How to Create a Story for Business – Formatted to Present

One of the elements of presentation management is that all content is visual, in slide format. Whether it’s an actual PowerPoint slide, a four-page brochure, a white paper or a video, all the content is ready for presentation on a screen. When you write your next presentation, which is synonymous with telling your business story, think of story elements from a visual perspective. In presentation management, that’s your end game. That means you need to think about content in a different way – a visual way.

PowerPoint is an outline. Typically, you open up PowerPoint and start typing in slides – a headline and some bullet points. When you write a presentation today, you are really just filling in an outline. To create better business stories, get out of outline mode and get into story mode.

Here is a five-step approach to help you create better presentations by penning stories that engage your audience and tap into their emotions. We are using PowerPoint as an example because that’s what most people use to create presentations. But you can apply these principles to any medium.

  1. Close PowerPoint. Don’t start creating a presentation by opening PowerPoint and filling in slides. Instead, figure out your story as if you were talking to someone about it over coffee. Once you’ve come up with a good story, track down someone — a colleague, a spouse or a friend — and practice telling them the story to see what they have to say. This forces you out of outline mode, and ensures that you’re able to whittle the story down to the essentials that can impact the audience.

  2. Imagine a three-act play. Every good story has a setup, climax and resolution -- a beginning, middle and end.

    • Setup: Establish the characters and the setting. In business, the characters are the products or services you are selling, or the objective of the task or project you are planning. The hero is the main driver of your presentation. The setting is your marketplace, situation or use case. It’s the environment or the world in which your hero operates. Describe the hero, his situation, and why the hero is important to your audience.

    • Climax: A good setup will lead the audience right into the big problem or obstacle to overcome. For a business presentation, this would be the pain points, market analysis, product challenges or failures and successes.

    • Resolution: This is the happy ending — a problem solved, a product sold, a project completed. The outcome should feel meaningful, for everyone in your audience. It should answer the question, “So what?”

  3. Ask yourself how your story feels. Emotions drive behavior more than logic. (Our friends in the ad business live by this, but the rest of us in the corporate world tend to forget it.) As noted in the previous section, we get so mired in our own intellectual ideas that we forget about the sensory aspect. Attach the corresponding emotions to the So what? points in your deck. While you want your stories to connect to your audience’s emotions, you need to make sure that you’re tapping into those emotions in a proper way. If you tap into the right emotions, you’ll ultimately get them to “act” the way you want.

  4. Visualize the emotions. What do these emotions “look” like? Once you have a handle on how your story feels, it’s time to visualize the content. Match the image to the emotion and use descriptions and/or images that trigger the senses and activate the brain. Just keep in mind that whatever visuals and emotions you choose, you are supporting your story and moving it forward.

  5. Now, open PowerPoint and fill in your slides. You have the story, you have the motivating emotions, and you have the triggers to make it memorable. The hard work, the thinking part, is done. PowerPoint is merely a conduit to communicate that story. It does not drive your story. The story will drive the slides – words, images, charts and videos.