May6

Visual Storytelling Part II: Audience Engagement in 4 Steps [Infographic]

Visual-Storytelling-Part-2_ThumbPlease click on the thumbnail to the left to view full infographic.

 

 

 

 

Check out Visual Storytelling Part I: Plot Your Presentation [Infographic]

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Feb4

Visual Storytelling Part I: Plot Your Presentation [Infographic]

Visual-Storytelling-PartI_650

 

Check out Visual Storytelling Part II: Audience Engagement in 4 Steps [Infographic]

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Jan24

What’s Your Story?

Tell-Your-StoryBuilding Strong Partnerships Through the Power of Storytelling

Story is an essential part of everything we do in life and in communications. Whether you’re a junior account exec explaining changes on a scope of work to a client, or a creative director pitching a new TV spot, your work can live or die based on how well you tell your story. But what makes for a great story?

The best stories are ones that invite the audience to step onboard for the journey and engage them right away. That’s why the first minute of any presentation is the most crucial. It’s within this first minute that clients decide whether they will be passive clients or collaborative partners, observers or journeymen.

A great many minds have waxed philosophic about the power of storytelling to move people and change behavior. History’s greatest orators and speakers were, in essence, gifted storytellers and all of them told stories that followed these three basic principles:

  1. Make them laugh, make them cry, but most of all make them care. Every decision you will ever make is based on emotion, not on reason. PET scans of the human brain show that decisions are processed in the area of the brain that is responsible for emotion (aka the amygdala) and then rationalized afterward, using reason (aka the prefrontal cortex). A simple way to make your clients care is to show them how much you care by telling your story as if it’s the last thing you thought about before you went to bed and the first thing you thought about when you woke up.
  2. Give them a call to adventure, complete with twists and turns. When you tell your clients about the journey you and your team went on to get where you landed, you are inviting them to join you on that journey. You’re also reminding them that they’re just looking at the tip of an iceberg, peeking out above a vast foundation of valuable team insights and back-story below. Sharing your team’s thinking process invites your clients to become collaborators. It also helps get them out of the weeds of the little details and refocused on the bigger picture. If you show your clients that you’re thinking big, you’ll inspire them to join you there.
  3. Give them a big payoff. They’ve earned it. There is nothing more frustrating than investing in a good story and getting to the end only to find it’s a lackluster ending with no clear resolution. Consider your favorite movie or favorite book. The best endings are those in which the plot points are well placed and the entire audience arrives at what feels like the “right” ending together. Of course, a great storyteller always knows the ending in advance, but allows the audience to feel like they would’ve written the same ending themselves.

When you have a story worth telling, your clients won’t just want to hear it, they’ll want to become part of it. Understanding these few basic storytelling principles can open up a parallel universe where every presentation is a powerful story and every client is on that journey with you.

Click here for more information on the art and principles of great storytelling.

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Dec17

Brand Stories DO NOT Start With PowerPoint

As with many powerful ideas, the importance of telling brand stories has been drained of meaning and resonance for two reasons:

- Overuse

- Bad practice

It is the second issue (bad practice) that I want to address in this blog, and specifically how bad practice in storytelling compromises the success of our new business pitches and any presentations of consequence.

Story is the most powerful and visceral activity we can engage in when doing everything from insight mining, to communication of corporate culture and values, to creating a brand, to creatively expressing a brand idea. Human beings are cognitively and emotionally wired to tell and listen to stories, and story continues to be the most powerful way to transmit ideas, beliefs, culture, and aesthetic experience whether person-to-person, in mass media, in social media, or in targeted communications. And, this is agreed upon by individuals with as diverse ways of looking at the world as artists, marketers, politicians, and scientists.

However, despite our belief in the power of story and our self-perception as consummate storytellers, we all too often do a poor job of meeting even the most elementary requirements for good narrative.

We often do not engage the audience with a clear articulation of setting, conflict, emotion; we do not chart a clear and undeniable cause-and-effect narrative line with a clear beginning, middle and end; we tell multiple stories as if they were one story, or we confuse data and information with story elements and therefore never sift through the “noise” to get to the “signal” or message.

There are many reasons for these failings—but I would like to suggest that one is our almost universal reliance on PowerPoint as the fundamental means of communication. Just as English has become the so-called “language of business” (not all from every culture would agree!), PowerPoint has become the lingua franca of business, and certainly of our business. And yet, it is a poor instrument with which to create stories.

First of all, PowerPoint encourages small incremental steps (slide by slide by slide) BEFORE the whole story is found or articulated. Second, it encourages the use of tables and charts and data with limited or no context. Third, it makes it difficult to read and adjust the story once you are in front of an audience—are you going too fast, are you going too slow, are you giving too much information (usually the case), or too little?

And, perhaps most insidious, it creates crutches for speakers. It actually encourages lack of preparation—“Well, I’ll just read the bullets,” or, “I’ll just talk to the slide.” (If you talk to the slide, you’re not talking to or even looking at your audience!!!). It’s the difference between an actor reading lines and an actor becoming or inhabiting a character.

Is the answer to eliminate PowerPoint? Well, I certainly would attempt to find other ways of presenting our ideas whenever possible—ones that rely far more heavily on creating a “stage” or sacred space for a storyteller to tell the story. But this is a more radical change and one that will not always be welcomed by the audience.

However, if the final deliverable will be a presentation aided by PowerPoint, I suggest that a flipping of the usual order of creation of a pitch or presentation can make a significant and immediate change to the strength of our presentation…

Usually, we write and edit PowerPoint first—and then practice at the end to “find” and clarify the story.

Flip it!

Write the story first. Write it as if you were speaking it. Don’t worry about anything else but telling a great story. Set the stage, identify and bring the hero to life, dramatize the conflict, identify the obstacles, show how the obstacles are confronted and overcome, bring the conflict to a satisfying and believable conclusion.

The brand story and the marketing prerequisites are all there: the patient journey is a story already. Setting the stage is situation analysis. Identifying the hero is the beginning of establishing the brand promise and essence. Dramatizing the conflict is identifying the driving insights of market analysis. Showing how the obstacles are overcome is the essence of strategy and tactics. Bringing the story to a believable and satisfying conclusion is based on objectives and analytics.

Get the story right first. Then pull out only the essential elements and use PowerPoint as the prompt to the story, storyteller and audience.

This is something we can all do for every presentation right now. It is a first and essential step in creating more powerful brand stories and making them come alive for our audience… THE END!
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Dec6

The Art of (Un)formatting a PowerPoint Presentation in 6 Easy Steps

It takes a tremendous amount of work to properly format a PowerPoint presentation, but in many cases it can take twice as long to (un)format one. If you find yourself adhering to any of the rules below, you are probably well on your way to mastering The Art of (Un)formatting a PowerPoint Presentation.

 

  1. Never refer to the slide master.The slide master informs the look and feel of the presentation. It dictates text box and header placement, bullet style, line spacing, and defines the color palette. There is absolutely no need to go there for styling cues, or to ensure consistency in your document.
  2. Refrain from placing logos, background art, or disclaimers into your slide master.
    Instead of placing them in the slide master where they belong, copy and paste all background art, logos, and disclaimers into every slide of your presentation. If done properly, when the logo or text needs to be updated, the user will have to make those changes to every single slide in your presentation.
  3. Do not use the “Bold Lead” layout built into most of our templates.
    It takes significantly longer to manually remove a bullet, select the line of text, and hit the
    “bold” button on the toolbar than it does to go into your layout and hit the “Bold Lead” template. Don’t forget to hit the spacebar 8-12 times to inaccurately match the indent present on the second line of text.
  4. Avoid using the built-in table feature.
    PowerPoint allows users to intuitively build tables by defining the number of rows and columns, and then automatically generating a stylized table based on your design template. Stay clear! Instead, create multiple text boxes, visually line them up as best you can to create a grid of boxes, and type in your content into each of them. To spruce it up, be sure to add your own divider lines, vertically and horizontally, to complete your manually created table.
  5. Always place a text box on top of a PowerPoint shape.
    Although users can create colored PowerPoint shapes and type their text directly into them, it makes more sense to place a text box over that shape and group the two items. The text box and shape are rarely aligned correctly, and the text never quite fits, but this approach is guaranteed to take longer and will make future edits more difficult.
  6. Finally, keep thinking of your presentation as a manuscript.
    PowerPoint is a presentation tool, not a word processing tool. It was designed to help presenters create visuals that support their talking points. Rather than keeping your slides simple and concise, cram them with as much information as possible. Ensure that your audience is completely ignoring what you are saying because they are reading the projected slide. Remember to add plenty of confusing charts that, while accurate, are so dense that the point you are trying to make is lost. And finally, don’t read 6 Tips for Outstanding Presentation Design, because this article might inspire you to think about your presentations a little differently.

While it may have its flaws, PowerPoint is a very powerful tool specifically created to help users
create presentations efficiently.

Do you harness its potential, or are you a Master in the Art of (Un)formatting?

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