3 Storytelling Styles that Work for Any Presentation

August 14, 2013

Once-Upon-A-TimeGoogle the word "storytelling" and you will find endless amounts of articles, posts and books on the topic. It's certainly a buzzword these days, and many proclaim good storytelling to be what makes successful content strategy. Yet very few have been able to master this powerful craft.

Today, I want to help you become one of those artists.

Why is storytelling so important? A good story captivates an audience. Think about your favorite book, TV show or movie -- the plot and way it is told hooks you in. Now what if every presentation you sat through -- or gave -- was that spell-binding? Well, it should be.

Here are 3 storytelling styles that work with almost any presentation:

1. Tension & Discovery

If you haven't been living in a cave, then you have probably seen or heard of the movie "Jaws." The formula that makes this movie an American classic is the intelligent use of tension and discovery. Remember the haunting sounds of the cello (dada…dada) or the creepy shark fin peaking above the water? Both leave you in suspense for 80% of the movie until, finally, the great white shark reveals itself in the end. It's one crazy "A-ha" moment. That's the power of tension and discovery.

2. The Heroic Journey

It's hard to dislike a hero. It's even harder to dislike an underdog. I'll share a few characters (fictional and non-fictional) with you - Luke Skywalker, Rocky Balboa, Rudy Ruettiger, Frodo Baggins, Kurt Warner and William Wallace. Hopefully, one of these names pulls at your heart strings. The reason why is because humans are fascinated by the heroic journey. We like the overcoming of struggles and obstacles. We understand. We relate. We participate. We want to win as well. Tell a story of failure and triumph.

3. The Visual Metaphor

Do you ever find yourself falling in love with analogies - those clear and simple descriptions of complex tasks or processes? I’ll give you an example. Let's say you have to explain the size of the universe to a child. Not so easy. Now, if you pull out some marbles (stars), a golf ball (Earth), and basketball (the Sun) from the closet and spread them across the floor in an organized fashion, your task becomes so much easier. Visual metaphors break things down. They make ideas easy to understand. They put subjects in a relatable context. That's the beauty and power of a visual metaphor. It converts the boring and complex into something interesting and simple.

Always remember that storytelling is a subjective task. You can't simply apply a little bit of this and a little bit of that to make it work. It requires a deeper train of thought, a dash of creativity and a lot work. Get practicing.

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Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki.