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How to communicate business results with storytelling

In business presentations, you need to communicate results. Hard data. Facts. KPIs. There’s no room for emotion and storytelling, right?

Wrong. Storytelling can be one of your greatest assets in communicating business results.

The reason is data, facts, statistics are all boring. They all sound the same, and they can be manipulated any way you want. If you want to set yourself apart, and have people remember not just your results, but why they’re important, use a story to amplify them.

Storytelling can bring your data to life. It can show the audience why they should care, and it can make your presentation more memorable.

Here are 4 tips for using storytelling to communicate business results:

Know Your Audience

This is the most important thing you can do, regardless of whether you’re using storytelling or not. You have to know who you’re speaking to.

Not just who they are, but what’s important to them. What do they care about? What keeps them up at night?

Most importantly, know their sensibilities. Are they analytical and numbers-driven? Or do they care more about people, ideas and relationships?

The more you know about your audience, the more able you’ll be to craft a story that will resonate with them.

Build Your Story's Structure

Next you need to construct your story. The easiest way to do this is to follow a basic story framework. Identify these three components and you’re well on your way to developing a compelling story:

  • The character might be fictional or real. It might be a customer, an employee, or a stakeholder. It might be someone from your audience. It might be you.
  • The struggle is the challenge the character faces. The obstacles that keep them from achieving their goals.
  • The triumph is where your business results come in. How did the character use the solutions you offer to achieve the desired result? How does that impact your bottom line?

Find Your Theme

Every good story has a central idea, or theme, that ties everything together. A good theme makes your story memorable and engaging, capturing your audience’s attention. It humanizes the data you’re presenting.

Themes can usually be summed up in a word or two. Victory. Redemption. Perseverance. Boldness. Compassion.

So how do you find a theme? Look behind the facts and data you’re presenting. What do those business results mean, in human terms, to your company, your stakeholders, your customers? How will the information you’re presenting have an effect on people’s lives?

That is where you’ll find your theme. But don’t force it. Having a theme is great, but it’s not mandatory. If one’s not presenting itself, just move on to the next step.

Write a Killer Intro

This is the most important part of your story and your presentation. A good introduction can grab the attention of your audience, draw them in, and make them want to hear more.

A good introduction creates a sense of drama, tension, or even mystery. It can ask a question, set up a seemingly implausible scenario, or challenge common assumptions.

To write your introduction, think about what will get the attention of your audience. Play with their expectations. Surprise them.

Add Your Data

Telling a story will engage your audience, but you still need to make sure to convey the facts and results you set out to communicate.

Where you place this information, and in what volume, depends on your presentation. You need to find the place where it has the most impact.

If you have just a few high-impact facts to share, it might be best to put them at the end. If you have a lot of information, you’ll want to use it to punctuate your story. Use it to make transitions from one part to the next. Place your information where it complements the story, and where the story can amplify the data.

Being able to communicate business information and results is an important part of just about any job. You can do it in a dry, expected way, the same way everyone else does.

Or you can do it in a memorable way that grabs the attention of your audience. You can do that by telling a story.

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