We all accept the fact that the ability to communicate effectively is an important leadership skill. We look to Presentation Skills training to help us become better communicators, but is presentation skills training enough? The number of people who deliver bland, boring, and irrelevant presentations who say, “I’ve had presentation skills training.” is frightening.
In the standard presentation skills training, we learn how to create pictures with gestures and how to use space to bring our message to our audience. We practice eye contact to engage our audience and begin to modulate our voice to convey our passion and commitment. These techniques make us better presenters, not communicators. What about the message? Presentation Skills training is not an end in itself.
To become better communicators we have to become better storytellers. Our presentations will have more impact when we can place our message in a context to which our listeners can relate. The best way to do that is through story. Consider this: facts, figures, and bullet points activate that part of the brain where we make sense of words. As a listener, my brain is working hard to find meaning in what you are saying. Tell me a story and you plant images, ideas, thoughts, and emotions in my brain. My whole brain begins to process the smells, the sensations, and the emotion of your story. I don’t have to decode the words. I am engaged in the experience. In fact, you, as storyteller, and me, as listener are sharing an experience together in real time. (Sidebar: With a little practice, you become a more natural, authentic presenter.) Through story, you share an experience with the listener. That experience becomes the listener’s as they retell the story to others.
In a blog post on Forbes, Mark Evans put it very nicely…
“…content is just a commodity without storytelling to give it a rock-solid foundation. Without storytelling, content is nondescript, uninspiring and, frankly, a waste of time and energy.”
Speaking about investment presentations, a business executive put it this way: “Everybody thinks it’s the return on investment that you’re selling… but it’s really the story about ROI that an investor takes away.”
Storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques we have to communicate and motivate. Make it a part of your presentations. Insist that it be part of your presentation skills training.
“Those who tell the stories rule the world.”
– Hopi American Indian Proverb