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Storytelling for demos and tech presentations

What are the ingredients for creating a great presentation? Should you include stats (=statistics), numbers, and technical data? Should you keep it light-hearted, make jokes, and maybe even show a meme? Which approach would be most effective in terms of capturing your audience’s attention?

Regardless of the content and goal of what you’re presenting, a perfect presentation should do at least one of the following things:

1.Engage

2.Educate

3.Showcase a solution to a problem

4.Inspire

Before you set about (=start doing something) writing a script for your presentation, make sure you ask yourself the 4 questions that will help you hit the mark (=be successful).

#1 What does your business/feature/update do?

Your explanation needs to be simple enough to be understood by a child. It’s better to leave out (=not include) complex technical details. At this point, you want to engage the audience and get them to pay attention.

#2 How does it do it?

Educate the audience and give them a sneak peek into the inner workings of your business or product. Again, make sure to exclude anything that might not be understood by people from backgrounds different to yours.

#3 What problem is it solving?

Showcase what makes your solution effective and unique. Including credibility-boosting data is always a good idea (this could be customer feedback, key metrics, and stats).

#4 Why should the audience care?

Finally, inspire an interest in your business/product by putting it in the context of the big picture. What impact does it make? What can your customers/clients/stakeholders get out of it?

Now that you have identified which questions you need to address in your presentation, how do you actually do it? By telling a story, of course.

Storytelling is the most effective way to communicate any message in a clear, impactful, and compelling (=provoking interest) manner. Whether you’re delivering a quick tech demo or a long presentation, using elements of storytelling always works to your advantage.

Here are 4 storytelling techniques that you can use for your presentations.

#1 Monomyth (aka The Hero’s Journey)

This technique is used in so many adventure movies and folk tales. The hero (i.e. you) encounters (=finds) a challenge that they need to overcome. The hero successfully faces the challenge and learns a valuable lesson in the process.

In the business setting, this technique is often employed in the form of the STAR method.

STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. It is the go-to framework for answering behavioral job interview questions, and can also be leveraged for presentations.

Situation — your (aka the hero’s) starting point.

Task — what challenges did you need to overcome?

Action — what did you do to overcome it?

Result — what lesson did you learn in the process, and how has the situation changed compared to how it was?

Good for:

  • Presenting a novel solution to a problem
  • Talking about you and your team’s successes
  • Explaining your thought process and approach to solving problems
  • Talking about the impact of your product or business (what changes it has brought)

Example:

“I was working on an e-commerce website overhaul project when I noticed that the page load speed would drop dramatically when the number of active site visitors exceeded one million. The e-commerce business was growing very quickly at that time and my team and I needed to figure out a way to speed up page load speed to accommodate the users as quickly as we could.

After studying the problem, we decided to separate our read/write logic to reduce the overall load on the main instance. Secondly, we decided to switch to elastic search for storing app logs.

That helped us design a more robust and scalable database structure that could handle changes and support business requirements.

Now, the e-commerce store can handle up to 10 million active users without any drop in performance”.

#2 Sparklines

This approach is centered around contrasting the real world with the improved world. In other words, you start by describing the currently present situation and compare it with what could be.

Good for:

  • Presenting product ideas (especially, if the idea is still at the conception stage)
  • Sales pitches

Example:

“These days, video marketing rules the digital marketing world. Over 80% of consumers cite well-crafted informative videos as their major motivator behind making a decision to purchase a certain product. Now imagine, you are company that wants to reach global audiences and sell internationally. Let’s say you already have a solid video marketing strategy in place that works perfectly on the domestic market. The problem is you can’t use it internationally because a lot of your potential customers over the world wouldn't understand the language. What do you? Should you create a separate marketing campaign for each geographic region? That would take too many resources and time.

Now imagine a world where you can distribute your expertly crafted video content to all regions of the world in over 70 languages in a matter of seconds. That’s exactly what our online translation tool allows you to do. And the best thing about it — using it is as easy as installing a web plugin in your browser”.

#3 In media res

This is an action-driven storytelling approach that requires you to start your story from the most exciting and intense part. By dropping the listeners right in the epicenter of the action, you can achieve the wow effect that will win the audience’s attention and create engagement.

Good for:

  • Drawing attention to a fundamental idea or solution
  • Grabbing the attention of your audience from the start
  • Speaking in front of large audiences
  • Competitions where it’s essential for your presentation to be memorable and stand out

Example:

“I remember how exactly 6 months ago my co-founder and I were in a meeting room looking at the acquisition offer from Google with the number $3,000,000 on it. We had one week to decide whether we would sell our business or ride it out and try to scale it into something even bigger. As you can probably guess, we went with the second option. That’s why we’re here today — presenting our fully automated UX workflow tool”.

#4 False start

This approach captures the audience's attention by subverting their expectations (=doing the opposite of what they expect). You start by telling a seemingly predictable story only to turn it around and start it all over again.

This storytelling approach is used in almost every Simpsons episode. Like the one where the story about the Simpsons losing family valuables unexpectedly morphs into the story of Homer becoming a paparazzi.

Good for:

  • A time you failed at something, and had to “go back to the drawing board”(=start over)
  • An innovative solution you discovered after some trial and error(=experimentation)
  • A time you made a mistake and the lesson you learned from it

Example:

“As a UX Writer, my first job was to design the text that pops up on your screen when you pull up a webpage and tells you that this website uses cookies. “Just use standard language”, — my manager told me. “No need to come up with anything clever”. And so I did. I drafted copy that looked exactly like what every other website uses and prepared it for handoff. Then I took a second look at it and felt absolutely disgusted. This copy was so out of line with what our company stood for — user engagement, immersion, and making web experiences fun. I thought, “I could do better than that. This cookie copy could be a differentiating factor for our website rather than the annoying due diligence”. So I went to work and crafted copy that opened with:

Hello!

We’re cookies.

Low in calories.

We would love to be your companions during your visit.

Immediately, it felt much better”.

If you want to find out more about storytelling and other presenting techniques, feel free to check out our English For IT: Communication Course. This time, you can get it with 50% OFF. So hurry up!

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