How is your storytelling?


I just returned from a 3 day meeting in Orlando.  Over 3000 people attended and, as you would expect, there were lots of presentations.

The presentations were like most presentations, but I noticed something interesting. Many of the presentations contained a story, and the stories had a noticeable effect on the audience. Whenever a presenter started a story, the audience got quiet and were more focused on the presenter. Everyone was more engaged.

The stories that were most engaging had common elements; they were about a specific person and a specific place and time. The best stories had a direct emotional link to the presenter’s message and were brief and concise.

The basic elements of this “springboard” type story are described in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling – Mastering the Art and discipline of the Business Narrative by Stephen Denning (  Denning defines a springboard story as one crafted to “communicate a complex new idea and ignite action to implement it”.

Some of Denning’s springboard story elements include:

–  Having a single protagonist

–  Specifying the date and place

–  Stripping the story of any unnecessary detail

–  Linking the story to the reason for telling it

–  Using phrases like, “what if”, “just imagine”, or ”just think”

Denning gives many examples and suggests more elements for great business storytelling in his book. I think that if you use at least a few of these basic elements your storytelling will be better and your presentations will be more engaging.

Isn’t engaging your audience and igniting some action what presenting is all about?

Joe Pops

Refuse to be boring


“A Perfect Pitch” and the YOU Factor

London 2012

“A Perfect Pitch” (2006) is a book written by Jon Steel. The book impresses upon the reader the importance of presentations or “pitches” 

The final chapter of the book includes a case study called  “A Perfect Pitch”. This case study describes the London Olympic Committee’s final presentation in their quest to become the host city for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. On the final day voting  by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was extremely close. Two contenders, London and Paris, gave a final pitch that day, it was a 45 minute presentation.

London’s committee had suspected voting would come down to the wire. Their presentation team studied every angle and nuance, developed a single clear message, and then rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed. They made sure their pitch was focused on the IOC‘s mission and values, and that their message was powerful enough to resonate deeply with IOC members. London’s commitee concluded their presentation by stating  “On behalf of the youth of today, the athletes of tomorrow and the Olympians of the future, we humbly submit the bid of London 2012.” Their message: we will build YOU (the IOC) a legacy for the future of the Olympics.

Paris’s committee concluded their presentation by saying “Paris needs the games. Paris wants the games. Paris loves the games.”

I believe every presentation in which you are trying to persuade someone to take action has a large “YOU” factor. The YOU factor is about how well the presentation is focussed on your audience’s needs, values, and vision. I think if someone counted the number of times a presenter used the words “you” or “your” in their presentation, it would correlate with how well their message was received.

When you present, how is your YOU factor?

Joe Pops

Refuse to be Boring – Join the Revolution

Are your presentations a “Message in a Bottle”?

message in a bottle

In 1979 the band The Police released a song called Message in a Bottle.  I think that the chorus is a good metaphor for some presentations:

I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle

Have you ever had what you think is a great idea and you want others to buy in? You throw your idea out into the “ocean” of your organization (via email) and then plan a meeting/presentation to discuss it.

The presentation is a great opportunity to “sell” your idea. However, if your presentation is not persuasive and memorable your idea could become a message in a bottle….floating around the organization but never finding a home. Colleagues may say, “What was the idea that Joe had?”

In my experience, crafting THE presentation message is one of the most challenging parts of presentation design; you must identify a single, clear, and concise message.  I start by asking myself the question, “What is the one thing I want the audience to remember after they walk out the door?” The message is what drives the presentation; a focused message ensures what needs to be remembered is remembered.

Hope is not a strategy. Don’t just hope that your audience will get your message; take time to craft the message and design the presentation. (I will discuss crafting a presentation message in a later blog)

Joe Pops

Refuse to be Boring – join the revolution