How conversational storytelling can help get your strategy presentation approved

How conversational storytelling can help get your strategy presentation approved

Emotion (Story) + Trust (Data/Evidence) + CTA = Action

Influencing how people make decisions is a critical skill. Understanding that emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusions is the foundation of building a compelling business presentation.

Now, it’s getting to that time of year again. The time when we all start putting our strategy and plans together and preparing to present them internally to get approval.

We work so hard on these plans, so this article will take you through some key learnings about understanding a senior management audience better and how to use storytelling that will work on both an emotional and rational level to help you get to a decision in your favour.

If you want to go deeper into the subject then watch this video dedicated to the topic.

How do people make decisions? (Hint: Emotion)

Like it or not, all of us make all of our decisions on an emotional level first. If you start your meeting by painting a picture of the future that you are there to help them achieve (framed as a recommendation – more on that later), which might be revenue, market share, or employee motivation - then it will be much more effective. Focus on what’s in it for them.

It's all about emotions. Emotions are at the core of all our decisions. We need to get someone emotionally invested in the outcome before you can start talking about how you can prove you can get there.

Most of us, when we prepare an internal presentation, focus on how to prove that our idea, or strategy, or budget is a good idea by using evidence in the form of data, graphs or others' recommendations. All of that is important, but it comes AFTER the most important part of a presentation which triggers our emotions: Story. Learn more about this.

Story is something you can use to talk about the end state. The bright sunny place in the future you can take them to. Think about what it is that your manager wants the most. What will make her life better? What is the mission at hand? Start by framing the strategy or plan as playing a major part in that role. You are not trying to prove anything here, but to make an emotional connection.

Deliver the recommendation first

This is not something new. It’s been around since Aristotle came up with it 2000 years ago. It was popularised in a book by Barbara Minto called the Pyramid Principle, which is something business consultants use all the time to communicate with busy c-suite executives.

The first thing you talk about is the recommendation. The strategy of your plan that takes them to the emotional future state that they want.

You follow that with three supporting arguments which can also be given in story format - three undeniable reasons why this is important. Again all of this is still about making an emotional connection.

Then Deliver the Evidence (AKA: Trust)

After you’ve given your three supporting arguments to why your recommendation is worth approving, your audience will be emotionally connected but not ready to approve. This is all about providing evidence that your plan is robust, well thought out and has contingency plans. Evidence that you provide in the form of data, charts, case studies, tests etc. is all about getting across to your audience that the plan you want approved is in safe hands.

Conversational Presenting

Now you have the content to build an emotional connection and have all of your supporting arguments and evidence in place, next comes the delivery.

Gone are the days where you can just present all of your content. The job of a presentation in the past, used to be about the ‘transfer of information’.

Today it’s changed. We very rarely present in a vacuum where the audience has no knowledge of the reason for the presentation. Today the job of the presentation is to find the gaps in the information that your audience has. The most effective flow for delivery is this:

  1. Briefly introduce why you are meeting and talking
  2. Give the emotional connection – what’s in it for your audience
  3. Give three supporting arguments as to why that is important for your audience
  4. Ask what can we cover next
  5. Let the audience decide what information they need in order to make the decision

This is called Conversational Presenting. By presenting in this way you hand over control of your presentation to the audience. You let them tell you what gaps in their information they have and then only present what is relevant.

The Ask

You give a presentation for a reason. You have an objective. When presenting your plans or pitching for budget then you should end the meeting with questions around ‘can you see anything here that would stop you approving the plan/budget?’ or ‘what are the steps to getting this approved?’ Don’t leave without a next step or action point.

The Follow Up

If you want to understand more about Conversational Storytelling and the DNA of a senior manager then watch this in-depth video. Come and learn about how you can use emotion and storytelling principles to improve the effectiveness of your presentations and your confidence levels.

Spencer Waldron, European Regional Director, Prezi.

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