Whether you’re conducting a presentation to an important client or telling your company’s story to the members of the media, using good storytelling skills is critical for getting your message across well. Long, rambling accounts obscure your message and make it harder for your audience to hear your key messages.
Here are five steps for improving your storytelling skills and helping you be a more effective communicator in virtually any situation.
1. Choose two or three key points. It may feel risky to not tell the whole story when it comes to presenting something important to you. However, you are much more likely to convey your key messages if you limit them. For example, instead of creating a PowerPoint presentation that lists all of your benefits, find a way to highlight two or three that matter right now or relate to one aspect of a customer’s needs.
2. Think about the audience. When telling your story, think about the audience and how it relates to those people. If you’re being interviewed by a journalist, he or she wants an interesting story that will interest or inform readers, listeners, or viewers. So, you might talk about your company’s commitment to giving back, the reasons why you do so, and what makes your efforts different from others’. It’s always a good idea to think about what will create an emotional reaction in the audience, whether it’s heartwarming good will or excitement about the prospect of buying from you.
3. Use statistics sparingly. Data is our friend. It can be very useful for illustrating problems or opportunities. But don’t start rattling off statistic after statistic. People will often tune out after you’ve presented two or three consecutive percentages or ratios.
4. Illustrate with anecdotes. Put a face on your story. Tell the audience about a time when you made a difference or when you were particularly successful. Confess a mistake you made and how it made you better. Using anecdotes illustrates your key points by showing how they work in the “real world” and also create memorable points that stay with your audience.
5. Ditch the jargon and corporate speak. Whatever you do, drop the jargon and meaningless corporate platitudes. Using simple language isn’t “dumbing down” your message; it’s telling it in a way that people want to hear.