If you want to create an exciting business presentation that keeps your audience on the edge of their seats, steal a page from one of Hollywood's best storytellers, Ron Howard.

Howard is the legendary director of such modern classics as CocoonSplashApollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. Howard took over directing Solo: A Stars Wars Story, the new Han Solo origin story for LucasFilm, when the original directors were fired over creative differences. Howard says he was reluctant to accept it, but the script won him over.

In Howard's new 32-segment MasterClass (a real one--I'm not just calling it a "masterclass"), he calls a film director the "keeper of the story." Anytime you craft and deliver a business presentation, you too are the keeper of the story.

In Howard's online tutorial, he offers a checklist of elements he sees in a strong script. These are the same elements I look for in a winning pitch or presentation:

1. Fulfill the promise.

Howard's first step in evaluating a script is to look at its genre. Does the script live up to its promise as a mystery, thriller, or fantasy? Howard was excited about the Solo script because it was a "pure adventure story."

I ask the same about a business presentation. Does it fulfill its promise as a pitch for new business? Does it fulfill its promise as an exciting new product launch?

A new business pitch should be concise, captivating, and novel. A product launch should feature the benefits of the new product that separate it from anything currently available on the market--and for a better value.

Ask yourself, "What is this presentation meant to achieve?" Make sure it lives up to its promise.

2. Make the characters and conflict interesting.

Howard asks several questions about the characters and conflict in his checklist. Are the characters interesting? Do they need to be in conflict or does the conflict between protagonist and antagonist seemed forced?

Every business presentation needs a conflict too. The best presentations have heroes and villains.

Steve Jobs was a storyteller who always chose villains to rally the audience around. Sometimes he chose a competitor to play the villain. But often, the villain was simply a problem that kept Apple's customers from living their best lives. 

Ask yourself, "What problem does my idea solve?"

3. Keep your audience off-balance.

Howard believes every script should have elements of suspense. Is it a page turner? Does each scene pull you along?

Movie audiences love twists and surprises--and the same people who watch movies are also in your audience when you're giving a presentation. Give them twists and turns. Keep the action moving.

This is the fun part. Surprising audiences should be the best and most memorable part of a presentation.

When Bill Gates released (uninfected) mosquitoes in a TED talk about malaria, he gave the audience such a surprise, it made the nightly news. "As a storyteller, find ways to put them off balance," Howard suggests.

Ask yourself, 'What is my mosquito moment?' It's the moment in the presentation that your audience doesn't expect and will never forget.

In the final chapter of Howard's online tutorial, he says he keeps a notebook with him to write down experiences or events he finds interesting, exciting, or memorable. It reminds me of Richard Branson, who also brings a notebook to capture ideas.

Great ideas for your next presentation are all around you. It might be a graphic that captures your attention, one that you can later replicate. It might be a customer story that you can incorporate in your presentation.

Above all, says Howard, "Find a story you love and tell it." It's great advice for aspiring film directors-- and all entrepreneurs.

Published on: May 24, 2018