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How To Stop Ho-Hum Presentations

Should business presentations be delivered as effectively as keynote speeches that are intended to inspire and engage?

Board rooms and staff meetings tend to be the most boring places to engage people.  Reports are read and too many details on too many slides are presented.  What can you differently? 

Well, how about telling stories in your presentations to sell an idea, to present your stats and/or to motivate and inspire your staff.  Your leadership skills and ideas will come through the  best by telling compelling stories that resonate with your audiences.  I’m inspired to tell you this because last night I attended the Moth in Pittsburgh and I want to share with you four tips… 

Photo Credit: HG Photography

Last night I attended the Moth in Pittsburgh.  If you are unfamiliar with it, it’s a forum of telling personal stories on one topic.  The topic was “beauty.”  Anything really goes and we heard stories about self-beauty, outward beauty and beauty in unusual places.   There are rules such as, having a beginning, middle and end, strict time frames and scoring (judged) by audience members on a 10 point scale. The stories were terrific–some very funny and some more serious.

Here’s what I took away from the format that aptly applies to business presentations.

  1. Keep your business presentations  interesting with stories. To make a point, use your personal stories (or even examples in the news) to give your audiences something they can relate to.  For example, if you want to explain how to do a difficult task, make an analogy around something that happened to you so that your audience can relate. If you are sharing boring statistics, compare them to statistics from a story example.  Your story will add the emotion and make it more interesting and engaging.  The stories we heard last night moved us to feel pain, embarrassment,  foolishness and beauty.  We felt emotions and they resonated with us so that we kept listening. Plus, we remember well-told stories (even the details).
  2. Be concise and leave out the details that don’t really matter.  But there is a real art to being specific, too.  It’s a balance of knowing when to share the details and when to leave them out.  Set a time frame like 30-60 seconds to tell a story.  Being strategic with a time frame will help you be careful about which words to use. Practice this skill frequently.
  3. You are always on stage.  At the Moth, audience members “score” the storytellers presentations.  (They don’t like to use the word “judged” but rather “scored.”)  You, too, are always being evaluated in some shape or form no matter how large your audience.  What can you do to assure that you are receiving an 8-10?  The Moth encourages the “score keepers” to give higher scores (from 8-10) since it takes a lot of courage to get up in front of a group of 300 strangers and deliver a 5-minute story.  If you are delivering in front of an audience, give yourself more points just for getting up and doing it!  (Many people won’t get up in the first place.)
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The “Unibrow” Photo Credit: HG Photography

4. Learn to speak well spontaneously.  At the Moth, storytellers are spontaneously called upon to tell a story; they must respond quickly.  Nerve wracking? Yes!  But the story tellers are aware that they might be called because they put their name in a hat indicating interest in speaking during the evening.  They may or may not get picked to speak.  If they are called, they must get up and make their way to the stage.  It is spontaneous and no doubt, a heart pumping experience.

Are you ever called upon to respond quickly in a meeting?    Most likely, you are.  Are you prepared?  Anticipating questions you may get asked and preparing the response ahead of time is a great way to look polished and answer confidently.

If you haven’t experienced this type of event, I encourage you to check it out.  Your city may have an organization already going.  If you live around Pittsburgh, look up The Moth in Pittsburgh on Facebook to get notifications of their events and to see more great pictures from last night.  Also, each year, there is a Moth Mainstage that features all of the storytellers who scored the highest each month during the past year.  I hope to see you there some time. It is great way to learn the art of storytelling.

Are you happy with the way you sound?  Would you like to get a better understanding about the characteristics of speech, language and voice to help you discover a better sound?  Attend this free webinar. 

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About the Author Lynda Stucky

Lynda Stucky coaches mid-senior level executives on using their speech and voice effectively to establish credibility, position themselves within their company, and enhance their reputation as a topic authority. She provides training through one-on-one coaching and online courses to reduce foreign accents, “redd-up” regional accents, and teach speech and voice branding for image control. She is President of ClearlySpeaking, and is a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist. She is the author of "Voice Branding for Executives: How to Align Your Speech, Language, and Voice Skills with Your Professional Goals." Her background in speech pathology offers unique skills for dealing with professional communication skills in the corporate world. She believes communication skills should not hold anyone back from achieving personal and professional goals.

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