and the slides with photos from his space travels were stunning. During the Q & A session one of the audience members asked: “How did it feel to fly to the moon in a spaceship assembled with parts from lowest bidders?” Mr. Lovell, not sure if it was a humorous or simply a sarcastic question, answered with a smile on his face: “Sir, NASA never bought from vendors that had the lowest bids; NASA always bought from vendors who wanted to fly with us to the Moon.
What stories work well for you? Can you find even more to add real life context to your demos and presentations? I bet you can.