The Story Starts With You

When I first sit down with a new client to develop a presentation or corporate messaging, I rarely start with the usual questions about the company or its products. I start with a series of personal questions. I’m not necessarily looking for a rehash of their resume or the bio, which is usually on the corporate website. I want to know what attracted them to their current job. I want to hear him/her describe what makes him/her excited about where the company is at that very moment, and what energizes or scares them about the months ahead.

Prior to this first encounter, I have already visited the corporate website. If they are a publicly traded company, I have usually listened to their last quarterly earnings call and downloaded their statements filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). I have researched news coverage about them and accessed financial analyst reports. If executives have presented at conferences, I watch available videos. I know a lot about their company and their services or products before I finally sit down with the executive team.

I have most of the relevant facts. Now I want to know the story.

During this initial interview, I listen to stories about the paths they took, some directly but mostly circuitously. I probe for the twists, turns and serendipity that got them where they are. I note where they become most excited, where their voices get higher or their body language becomes more animated.

Effective communication is a contact sport between the presenter and the audience, with the content as the playing piece. Before going through coaching, many clients expect I will focus on their body language, their facial expressions, and their voice. While these are critically important, I find most of those elements are easier to improve if the story is clear and authentic.

Even if the presentation includes none of the personal anecdotes and details that are shared with me, it is still important to frame the corporate story within the context of the person telling it. Understanding their own story helps them to draw on their internal motivation and enthusiasm, which then translates into a dynamic vocal quality and energetic body language.

A compelling corporate story is more than a series of disembodied facts. You can not separate the presentation from the presenter if you want to persuade someone. The most inspiring presenters bring their personal stories to the podium or the stage as a source of their own motivation. Something or someone has propelled that speaker to that very moment and place. They are as much part of the story as the content of the presentation.

It might not make sense at first, this harvesting of personal stories in order to deliver a corporate presentation. But the higher the stakes involved in the presentation, the deeper we must look for the narrative that compels us forward. From this place of inner truth we can then find our authentic voice, and then design a compelling and credible presentation for our audience.

The story starts with you.


Want to explore your story?

Join us this May in Lisbon, Portugal for a weekend writing salon in which you will be guided through a series of exercises to examine and cultivate your own story. This is a personal writing salon, but we will provide you the foundational tools for curating and crafting a story from which you can draw in a variety of situations.

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