Storytelling: Credible but Cold

Before I begin, a disclaimer. We have used a video produced by KPMG as an example to bring the point we want to make via this blog to life.

We lack context, it was not made for an audience like us. We are not even sharing our views on making this video better but simply using the information in the video to unearth opportunities to story tell.

With that in mind, I request the readers to understand that the purpose of the blog is not to criticise KPMG’s adopted style of communication but to answer a question that we were asked by a Head of Insights of an organisation.

The question we were asked was, “How would you convert the communication in this video into a story?”

We are going to stay laser focussed on answering just that bit.

Here is our bold assertion, credible communication rarely leads to action without connection.

Watch this video. It is under 3 mins

I assume that you finished watching it. What do you think? Can you remember the key points the speaker made?

If not, here are my suggestions on what you could do to make this credible but cold video content into something that can be memorable and easy to understand.

Initially, we analysed the entire video but that made our blog post content into an ebook and the number of words in the blog post to around 3,456. A lot more words than we prefer. So, following our tradition of short blog posts…

I am going to analyse only the first .41 secs of the video. Yes, .41 secs was enough for us to make this read worth your time.

1) Opening the presentation: From 0.00 to .28 secs of the video

What was said

The speaker introduces us to the key finding from the survey results – Top Priority of Management is – Changing Business Operations to Realise Cost Efficiencies.

What we think he could have done is this 

To humanise the content and present the first point – Top priority for businesses is Changing Business Operations to Realise Cost Efficiencies. The speaker could have done an exploration style Introduction.

Exploration style is a very simple technique in which the speaker takes people through his/her eyes of arriving at an insight/finding/assertion/result.  This could sound like this:

“Last week, we received the result from Business Survey Leader’s Agenda which was conducted on 1,500 C-level executives asking about their business priorities. The results only confirmed what we all know…” 

Now, before giving away what that top priority was, there was a great opportunity for the speaker to ask the audience, “Anyone wants to take a guess at what that might be?” Well, we can’t do that in a video but we can do that in person and we are focussing on oral communication here.

You may ask, “Why do I need to ask? What is the benefit?”

When you ask someone a question, it gets the interaction going. People start thinking of answers, and engagement activates. Think about the last time you were in a presentation where a question was asked. There is a good reason why so many great presentations start with a question. It is human nature to want to know the right answer and that curiosity creates engagement.

Key learnings 

  • Follow the Exploration Style of Opening
  • Ask the question

Now, imagine that the survey results pointed to something different from a common belief. For example, the top priority was – acquiring start ups, not managing costs. Then that is an unexpected insight and I would open it up with a Mystery Story. You can read more about Mystery Stories here.

2) Rationalising the reason behind the priority: From .38 to .41 secs

What was said

The speaker justifies the priority by stating that Top line Opportunities remain uncertain, as a result Management latches on to one thing that they can control, Cost within the business.

What we think he could have done

Jeremy the speaker says – Topline oppurtunities remain uncertain. So, the management latches on to one thing that they can control, which is costs. Now, that is a good point but one that is dry and it may resonate with some people but your chances of it resonating with more people increases if you then put people through an experience where something like this has happened.

For example, let’s talk about an imaginary situation.

“Say, a business has to make a profit of 20 million dollars this year. There are no growth opportunities that are visible. Management can’t control growth opportunities, but they can control cost by retrenchment – 10% manpower cut per team. This is a commonly practiced way of controlling costs.” If you have a real business case where this has happened, I would use that and tell the story.

The point we are trying to make here is, rather than communicating a dry point, you explain with a story of someone else who is like your audience.

Why bother with a Story?

By telling a story, you will create resonance because it’s most likely that either your audience has witnessed this themselves or know of someone who has experienced such a situation. This reminds you of people and feelings which a statement like, Top line Opportunities remain uncertain, Management latches on to one thing that they can control which is Cost, can’t.

Key learnings 

Don’t make statements and assertions. They are distilled messages that do not lead to the outcome you desire. Contextualise the information by telling stories.

Storytelling Training Workshop Singapore Kuala Lumpur

We use a very simple method called Point Story Point to bring the point we want to make to life.

Step 1: Start with a clear point that you want to make

Step 2: Tell a story to bring that point to life

Step 3: Reinforce the point

And of course, the hamburger… that is just a visual way for us to remember this method. Some of our clients now even call us up and say, “I have got a hamburger… see if it tastes good.” :) What they are really saying is, I have a point that I am communicating with a story, using the Point Story Point method. See if it makes sense.

So, this is what we have for the first .41 secs of the video that we think a presenter can do to make her messages stick.

Narrative’ Data Storytelling Workshop is designed to help business professionals learn how to tell a story that’s hidden in Data for Better Business Outcomes.

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