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It’s all about being able to tell a story and connecting with them according to improvisational expert and speaker Jodi Cohen.
I had a chance to interview her to gain insights on what makes for a good story and how you should tell that story.She says that it all starts with knowing your audience and being able to connect with that audience.You should be able to get in front of the audience and answer 3 critical questions from the start of your presentation:
Who are you?
What do you have to say?
Why should they care?
If you grab them early and weave your story throughout your presentation, you’ll be well on your way to having accomplished your presentation goals. I asked Jodi to answer a couple of questions about story telling:
What do you mean by a story?
“A story helps you find a way to create a context or premise for why you’re there to talk with the audience.The key is using your personal Rolodex or reservoir of who you are and what you’ve experienced as a bridge to the group you are talking to.'
Jodi shared a quote from Lori Silverman - “facts tell, stories sell” - to encapsulate the results that can come from a well constructed and delivered story.As Jodi described it, “you want to be able to engage their emotions with a story that is authentic, not one that is generic.Stories can come from within, but also from others.If you’re uncomfortable with revealing your own stories, use someone else’s stories to deliver your message.”
How do you best deliver a story?
Jodi says that it is critical to be prepared, to have practiced and to really know your material so that it isn’t a recitation, but rather a genuine sharing of your experiences.You need to let your audience know that you are having fun and are engaged in the material, since they’ll easily read if you’re not and will tune you out. Jodi shared that “the fear of performing never goes away, so turn it into energy and learn how to manage it and to focus on your story."
Another tip that Jodi had, was that you really need to “physicalize” your story. As she says “Remember that sight and sound both can be used to engage the senses, so start by stepping out in front of the podium.You also need to add expressiveness and animation to your presentation."
What about PowerPoint in Storytelling?
PowerPoint has many fans and many detractors, so I was curious what Jodi thought of the tool and how it should be used.Not too surprisingly, she said that PowerPoint slides shouldn’t’ be read and that they are accessories to the presentation while the speaker is the “entrée”.The slides shouldn’t have all sorts of information on them.
Handouts Another topic regarding PowerPoint that generated discussion was how to handle the distribution of slides.I asked her whether they should be handed out in advance, after the presentation or should there be some other hand-out altogether.She said “It’s deadly when people have slides in advance and during the presentation.It is a set-up for problems."She recommends that slides or a handout about the topics discussed be distributed or sent to attendees following the presentation.I agree with her on this one, but I can’t tell you how often program planners have asked me to have the presentation well in advance of my scheduled delivery date.I’ve found this difficult, because it locks you in to content that you might still be updating and into a linear presentation.This structure makes it difficult to modify content on the fly based on the audience questions, your interaction with them or the dynamics of the presentation itself.
Take Jodi’s tips to heart and make your stories resonate and communicate with your audiences.
If you’d like to find out more about Jodi Cohen, you can do so by visiting her website.