Picture this; it's 9 am, you're at the latest industry event, coffee in one hand, pen and paper in the other, ready to take some serious notes and find out what's new in the world of Market Research.
Things start off great; you're learning some fascinating stuff and time seems to be disappearing.
But hang on a minute!
You've just hit the bottom of your coffee cup, and it dawns on you that only 15 minutes has passed, yet you've already exhausted the ink in that new conference pen.
Why? Because you've been trying to keep up with the myriad of data, facts and figures thrown at you during the keynote. This approach leaves you with a notepad full of hieroglyphics that you can't decipher or construct into a meaningful story when reflecting upon the day.
As data-driven beings, us market researchers are naturally loyal towards using cold hard facts and figures when presenting. In fact, speakers from all industries can be inclined to go data heavy when faced with a room full of people - mostly because it's hard to argue with numbers.
There's just one slight problem...
Storytelling is a difficult art to master. But, conquering this discipline for your next presentation will afford you tremendous rewards. Your keynotes will go beyond factual and become stories that are truly influential.
Imagine taking the same data set that you have now but using it to hypnotise and mesmerise the crowd, attaining and retaining their complete attention for the entirety of your presentation. All it takes is a few storytelling tips, tricks and techniques.
If you want people on the edge of their seat during your presentation and on their feet when you finish, listen up to these five techniques. They will transform the reactions to your next presentation from subtle applause to a cascade of cheers and Mexican waves. (Okay, that may be stretching it somewhat, but you get the gist).
1. The Visual Scene Storytelling Technique.
Pictures speak louder than words - In fact, our brains process images 60,000 times quicker than text, meaning visuals are crucial to capturing and keeping the audience's attention.
However, not all images are made equal. Visuals that can place your audience at the scene of a story or in the shoe's of your consumer will deliver a far greater impact.
Rule of thumb: The easier you make it for your audience to picture the scene the more appealing your story will be. This will ultimately lead to those Mexican waves I referred to earlier at the end of your presentation.
This explains why visual mediums such as consumer recorded video and virtual reality (VR) are being touted as the holy grail of storytelling. Both appeal because they place the viewer at the heart of the situation, resulting in optimal empathy for any cause. You can check out how VR drives empathy below;
2. The Brief Technique.
This one is probably everyone's favourite and the most obvious of techniques, so I'll keep it short.
In a world where nobody seems to have any spare time anymore, and the competition for our attention is greater than ever, keeping it brief is a great technique to follow. People are more likely to remain engaged knowing that your presentation will be brief, and get to the crucial points quickly. Letting them know exactly how long your presentation is going to last is one way to approach this.
*Top tip: Think about how you can display this to the audience - including a progress bar in your presentation slides (similar to those we see in surveys) would be perfect. Give your audience an indication of how much greatness is yet to come and the time commitment it requires from them.
It's the equivalent of hovering over a youtube video with your cursor, we all do it just to be sure it's worth our time.
3. The Surprise Technique!
I'm talking more Christmas day surprise than those surprise parties where you find out about the surprise beforehand and now have to utilise the surprised face you've been practising in the mirror for two days.
Using an element of surprise in storytelling is a staple method for delivering newly discovered insight with impact.
For optimal effect, be sure to provide your surprising insight at the beginning of your presentation, to capture the focus of your audience, and re-visit it at the end to prove, disprove or conclude the point.
4. The Suspense Technique.
So you've set your audience up with your surprising insight. Now it's time to build the suspense. For this method, we recommend that you grasp the audience's attention with rhetorical questions, stem sentences and interesting characters.
Researchers are naturally curious. They spend most of their time making sense of raw data by piecing together questions and analysing the answers to draw up customer stories.
So if you've got some powerful figures to share, make sure you draw in the audience with a tantalising, cohesive narrative takes your audience on a journey of discovery. Give the people what they want - but make sure they have to work for it.
Use rhetorical questions along the way to keep them thinking as you weave together the data. Use stem sentences on slides to ensure they must listen to and reflect on the verbal conclusions you draw.
Bring these simple tactics to a crescendo by hitting them with an emotion inducing a-ha moment at the very end of your talk for maximum impact.
5. The Humanisation Technique.
The final technique is all about adding a human element to your presentation. People thrive on connections with real people. For any narrative to speak to us, we must meet and believe in the characters of the story.
Our innate desire to meet, listen to and help others will mean that we'll naturally give greater attention to presentations that bring people to life.
One clever way of achieving this humanisation is by luring in our audience with the beginning and middle of our story but letting real people finish it off for us. This technique is all about choosing who would best deliver the aha-moment and make your presentation memorable.
For instance, what's more impactful, me telling you that over 700,000 people live in extreme poverty in the world, or first-hand stories from the individuals and families that face the challenges of living below the poverty line every day?
Introducing us to the people impacted by each and every story in a visual manner is what news media has thrived on since inception, and our presentations should be no different - regardless of the subject.
So there you go, five storytelling techniques to supercharge your next research presentation.
With the right technique and some practice, you can now change any data set into a genuinely compelling consumer story.
Cue the Mexican waves.