Gil, our UX Persona, does the heavy lifting in our stakeholder presentation. Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio

UX Storytelling:
Essential for the Stakeholders

Cary Dicristina
4 min readAug 13, 2020

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Where’s the e-commerce component? That’s what the client wants to know. After all, it’s their money on the line with this app redesign. But as a UX Designer, you know that monetization is getting in the way. Distracting. Keeping the User separated from the reason the app exists in the first place.

In the Old Days, before we called it UX, there would be panic. Sometimes the Product Manager would retreat. Or worse, initiate the finger pointing. That’s a good question, they would say. Where are those payment tiers we agreed upon? And it would be the Information Architect suffering from a cacophony of Blame Shifting. Don’t take it personally, the PM would later confide. Someone has to be blamed. And you’re the architect, after all.

This is where Storytelling comes in. As a Professional Storyteller (I’m an Indie Filmmaker in one of my side hustles) I know the importance of not only showing WHY a component has been emphasized or deleted, but the motivations as well. Think of this showing as a Hero’s Journey. (I know. I know. But it’s a cliche for a reason.) Where you let your Hero, the Persona, do the heavy lifting. Told over the digital equivalent of the campfire — a Keynote Presentation.

Our Hero, let’s call him Gil, is a Gen Z’er who has had a less than ideal interaction with our client’s current music streaming app. In my presentation for the client’s stakeholders, I make sure to provide our Hero’s origin story. Born out of research interviews and affinity mapping. Gil’s in his early twenties. Fresh out of college. His career just beginning. Loves his friends like family. Loves music and concerts. But hates crowds.

I try to treat each slide as a billboard you might see while speeding down the interstate

Over the next few minutes (documented by branded and stylish Keynote slides and adorned with nothing more than a catchy headline or two), we see Gil’s journey from initial excitement to despair. We hear his thoughts. We see his reactions from low fidelity wireframe testing. And like a hero at the plot’s climax, where tension is at its highest, we see Gil full of frustration — ready to abandon my client’s app. Just when hope seems lost, we demonstrate the high fidelity prototype of our redesign, seen through the eyes and actions of Gil. We see him transform. We see him succeed.

Because this is a journey of showing and not just telling, the client understands why asking Gil if he’s ready to pony up twenty bucks so he can view a video stream of a Kane Brown concert is frustrating to the point of abandonment. How at this point in the app’s gestation, it’s now an unnecessary distraction for Gil. And my client NEEDS Gil, in a financially solvent way. That moving this hero’s obstacle to the sequel (version 2.0), allows this prequel (a soft launch of the redesign) to be a success.

An example of minimalist deck building

Tell your team’s story with action words. Highlight the Hero’s needs, wants and frustrations. Reinforce with captivating visuals and attention-getting headlines. One per slide. To keep the audience engaged, appeal to the senses, not just their ears.

Using slides as a dumping ground for data, pie charts, graphs and endless bullets only PROVES you did the work. An effective presentation shows WHY you do the work. And remember your audience. They sit in meetings all day. With the same gluttony of boring slides and presentations. Stand out. Be fresh. Earn your reputation as a creative. Show them a better way of disseminating information. You don’t have to explain every decision (that’s what the leave behind with appendix is for). Just take them on a journey. They’ll be grateful.

Numbers for show, but the story is told

A great inspiration and resource for me has been the work of Nancy Duarte. Her book, Resonate, inspired the way I present.

If you want any presentation-specific tips or have any questions, feel free to contact me. I enjoy helping UX Designers (or any stakeholder for that matter) tell an effective, engaging story.

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Cary Dicristina

Constantly side-hustling and cross-polinating as a UX Designer, Filmmaker and Co-founder Stuio821. Feel free to email me at caryscript@gmail.com