Earlier, I wrote about the 5 elements to help you to communicate compelling data.

From comic books to novels; fiction to fact, there are consistent elements of telling a story that are just as effective when making a presentation.  Your presentation can be about anything, but to keep the attention of your audience…

Here are 5 C’s of Effective and Memorable Storytelling:

lessons from storytelling

Clarity: Focus on your primary message. Leave details or distracting information to the side.

In storytelling, the most basic storyline is in 3 parts. We are presented a situation, that is then upset, and then re-set. All stories follow this basic outline. It is simple, allows for creative means of accomplishment, but keeps a central order.

When presenting, it is a common distraction to wander off into details or other areas that are not specific to the problem at hand. Attempting to solve too many problems, or simply getting off-track into a supporting details can kill the attention in the room before you even get started. State the problem, offer the solution, sell the results. Situation-upset-reset.


Contrast: As compared to what? A contrasting element is necessary to show the result of inaction.

Every Hero needs a Villain, just as every subject needs a verb.  Create the contrast to highlight the problem and bring attention to your analysis. This could be as easy as asking two questions: 1. What people are doing? 2. What we want them to do?


Concise: Utilize the basic elements of the data, have details available, but guide the audience through the important, relevant information.

Details are always at the discretion of the storyteller. Good writers give you just enough detail to work out a mental picture, but only those that will be important in developing the overall story. The supporting characters receive even fewer details, landscapes only receive a few (artfully crafted) words.

Details? Always. In the presentation? Only those that communicate your main point. Cite the rest of your data and have it ready (That’s what handouts are for). Don’t build your case with overwhelming charts, pivot tables and bar graphs. Pull the essential few for your meeting, but leave the supporting cast to the side. Available, but not center stage.


Consistent: Don’t feel the need to go into other tests or bring in other data to make a case. Simplicity is attained with a consistent track of content.

Stay on your storyline. Nothing is more frustrating than adding additional story lines without any resolution of prior situations. Declare the problem, find a solution, use at the data. DO NOT bring up more problems unless they are on the path towards solving the initial problem. Keep your presentation, your talk, your slides and your approach on the clear road to resolution.


Conclusion: Know when to stop.

Most good stories are not completely resolved. There are still loose ends that readers have to resolve themselves, which keep them engaged long after the story is done. You do not have to follow the presentation completely through to its obvious conclusion.

State the problem first. Introduce the thinking that overcomes the problem, and the data that guides your thinking and points the intended results. You may feel the need to state the obvious, but allow your audience to make the final connection. In this methodology, you allow others to draw the conclusion, rather than you making it for them.

If your audience makes the connection between the problem, the data, and the solution before you walk them through it, then they will be much more receptive to your conclusion.



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