I advocate storytelling in your business presentations. Stories can capture powerful ideas in a few telling strokes.
Stories involve your listeners better than any other competing technique.
But in telling a story, we can sometimes veer off-course. We get so enamored with our own words that they build a momentum of their own, and they draw us along with their own impetus. That’s why it’s imperative that we stay tethered to our main point. Professional storyteller Doug Lippman calls this the MIP – the Most Important Point.
Christopher Witt is a competent coach for today’s executives, and he makes a powerful point about a story’s MIP. He calls it the Big Idea:
A good movie tells one simple, powerful story. If you can’t sum it up in a sentence or two, it’s not a good story – and it won’t make a good movie. The same is true for a speech. A movie tells one story. A speech develops one idea. But it’s got to be a good idea – a policy, a direction, an insight, a prescription. Something that provides clarity and meaning, something that’s both intellectually and emotionally engaging. It’s got to be what I call a Big Idea.
What is your Most Important Point? Your MIP?
Decide! Decide and make that point the focus of your story. Rivet your attention on that salient feature! Let this be core of your story and build around it.
I urge you to focus on one point, because our tendency as business people is to include everything initially, or to add-on infinitum until the story collapses under its own weight. The military calls this “mission creep,” and we can call it “story creep.” Simple awareness of story creep is usually sufficient guard against it.
Your MIP Permeates Your Story
Your MIP should run through your story, both directly and indirectly. It informs your story and keeps you on-track as you prepare your presentation. At each stage of your presentation preparation, ask yourself and members of your group if the material at hand supports your MIP. If it does not, then it does not belong in your story.
Telling a story does not mean reliance upon emotion only. You must have substance. There must be a significant conclusion with each supporting point substantiated by research and fact and analytical rigor. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.
Actually, Ralph Waldo Emerson said it much better than I can:
Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative. Afterward it may warm itself until it exhales symbols of every kind and color, and speaks only through the most poetic forms; but, first and last, it must still be at bottom a statement of fact. The orator is thereby an orator, that he keeps his feet ever on a fact. Thus only is he invincible. No gifts, no graces, no power of wit or learning or illustration will make any amends for want of this.