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One Huge Presentation Mistake Even Expert Storytellers Make

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Taking steps to understand your audience usually puts you on a promising path for a memorable meeting or presentation. But what if your careful preparation is not enough? What if you still miss that connection with the crowd?

Here’s something to consider: Is that crowd of expectant faces made up of people working in vastly different functions? Cindy the senior VP just wants the big picture. Hannah in HR wants to be updated on your projected needs for new talent. Dan the data engineer will wake up only when you roll out some hard numbers. We all face this scenario at some point. So how do we craft an authentic, succinct story that will serve many different audience needs?

Multiple Characters, Multiple Needs

For audiences with widely diverse priorities, you have to grow your story to accommodate these diverse needs. This means you must introduce multiple characters into your narrative (as part of the why of your story). Each character should speak to every major need within your audience.

Sometimes, you may be able to find one common conflict and resolution for your whole audience, but this could be tricky to pull off. Your best approach is to briefly call out key needs of your diverse audience through multiple characters and conflicts.


Good Storytellers Will Connect With Everyone

Can you always give the same amount of attention to everyone in your audience? Certainly not. But well-prepared communicators always seek to address audience members with different needs and expectations (certainly all senior executives or major stakeholders). You must grow your story to include multiple characters and conflicts that will invite a response from these various people. Demonstrating that you have considered their concerns and challenges is a surefire way to win the room and sell your ideas.

For more strategies on presenting to diverse audiences, come to my session at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition on Tuesday, May 21 at 1 p.m., Business Storytelling: One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

About the Author

Janine Kurnoff is founder and chief innovation officer at The Presentation Company. She helps some of the world's top brands such as Facebook, Salesforce, MetLife, and Hewlett Packard communicate strategically through data-driven storytelling. Janine has devoted her life to teaching storytelling and data visualization because she believes that these skills are the single greatest way to amplify the meaning and impact of your facts and figures. Storytelling, done right, is nothing short of a career game-changer. Janine and her business partner (and sister!) Lee Lazarus, founded The Presentation Company nearly two decades ago to let teams get practical, hands-on training using storytelling techniques and tools. From sales to engineering, Janine's methodology helps people organize, visualize, and present their ideas in a way that is captivating, easy-to-process, and results-driven. Prior to founding The Presentation Company, Janine worked for Yahoo! Inc. in sales training and, later, as an on-camera webcast host interviewing some of Silicon Valley's top CEOs, market strategists and Hollywood celebrities. In her spare time, she enjoys The Bar Method, cooking, traveling and spending time with her husband and three children in Portland, Oregon.

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