Telling your story with your body and mind — The art of presentation performance.
Life's most powerful skill is to be able to tell a story. In this dull age of tech-talk; make me laugh, weep, puff my chest with pride or even raise my fist with indignation. If you can do this I will beat a path to your door.
Most of us would like to tell a good story. Rather than being on the receiving end of a painful one, poorly told. You really don't have to do much in a relatively dull environment to stand out with your presentation. And it's possible to shape a story out of even the dullest of material. Whether it's the marketing plan or indeed the strategic one, there is absolutely no reason why you can't lift the material off the page with an exciting story.
These days with presentation software, such as Keynote and PowerPoint, we have the tools as never before. But it shouldn't excuse our own faculties of voice and the use of our bodies to impart information.
We tend to be very lazy with our mouths in everyday speech, you very seldom hear a well-articulated message in a meeting. You don't have to do much to change your voice to sound like different characters. You can change simply your rate of speech and pitch. The pitch of your voice affects your tone and allows you to interpret something in very different ways. For example, if you start your pitch low and end high, your tone seems quizzical. There are so many tricks, just watch the newsreaders on your local television and you’ll learn something.
Pace is the relative speed of your story. I've always liked to build the intensity of the presentation to a cracking pace then fall away to an unshakable fact at the end, almost in slow motion. But then everyone has a different style.
Take your audiences from scene to scene imparting facts around imaginative anecdotes, images or expressions. Every story has a set of characters and even something as boring as a sales presentation contains fascinating customer insights; which are people like your mother, your aunt or your best friend.
Try to speak as those characters. What would a customer say, how would they think, how would they view the strategy you are trying to implement. Use the character to view the presentation from their perspective. Give yourself permission to look ridiculous as you do this exercise. Exaggerate everything in the scene, the big things should be huge and the little things should be tiny and your voice should reflect those exaggerations.
Finally as you reach the resolution of the story, maintain your high-energy but relax your pacing. It's not about doing ridiculous gestures, and marching all over the stage. Better with practiced absolute clarity of words, timing in delivering key phrases, and fleshing out scenes. Your audience will take their cues from you, when you're more interested and passionate in what you're saying you will draw them in.
Use images and keywords on screen, which relate to your script. There are no shortcuts you have to write the script first then use it as a tool. If you follow the written word precisely you run the risk of mummifying your message. Let the slides like a tool support your story, speak first, and then bring up your slide with a poignant image and a word, which will tempt your audiences’ curiosity.
Use your script to support your storyboard to refresh your mind about the story but always think of it as a performance, which you have to deliver yourself. Try to stay in the scene, which contains the message you want to impart. But remember that your words should be adapted to suit the audience.
In a corporate setting you want to be approachable but competent. Speaking in a solid, well-projected voice helps establish that persona. One way to think about your company story is the idea that it has three dimensions: a sense of connection, continuity and direction. Weaving a story, which is completely integrated, including your customers and employees is a way of unifying and strengthening your company. There are so few stories, which have the human dimension in the corporate world. Without us beings, it's simply concrete and glass, we have nothing or no one to engage with
Don't apologize for your story and don't steal your own punch line. Don't state what the story will make clear. Don't tell the audience what the story is about, and do not trick your listeners after they've trusted you.
Above all you have to put the time in and truly study your topic well to remember your story’s gist. As a storyteller you are a performer and everything you need is right in front of you. Your visuals, the faces and body language of your audience and you. What’s inside you, in your face, in your body, your life and memory?
The tone that you create through your body and voice establishes a trust relationship with your listeners. They trust that they can go with you in the story, that you'll guide them and bring them back safely.