Storytelling is often seen as one of the most effective strategies to improve customer engagement because stories are estimated to be about 22 times more memorable than facts alone. They create an emotional connection with your audience, helping your message stick in their minds long after your presentation or speech.
Incorporating storytelling into your corporate presentations can improve audience engagement and satisfaction. Whether you’re speaking to potential new investors, clients, or an internal audience of employees or board members, storytelling can help capture and maintain your audience’s attention and support.
Try these five storytelling techniques in your next virtual or in-person presentation:
- Research your audience ahead of time.
- Focus on one clear message.
- Think of an exciting hook.
- Get personal.
- Use multimedia and interactivity.
As you prepare your next presentation, think of storytelling as a tool to guide your audience through your points. Your story should drive your presentation, while your facts and statistics serve as concrete evidence to ground the story. With that in mind, let’s begin.
1. Research your audience ahead of time.
Getting to know your audience will help you choose the stories that resonate most strongly with their interests and motivations. When you understand your audience’s values and what they’re hoping to gain from your presentation, you can tailor your speech to fit their needs.
Look at your internal database, customer surveys, and external data sources (such as LinkedIn) to gather audience research, such as their:
- Employment information
- Buying habits
- Communication preferences
Using this data, you can start to develop audience personas. Your personas should include information about the demographics, interests, and motivations of your target audience members. Then, you can design your storytelling approach to appeal to these individuals.
For example, let’s say you’re speaking to an audience of potential customers at a tradeshow about your business’s graphic design services. Through research, you discover that your primary audience is young professionals ages 22-35 who don’t have much graphic design experience. These individuals work in social media marketing or advertising roles and need a graphic design service to help build their campaigns.
Therefore, you might choose to tell a story about how one of your business’s clients was able to increase social media engagement with their online campaigns by 200% with the help of your graphic design services. This type of story would capture your audience’s attention and encourage them to envision what they could achieve with your help.
2. Focus on one clear message.
Keep your story focused and to the point. Be Brilliant Presentation Group recommends outlining your presentation’s core message and designing your conclusion first to emphasize the main point you’re conveying to your audience. Your ending is the last chance to ensure your message and story make a strong, lasting impression.
Then, go back to the beginning to give your story a clear structure. For example, you might follow this story arc:
- Introduction: Describe the setting and introduce your protagonist.
- Rising action: Describe the conflict your main character faces and their struggles to solve the issue on their own.
- Climax: Explain how your protagonist solved or overcame the problem with the help of your business or organization.
- Falling action: Include a call to action that tells audience members facing similar issues that they can turn to your organization for support.
This structure makes your story more engaging and helps ensure that you’re making one clear point to your audience rather than trying to cover too many topics at once.
3. Think of an exciting hook.
The human attention span is declining — our attention spans are currently averaging about 8 seconds, a decrease from 12 seconds in 2000. That means you just have a handful of seconds to capture your audience’s attention at the beginning of your presentation.
It’s helpful to plan an exciting, engaging “hook” — the compelling intro you use to set the scene for your story and the overall tone of your presentation. Consider kicking your presentation off by:
- Highlighting a surprising statistic or shocking fact.
- Jumping right into the climax or most exciting point of your story, backtracking to lay out the foundational elements, and wrapping up with a satisfying ending.
- Sharing a compelling quote from someone you’ve worked with or admire.
Presenting audience members with something interesting and engaging will go a long way toward winning their admiration and sparking their interest in what you have to offer.
4. Get personal.
Pulling stories from your experiences will make your storytelling more authentic and compelling. Plus, you’ll be able to speak much more naturally when you’re telling an anecdote from your personal or professional life.
Let’s say you’re presenting at a job fair or open house to a group of potential new employees. You want to describe your business’s corporate social responsibility program and let prospective candidates know the personal and professional benefits your program brings to your employees’ lives. After all, according to Real HR Solutions, using employee programs like workplace giving and volunteering to create a positive company culture is a great way to enhance employee recruitment and retention.
To effectively convey the positive benefits of this program, you might describe how you participated in an employee volunteer opportunity alongside your coworkers. You can talk about the feeling of fulfillment and camaraderie that resulted from engaging in volunteer work. This will give audience members a stronger sense of what the program is about and allow them to imagine themselves participating.
5. Use multimedia and interactivity.
Bringing your story to life using imagery and audience interaction can make your presentation more visually engaging. Research from MIT shows that the human brain can process images in as little as 13 milliseconds, meaning your audience can quickly and easily interpret any visuals you show them.
As you’re writing your presentation, find places where you can naturally incorporate photos, sound clips, infographics, and videos. These visuals will give your story shape and color, bringing your words to life for your audience.
Including moments for audience participation can also make your story more engaging. Take an audience poll by having audience members raise their hands in response to a question, or ask for a volunteer to answer a question directly. This can help you keep your audience’s attention, engaging them on a deeper level.
These storytelling strategies will allow you to convey your messages in a way that appeals to a wide audience. And, when you’re following up with your audience after your presentation, you can keep your storytelling going. Invite audience members to join the story by getting more involved with your organization or reaching out to different individuals within your company.
Ultimately, your storytelling skills will allow you to connect with any audience and present your business in the best way possible.
About the Author
Patti Schutte is the CEO, Founder, and Principal Coach of Be Brilliant Presentation Group. Be Brilliant Presentation Group’s coaching system results in speakers moving from fear and avoidance to confidence and purpose.
If fear of presenting runs through the veins of the majority, then Patti is the minority. She’ll be the one to grab the mic and quickly have the room engaged, laughing, and learning. Not skills you’d expect from someone who has a degree in mathematics. Her unique combination of being analytically minded, extroverted, charismatic, and skilled in presenting and training has guided her career journey. Her diverse presentation experiences include classroom and corporate training, growing and motivating an independent sales force, developing a team of national presenters, speaking at conferences, and transforming the presentation skill of professionals. She believes everyone deserves the advantage of brilliant presentation and speaking skills.
If you are tired of giving subpar presentations, frustrated by the opportunity loss you’ve experienced, want to streamline your presentation process, and are motivated to learn and improve, Be Brilliant Presentation Group is ready to work with you! Patti’s four step process efficiently gets you from the brainstorming phase to completed, well practiced slides that you’re proud of and a feeling of preparedness for your presentation. Patti has had many people say they accomplish more in 30 minutes with her than they did in two full days without her.