Tips for engineering presenters: framing your story

Anthony Haynes writes: In my previous post I suggested beginning your presentation, not by introducing yourself, but by getting into your story.

But this raises a question: how to tell a story?

That question is a large and complex one, so it would be ludicrous to seek to answer it all in one post. Instead, I’ll return to it over a series of posts and also recommend some resources.

In the meantime, let me outline what I think should be the first move. For effective storytelling, it helps if the presenter and the audience are in narrative mode. The presentation will need to be cast in story form; and the audience will need to process it as a story.

That is, they need to know that, in listening to your presentation they’re listening to a story.

This can be achieved quite readily, simply by framing the content of your presentation with words we associate with stories.

Think of the language we use to discuss films or novels. For example:

  • scene
  • setting
  • characters
  • plot
  • twist
  • climax
  • story
  • episode
  • chapter

It usually needs only a little effort to work such terminology into a presentation. For example, ‘in this case study I’ll introduce you to three main characters’

This is similar to saying, ‘Once upon a time…’ It encourages the audience to relax a little and think, ‘Oh, good, we’re going to get a story: we know how to listen to stories.’

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