“Tell me a fact and I’ll listen. Tell me a truth and I’ll learn. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”

I love this Native American saying. It makes me think of my days working for a theatre company, touring schools with historical drama workshops. We would take boxes of costumes and props and dress the kids up, getting them to tell the story of the Great Fire of London, or how to be a Roman soldier.

These children knew the dates and the details, but suddenly these stories were brought to life. They knew how Thomas Farynor felt when he climbed over the roofs to escape his burning bakery. They remembered how many days the fire raged, and who buried their parmesan cheese (look it up!). They were interested because they cared about the characters; because they knew how they felt.

Hands down the best way to teach anyone anything is to get them to FEEL it.

Feelings are the starting point for me when I’m working with my clients. How do they want their audience to feel?  And another famous quote comes to mind, this time from Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When did you last watch a presentation and come away feeling, “Yesss!! I know what I need to do, and I can’t wait to get started!”?

My guess is that, if that has happened recently, that presentation didn’t consist of back to back slides. It wasn’t half an hour of data, graphs and projections.

In fact, if we’re honest, have you ever felt that way after a presentation?

I work with brilliant people. Professionals at the top of their game, who know their stuff and are passionate about what they do. But, quite often, they come to me having spent hours – HOURS – on PowerPoint, creating colourful, detailed slides based on lengthy analyses of data.

But something isn’t working, and they know it. They’re not closing the deal; they’re not getting that promotion. They’re coming away from their presentation feeling underwhelmed and that they could have done better.

Does that sound familiar? Can you, hand on heart, say your presentations are hitting the mark, every time?

Why are these brilliant professionals having this problem? Because their presentation doesn’t mean anything. Their slides are just slides. Numbers are abstract; unless your brain works in a specific way, you won’t remember them. You have got to anchor them to something in your audience’s brain to get them to CARE. And how do you do this? By sitting it in something they recognise: a story.

What do I mean?

Say you work for a company that’s spent the last three years developing a material to be used to line paper cups. Your presentation will potentially be full of scientific information about reactions, timings, temperatures etc. And, of course, this information is vital: your potential client needs to know your product works.

But, what really excites you about this product? That’s what you’re pitching. Not your product: your passion. Or, in marketing talk, not the sausage, but the sizzle.

What you’re truly passionate about is the environmental impact of the 7m coffee cups we get through in Britain each day, and the fact that your new product would enable every one of those coffee cups to be recycled.

Boom. There’s your story. And that’s your framework for this presentation. A wealth of emotional material and empathy right there. We all live in this world, and most people care about it. A lot of people have children who will inherit this environmental caffeine-related time bomb. SO many visuals and stories at your fingertips to illustrate your story and make it relevant to every person listening to your presentation.

If you’re passionate about your story, it’s catching. People can’t fail to be swept away by your excitement and enthusiasm. And then you can drop in your stats and data. Once they care enough to be interested.

So, the next time you’re starting to write a presentation, DON’T start with the slides. Start with the story. Take a step back and work out what your own connection is. It might not be obvious, but it will be there!

What do you want to change because of your presentation? What are you passionate about?

What do you want people to feel?

If you’re struggling, get in touch and I’ll help you find your story.