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To Persuade People, Tell Them a Story

Once upon a time Mr. Smith showed the CEO of Proctor & Gamble a PowerPoint presentation, but the CEO never looked at the pretty pictures on the big screen. That's because the CEO was more interested in what Mr. Smith had to say.

(Photo Credit: UNE Photos/Flickr)

Technology

Technology has given us the ability to send messages instantaneously and to share visual data. These tools are extremely useful when used wisely, but should not be depended upon to get our messages across.

Raw data only goes so far. A PowerPoint presentation full of graphs and bullet-point factoids may make an impressive addition to any presentation, but it's not enough by itself. Anyone who has ever been treated to somebody reading PowerPoint slides verbatim understands that this is a wonderful cure for insomnia, but not a way to teach or persuade.

Tell a Story

The core of the presentation must come from the person speaking. A good speaker uses a PowerPoint as a springboard from which to start. The technology is a tool that is secondary to the speech, lecture, or presentation. The speaker is primary.

Writing a "speech" for a presentation is much like telling a story, with a beginning, middle, and an end. The main character likely represents the company; for example, if Mr. Smith wants to sell Proctor & Gamble a new software system, the story will be about all of the problems that the new software system solves. The PowerPoint may illustrate the speech, but never takes the place of it.

Mr. Smith learned to tell anecdotes and stories, and they all lived happily ever after.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you use PowerPoints at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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