Storyboard Magic in Your Presentations

When I ask you to think of one of your most memorable moments in your life, what comes to your mind? Most likely you will see clear images in your mind, you will remember how you felt, where you were, and who was with you. You might re-experience it with all your senses right now, that I have asked you to think about it. More than likely, you will not remember the words said, but you will remember how that moment or the people playing a big role in that moment made you feel.

The next thing I would like you to think about is your last presentation, sales pitch or project introduction you have delivered. What was your central message? And how did you deliver that message? We tend to focus on the what of our message, the content and the hard facts. Undoubtedly, these are all very important. In any presentation you deliver, it is important to get these right. I recently learned in a training that from that central message in your presentation, probably only in 10% of the cases the actual message is remembered by your audience. This is why it is important to potentially repeat your message several times during your presentation, also as not everybody will be playing attention at exactly the same time. Even more important however are the how and why in your presentation. How would your message best be understood or experienced by your listeners, and why should it be relevant, appealing or important to them?

Bringing experiences and creativity from totally different areas into day-to-day business life is something I can really enjoy. In the context of delivering presentations, a lot has been written and talked about around the topic of storytelling. In case you are interested and have 19 minutes of your time available, listen to this great TED talk by movie maker Andrew Stanton: https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story/discussion?CNN=YES. Having been at the cradle of great movie productions, Stanton is a master in explaining what it takes to tell a great story. He explains the elements of a great story in this legendary TED talk. In doing that, he makes you laugh, he makes you cry and through that you really experience what his central message around storytelling is about.

Inspired by his talk, I wondered: What else can we learn from Hollywood when delivering a presentation in a business context? The image that came into my mind was a storyboard. A storyboard is used in movie or clip production and helps bring the story and characters to life, before the actual movie is being shot. It is a visual script of the story, the readers almost being able to experience it by viewing it like a comic book. I am definitely no expert in this field, but I admire people who have the capability and creativity to build and draw storyboards. Thinking of that, let me guide you to four important learnings we can draw from storyboard production when preparing for the next presentation or sales pitch.

Scene

Which characters are important in your presentation? Characters can be your audience, it can be the people who play a role in the story or the message you are bringing to your audience. It can be you. Building your presentation in scenes, collected in a storyboard, lets you think of the elements which are important in bringing your story to your audience. Is there maybe an important returning element (object, person, subject), which your viewers will be seeing back in multiple scenes, or will be hearing you talk about in your presentation multiple times? If so, what is this about? Your central message is a returning element, so allow yourself to let it come back in multiple instances during your presentation or story.

Chronology

Once upon a time…Our most beloved fairytales begin with that one sentence. It is important to think of your presentation as a story, which has a beginning which makes the audience curious, an interesting and developing middle section in which your story comes to life, and a strong and compelling ending. A good beginning for any presentation is to begin with a hook, which instantly grabs your audience attention. The earlier mentioned TED talk offers this hook through humour, with a joke. The hook will lead you in directing your audience towards your central message or middle section. It can be your key line, your sales pitch and unique selling points you want to stress. Or it can be the key experience that will appeal to your audience with all their senses. Yes, I believe that also a business presentation should address senses. It should touch your emotions, get you thinking, and get you acting. With all that, it will lead to the end of your presentation. A strong end, where it all comes together. Where it all makes sense. Like Stanton did in the earlier mentioned TED talk, where he tells a personal story from his childhood and how this inspired him to shoot the Finding Nemo scene of dad finding his son. This is where he grabs the audience, where he makes them cry and from that leads them towards the end sentence of his talk. Just wonderful!

Dialogue

A storyboard shows dialogues. What are the characters actually saying? This is the part, where your central message can be repeated to let it stick. Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people. So the dialogue in a storyboard enables perspectives. What are different or potentially conflicting points of view to the subject you are presenting? What could be underlying values, drivers, reasons or buying arguments for your business proposition you are selling here? Thinking of those perspectives, even by openly playing the dialogue with your audience. That is often what separates good presentations from unforgettable ones.

Camera

The camera view in a storyboard also is about perspectives. However, here it is less about the characters’ points of view, it is more about your lens. Are you potentially taking a helicopter view to a topic, making the audience see the bigger picture around a topic? Or would you rather like to take a close-up shot, where you really focus on an individual (audience, subject matter) view on the topic at hand? This is also where you can create movement. Movement in the way you deliver your presentation. In body language, in tone and pitch of your voice, or maybe in showing images or a video to strengthen your message delivered.

The End

I don’t claim to be an expert in the topics presented, and yes: how great it would have been, if I had become a director for a blockbuster movie. The fact is, on Monday I will return to my sales director role in a large global firm and I am sure to continue having fun also there. However, I believe that learning from the experts in storytelling and by applying a creative concept like a storyboard to your next business presentation will help you prepare to deliver an even more appealing story to your audience. And…cut!

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