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Olga Lykova, Head of Partnerships, North America at monday.com.
How many times have you sat through a presentation where the speaker said, “Let’s talk through this; it won’t be a death by a PowerPoint,” and for the next 30 minutes to an hour, it’s exactly what they promised it wouldn’t be?
For the last decade, I’ve worked at four different startup organizations, building a partner program, creating internal and external champions, and inspiring innovation with prospects, customers and partners. To do my job, I’ve had to inspire and motivate through discussions and presentations. One thing I learned that holds true across all industries, products and services is that people love and get inspired by stories they can relate to.
Inspired by Carmine Gallo’s book, “Talk Like Ted,” and based on many presentations I’ve given throughout my career, in this article, I’ll explore the power of storytelling with tips and tricks you can use today to build a compelling story that can be shared in 15-18 minutes (the time limit for a TedTalk).
Rule #1: Do something unique to capture your audience’s attention.
Most of the time, when someone attends a presentation, it’s because they want to learn or solve a business challenge—or, let’s be honest, because their boss told them to. But for most, the underlying intent is to feel inspired.
During the opening keynote at Apttus’s annual conference, the CEO welcomed a customer to the stage who recently bought the solution but had yet to deploy it. The way we captured our audience was by announcing, on stage, that by the end of Day 2 at the event, we would complete the architecture and “go live” experience. In the enterprise space, a go-live in a few days is unheard of. After the keynote wrapped up, everyone went on their way to other sessions, and the delivery team went to work on the deployment upstairs in a designated hotel room. By Day 2, you could feel the steam coming out of that room with the amount of effort being put into breaking the deployment record.
During the closing keynote, we wanted to showcase the authentic experience and brought cameras into the room. The audience was captivated by the effort and collaboration. They saw the errors, they saw the fixes, and they saw the moment we clicked “Go Live.” Everyone cheered, champagne was opened and the audience was captivated and inspired.
The power of storytelling means captivating your audience, exposing them to what the experience with your brand will be before they even engage and making the experience as authentic as possible.
Rule #2: Share your personal stories to be more relatable.
We tend to remember and resonate with personal stories that make us feel something.
When I joined Workspot, I took a pay cut. It wasn’t for a $100 billion VDI market cap or due to the fact that legacy VDI providers were undergoing turmoil. And it wasn’t because I was interested in learning about networking, security or VM sizing. It was because I was inspired by a story our CEO told me in a span of a 20-minute conversation. He shared that he worked for an incredibly inspiring leader who taught him so much about business, product and creating a vision. When my CEO approached his boss with the vision to rebuild the product with cloud readiness, he didn’t get the support he wanted, so he took his vision and built what is now a future of end-user computing designed for hybrid work.
When we went on the road showcasing the power of the solution to potential customers, I understood that the story that inspired me would inspire the audience. When I asked how many people worked for an organization with incredible people but wished the product was built for innovation, many raised their hands. Then I went on to tell them the story that inspired me, with many folks in the audience captivated and fully bought in.
Rule #3: Prioritize duration and data.
Keeping a presentation short has scientific benefits behind it. Research has shown that the brain uses a lot of glucose as it absorbs information. If you talk for too long, you risk depleting your audience’s glucose levels to the extent that they simply don’t have the energy to keep listening.
Using unusual metrics in your presentation can also be very captivating. One of the customers I recently interviewed mentioned a few metrics, and I am curious if you could guess which one of them I remembered the most. The customer said that less than half of their workforce was able to work from home when the pandemic started, and after a year post-pandemic, the divorce rates went up by 50%. When we tell a story, statistics help us make it real. Make sure to incorporate key data in your presentation to add credibility to your overall statements.
In “Talk Like Ted,” Gallo shares some tips I’ve found to be really useful that I’d like to include here. First, speak slowly and pretend you’re having a conversation with your audience. He says the ideal rate of speech when giving a presentation is slightly faster than an audiobook narration—so, about 190 words per minute.
At the end of the day, to truly resonate with your audience, it’s critical to be authentic and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Show your true emotions—because passion can be felt.
Last but not least, I’d recommend making it a habit to watch one TedTalk a week. Ted celebrates the gift of human imagination, and you never know what an 18-minute (or less) talk could inspire in you.