Clean Thinking

Tell a story

For a long time (a looong time), I was not good at public speaking. It was part of my job to give presentations. And here are the top missteps in my thinking and approach:

  1. Being overly-reliant on the presentation slides.
  2. Using industry jargon that made me sound informed but that ultimately served to distance me from my audience.
  3. Not keeping it simple.

But you don’t have to make these mistakes. The mindset we will be developing this week on public speaking will be going back to the basics. And the #1 basic approach to public speaking: tell a story.

Remember when we were in school and were taught the narrative arc?

Conflict — Climax — Resolution

Or, maybe you learned:

Introduction — Body — Conclusion

Either way, you can take ANY content and place it within this construct. To be clear, this construct won’t make dry content pop and sizzle; it will only organize the content well so that you don’t lose your audience. At the very least, do this.

Here are some pro tips for each section.

INTRO – Don’t just introduce the topic, but tell your audience why it matters so much. Or, if you have a captive audience there by choice because they already believe it’s important, try to find another subtler reason they should care that might not be immediately obvious to them.

BODY – Facts and figures, charts and graphs, methods and findings… sure these are needed. But put them in an order that allows your audience to follow a character. The character can be an imaginary customer, a particular product or service, the scientist or developer, but pick someone or something whose perspective you can describe. Take your audience on a ride with you.

CONCLUSION – Reinforce for your audience how the story you just told supports exactly why you told them it should matter. Give them the “moral” of the story.

Always start with a story to tell, whether it’s a scientific white paper, a marketing piece, a presentation at a company meeting.

Tell a story whether your presentation is an hour or 5 minutes. Each of those sections can be as short as one sentence, and certainly longer.

Craft a story whether your content is full or pizzazz, or dry as a bone.

Public speaking is story-telling.

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