Posts Tagged ‘Storytelling’

Story Season – How Does Story Impact On Presentations?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 by Matt<

We now join senior members of the Eyeful consultant and design teams and continue through Eyeful Story Season with a look at how they believe story can impact on presentations.

Gain insight into if ‘once upon a time’ is an outdated concept, if a strong design can hide a weak story and hear a potential story structure that you could use when combining story and presentations.

Over to the Eyeful team…

In the next edition of Story Season the team talks about their favourite presentation examples that used story to effectively deliver the clients messages.

We’ll also include clips of the presentations to give you a little extra inspiration and so you can really see how story has been worked into real and successful presentations.

Stay tuned for this or if you’d like to speak to an expert directly, then just give us a ring on 0845 056 8528.

Story Season – What Does Story Mean to you?

Friday, March 20th, 2015 by Matt<

In this chapter of story season, we enter the Eyeful rabbit hole and meet some senior members of the Eyeful consultant and design teams and get their own personal take on how stories and presentations are linked.

In this first episode of a three part series, we share the minds of the people who work with business presentations on a daily basis. Discover how they simplify the process and gain some inspirational ideas for your own presentations.

Over to Team Eyeful…

In the next edition of Story Season the team talks about how story (or lack of) can have a major impact on presentations…

Stay tuned for this or if you’d like to speak to an expert directly, then just give us a ring on 0845 056 8528.

Story Season – Blockbuster presentations are just a few takes away

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 by Matt<

Movies and presentations aren’t that different.

OK, so maybe you’re not up for crashing on the sofa with a bag of freshly made popcorn and watching your latest pitch presentation with your better half BUT as we continue our journey through Eyeful’s Story Season, I’m going to show you how using what you already know about movies can help you create better and more structured presentations in the future.

The movie topic we’re going to explore is the Synopsis stage, or when it comes to presentations, what we at Eyeful call the Storyflow and the Storyboard.

Take a moment out and think…

If you were going to make a movie you wouldn’t just grab some actors and a camera and go shoot something without a story, without a script and no general direction. The same goes for presentations – the last thing you want to do is start off by opening up PowerPoint and trying to plan as you go along creating slides. It’s a recipe for disaster and will eat up more time than a Star Wars marathon.

So where does the road to silver screen success begin?

A movie generally starts with an idea for a story. Someone has a dream, gets inspired by real events or simply somehow has a great story idea that makes them so excited and driven that they just have to get it out of their head and down on paper.

A presentation starts in much the same way – an idea or vision.

At some point in time, somebody, somewhere came up with an idea, be it to sell something, to change something or perhaps to teach something…

Generally speaking this spark of creativity will inform the goal of the presentation – it’s what you the presenter (or your company) want to happen as a result of giving the presentation.

Back in Hollywood, the screenwriter gets the idea down on paper in the form of a synopsis, which is literally a written map of the story as a whole – where it starts, who the characters are and the journey they go on to wherever it is they end up.

I once read that a good movie should always take the audience on a journey – would it hurt to apply this to an audience who are expecting death by PowerPoint?

The flow of a presentation can be planned to take the same celluloid journey.

In our very own Simon Morton’s book, The Presentation Lab he details an entire chapter on business storytelling and offers an example of a simple story structure:

story structure - no frame

This structure is as old as the hills and has formed the basis of storytelling for centuries. As such, there’s no wonder that it has been successfully applied to both presentations and movies for many years.

Compare and Contrast

By way of an example, let’s look at the recent Hollywood blockbuster, Gravity, and in parallel, review the structure of a booking software sales presentation created by Eyeful.

Gravity

The story flow of a standard sales presentations in Putney and that of a Hollywood Blockbuster set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away are in reality, not that different.

Importantly this example should have demonstrated that using stories in presentations is not complicated and that they don’t mean that your presentation need to start with, “Once upon a time…”!

What Happened Next?

The combination of story and presentations is a powerful one – go forth and make it happen.

You can use the synopsis structure above as a guide to creating presentations in the future and make sure when you leave those hard earned meetings you’re on the walk of fame – not shame.

If you would like some Hollywood style help to get your presentations ‘in the can’, get in touch and one of our story obsessed team will be on hand to bring your next blockbuster to life.

 

 

 

Stars in their Slides

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 by Matt<

Hollywood movie star Vince Vaughn appears to be lining himself for a future career as a stock photography model! Vince Vaughn

Yeah – I’m not convinced either!

Basically it’s a publicity stunt for his new movie “Unfinished Business” which is due to hit big screens soon.

He and his co-stars have featured in about dozen stock style images which are being released on istock for free, editorial only use.

They’re a nice bit of fun to look at and a clever idea to promote the movie – which I hadn’t heard of – but I can’t imagine where on earth an Eyeful designer would put these in a presentation?

 

Don’t get me wrong, stock images most definitely play a part in presentations

But you must ask yourself when to use them and when to avoid? The key is common sense – if they look cheesy and bad – then AVOID at all costs! It’s pretty simple. If they look good – and some do look really good, and as long as they support what you are saying and have the right visual subtext, then go ahead and use.

I asked Alex, one of our designers for an example of a good stock image…

stock image“I like this image, it has a clear platform to add items to and a blurred background of a coffee shop/pub/restaurant. I used it in a presentation that was about food logistics, the slide needed colour and the presentation used similar generic images with no branding. It fitted the bill perfectly.

Clichéd images are lazy and harmful to the overall story when badly used. But some images can tell a story on their own and are very powerful. Good stock photography should not be underestimated.”

 

Finally as important as it is not to use poor images in your presentations, maybe someone should tell the director, Ken Scott that rubbish slides shouldn’t be in Hollywood movies! I spotted the offending slide in the trailer for the movie! Let us know if you spot it too!!

So, if you need help with your next blockbuster presentation just pick up the phone and while our professional work their magic you can sit back and maybe even enjoy popcorn and a movie.

Story Season – The Tightrope of Authenticity

Friday, February 27th, 2015 by Simon<

Those who have been following Eyeful’s Story Season over the last few weeks will have spotted a theme.

Yep, we truly love the power of story in presentations. We love the heightened levels of engagement they bring, the spark they create in audiences and the unforgettable images they create. In the right hands, they are a very powerful tool.

Yet we’re also consistently cynical about those that claim that ‘story’ is a presentation panacea. Stories fall flat on their faces when used inappropriately, out of context or as a short cut to a properly thought out proposition. They are also bound to fail if they are inauthentic.

AuthenticityOutside of all the science, the scenarios and hype, there is one simple truth – powerful stories rely on authenticity. They work because they connect, forming a bridge between the storyteller and the audience, sharing emotions, experience and ideas. In short, you have to ‘feel it’ to effectively share it.

Inauthentic = Ineffective (To The Point of Being Pointless)

We see inauthenticity everywhere, from the singer who mimes their way through an old standard to the stand-up who ‘phones in’ a performance. It just doesn’t work – the connection is lost.

It’s this authenticity issue that is one of the flaws that those with blind faith in ‘business storytelling’ seem to conveniently overlook. Marketing folk beware – foisting a pre-canned, generic and inauthentic story upon a business presenter is bound to fail for the simple reason that they don’t ‘feel it’.

Too Authentic?

The power of authenticity can, of course, go the other way – some stories are simply too emotional, too heartfelt to work effectively in a business presentation.

By way of example, allow me to share a personal presentation flaw. Shortly after the publication of The Presentation Lab, I shared a story to illustrate the power of visuals. I talked about how I felt as a spotty teenager seeing the extraordinary and shocking pictures of the Ethiopian famine for the first time. I recalled the emotional rollercoaster of Band Aid, from singing along to Spandau Ballet one minute and then sobbing with millions of other viewers as we watched the harrowing CBC news report of a skeletal child, near death, struggling but determined to stand (to a devastating soundtrack of ‘Drive’ by The Cars). And then, 20 years later, that incredible moment when she was introduced, fit and healthy, to the audience at the Live 8 concert.

The story was powerful and helped audiences understand the point I was making…but was frankly too personal and emotional for me to deliver. I choked up each and every time I shared it – the story simply proved too raw for me to tell without going to pieces so in the end I dropped it. It was too authentic.

So where to draw the line? In the world of business presentations, the power of stories come from the connection they make with an audience. Authenticity is a key element in ensuring that connection is made so treat it with respect.

Oh, and as ever, put yourself in the shoes of your audience – what would help you engage better? When traversing the tightrope of authenticity, I’d take a heartfelt but shoddily told story over a slick but inauthentic one every time. Or, like Don Draper, you can strive to get the mix just right:

Story Season – Science and Stories

Friday, February 20th, 2015 by Matt<

We continue our journey through Story Season now by taking a dip in the mysterious pool of Science and Stories. You’ll come out refreshed, thinking differently and in more detail about your presentations in the future.

Which in turn will lead to you becoming a better presenter, who has a higher chance of getting the end results that those other ‘death by PowerPoint’ presenters can only dream of.

In short, to avoid these horrible gut-wrenchingly awkward situations, we respectfully suggest you use parts of ‘story science’ to help you construct more engaging and compelling presentations.  Here’s how…

THE SCIENCE OF SUBTEXT

Subtext is the story within the story. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading a book, watching a movie, or receiving a presentation – subtext is right there.

Think of it as levels.

Level 1 is the story being told out loud. The words we actually hear and the visuals we actually see.

Level 2 is the subtext. The story underneath this that the audience creates based on what they experience.

In regards to the subtext in presentations specifically, our very own Simon Morton’s book, The Presentation Lab, has a chapter dedicated to ‘The Super Powers of Visual Subtext’.

In this he focuses on how slide visuals, such as a photograph or graphic, can illicit different emotional undertones with the audience. The choice of visual though really depends on your audience – more on this in a moment.

In regards the context in stories, in story development consultant, David Baboulene’s blog, he discusses subtext using (allegedly) the shortest story ever written by Earnest Hemmingway.

“For Sale. Baby’s Shoes. Never Worn.”

Ok, so ‘War and Peace’ it isn’t, but for such a short, nay minute story it certainly evokes a strong response from the reader.

There’s the melancholy interpretation, where you think that a baby has sadly passed away – or there’s the more positive humorous assessment, where you might think the baby was born with huge feet and grandma and granddads first gift was just way too small!

It all depends on how youthe audienceinterpret the story and create the subtext.

AUDIENCE CENTRIC STORIESheatmap 3

And this is where when it comes to presentations you need to be so careful and really consider your audience (and when we say ‘consider’, we mean more than just a passing thought – truly ponder what makes them tick, the dynamics within the group and why they are listening to you in the first place).

Again the ‘The Presentation Lab’ book recommends that you need to consider the type of personality the key members of your audience are and which group of Visionary, Factual or Emotional they sit in – in the book Simon uses something called Audience Heat Maps which can help build this picture for you easily.

Once you know what makes your audience tick it’s time to start thinking about what you are going to say and what you are going to show in order to create the right message and subtext.

THE SCIENCE OF STORIES

And this is where the science of story really comes into play…

Your audience, for the most part, will be living, breathing, heart pumping, brain controlled human beings. And it’s in the grey matter department that your presentation needs to be the equivalent of a Red Bull overload.

There is a part of our brain called Broca’s area. This gets switched on when we either hear someone speak or read some text, as it interprets and makes sense of the words.

Now that’s nothing to get too excited about. More interesting things start to happen when we get past this area to the Primary Olfactory Cortex (linked to smell) and the Motor Cortex (which is for planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements), with more and more areas of our brain working we start to really listen, understand, engage and get excited about whatever it is we are experiencing.

To get these areas started though, you need to really think about what’s coming out of your mouth and what’s written on your visuals.

Boring, flat, uninspiring words won’t get much past the Broca…

But start thinking a little bigger and adding more meaningful content and using words that really mean something then this is when things start to happen.

Talking about things with odours such as describing the smell of fresh coffee, or the smell of a new-born baby’s head – these will get the Olfactory Cortex activated, whereas the Motor Cortex is stimulated by words relating to movement, so perhaps relating to sport, or as specific as kicking or running.

Now it’s merely a case of marrying up the right words to get the audience’s brains going and turning it into presentation content that’s relevant…get the mix right and you’re onto a winner.

And if you package this up in a story, the audience will find it easier to digest and the scientific content of your presentation will see them constructing the information and subtext you want and heading towards the target outcome of your presentation.

Net result?

Improved engagement. Increased message retention. Presentation success.

You are now a million miles ahead of those presenters currently sitting in front of the TV creating tomorrow’s death by PowerPoint.

If you need a hand in putting this all together, just give us a call, we’re ready to help keep your presentations ahead of the competition.

Story Season – Talk About Who Did What To Whom

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 by Simon<

65% of the time we are speaking informally, we’re talking about who did what to whom…

Dunbar, R (1996), Grooming, Gossip & The Evolution of Language, Harvard 

Businesses thrive on successful communication. A simple concept but incredibly difficult to pull off. For it to work, it has to be clear, engaging and have a purpose but, a cursory review of the e-mails, presentations and meetings that swallowed up your diary last week will demonstrate that the ideal is a long way off the reality.

In my opinion, much of the problem lies with the way we’re conditioned to behave at work. Armed with impressive sounding TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), an unquestioning adherence to business etiquette and ready access to technology like PowerPoint, Keynote and Excel, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of speaking as business robots whenever addressing an audience. The net result is that we gum up the cogs of business communication and ultimately grind to an unsatisfying halt. 

Story Season 1So how to ‘un-gum’ communication to your audiences, be they internal or external? Well, one of the options is the use of story. Used carefully and selectively, story can break down the barriers built up through corporate waffle and engage your audiences in a refreshing and effective way.

Let me share a very personal story to demonstrate my point…

A couple of years ago, my business went through an unprecedented and, frankly, unplanned growth spurt. On paper it looked like great news – the numbers were growing at a truly remarkable rate and we were winning new customers left, right and centre. The reality within the business was somewhat different – the stresses of demanding customers, changing goalposts and ever tighter deadlines made working at Eyeful less than fun for a while.

The first casualty was communication – and in retrospect, the signs were there for all to see. People began resorting to email more and more. This inevitably led to people misconstruing one another’s emails more frequently, which resulted in some tense conversations. The consequence was that, in a frighteningly short period of time, key people were not really communicating or engaging with each other at all. It was horrible.

I knew I had to address the issue. So I did it with storytelling.

With so many people now dotted across the world, we had no alternative but to schedule a conference call. Not my preferred method of communication, but necessity compelled us to do so.

We had no formal agenda. No slides. No spreadsheets. No visuals whatsoever.

I also set a limit of ten minutes for the entire call.

I started by thanking people for joining the call and then recalled the vision I had for the business when I started it back in 2004: to build a company that would deliver the best possible presentation services to it’s customers through a mix of great people, smart thinking and the need to ensure that each and every member of the team feels valued, respected and engaged with the business. 

I told a few short stories of how we convinced longstanding team members to join us in the first place – Sally over a cheap pizza in London, Liz through a series of increasingly bizarre interviews and the embarrassment of having my dog pee on poor Vicki when she first visited the office. I spoke of the excitement we all felt when moving to our company headquarters, “Eyeful Towers”, the peculiar novelty of our own dedicated server and the buzz we all felt when winning each new customer.  

I underlined that these everyday things defined “Eyefulocity” and made our company a special place to work. Our customers frequently commented that they felt this in the way we supported them and each other on projects. We were living the dream.

I then shared more recent and slightly less uplifting stories – when a team member was reduced to tears as a result of receiving an angry e-mail from a colleague; when a team felt demotivated by unrealistic deadlines; and the awful feeling of fear I had one morning when arriving at the office and sensing that we were slowly morphing another “normal” company.

Ultimately the presentation was little more than a series of heartfelt but authentic stories – stories that, frankly, I’d chosen to pull at the team’s heartstrings and ensure they felt the same pain and disappointment I was feeling.

IMAG0148_1It’s all too easy to overlook the importance of authenticity in the stories I chose to share – they were stories that everyone could relate to immediately. The raw sense of disappointment expressed through the stories allowed the audience to reflect on how the changing behaviours described had impacted the business’s culture, and their colleagues and friends’ happiness. With authenticity and emotion comes real power.

Without a solitary PowerPoint slide, the presentation touched everyone on that call and set the more positive agenda going forward, something we still feel today across the business. People still refer to the “Eyefulocity presentation” today as a crucial point in our business’s development —one that, appropriately, relied totally on authentic storytelling.

So ask yourself one simple question – how can you incorporate story into the next communication you share with your audience?

For more insight into the use of story, structure and visuals as part of improved communications, check out The Presentation Lab: Learn The Formula Behind Powerful Presentations

The Presentation Lab gets a Winning Edge

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Matt<

Presentation lab soft copy
Since the release of ‘The Presentation Lab’, we have received some great feedback and it’s always nice to hear lovely things said about the book (even though it still makes Simon blush like a proud Dad!)

However, when Journalist, Marc Beishon, from the magazine Winning Edge put pen to paper it was not just a quick 30 seconds saying how great the book is, blowing Eyeful’s trumpet and pointing you to your nearest bookstore. Marc has written a great article so, if you’ve been sitting on the fence, wondering whether or not to get the book, then hopefully this will help you decide.

Here is just a snippet from Marc’s in depth review;

Morton homes on what is undoubtedly the core business of today’s ‘presentations’ — how to construct engaging messaging using storytelling and conversational styles that suit the audience and situation you are dealing with at a particular time, which more commonly now are not ‘formal’ situations at all.

It also talks about the changing world of sales, interactive engagement and sales enablement.

If your appetite is duly wetted, you can find the full article in Winning Edge magazine which is part of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management. ISMM provide lots of information and tips on sales and marketing

Or simply click here to view the article on our website…

An Open Letter to all Business Presenters

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Simon<

Hello you…

How are things?

We’ve been meaning to drop you a line for a while now but held off sending anything too close to the chaos of Christmas and New Year for obvious reasons. The festivities are now likely to be a dim and distant memory… as are the long list of New Years Resolutions (don’t sweat it – we think a little bit of extra padding looks rather good on you, if we’re honest). Now all of those pressures are out of the way, we’d like to ask you a favour… actually, three favours. And they all centre around that one part of your job that you find uncomfortable to the point of palpitations – business presentations.

Don’t worry – we’re not after the world… just three small things that will make all the difference to your presentation, and thus to your audiences.

1. Go on, go 16:9

Let’s start with an easy one – it’s time for you to move over to widescreen. Your laptop, your screen and your projector have all made the leap over to 16:9 ratio – it’s time you took the plunge too.

Have you noticed how old films and footage looks, well, ancient on TV when it’s shown in the old ratio and has big black bars down each side? Sorry to break it to you, but if you’re stuck using 4:3 ratio for your PowerPoint and Keynote, your presentations are going to look equally old fashioned.

But it’s more than simply keeping up with the Joneses. Blog picMaking the move over to 16:9 gives you more room to play with on your slides – create white space and let your slide breathe! Use the extra width to develop visuals that engage your audience! Heck, deliver slides that look like they belong in this decade!

If you’re responsible for stuff like corporate PowerPoint templates at your workplace, sort it out pronto and your colleagues will love you forever more. If you’re one of the users stuck with ye olde PowerPoint 4:3 template, harass the marketing team until they see the error of their ways (perhaps send them a link to this blog to speed things up) and make the move over. If they dig their heels in, whisper in their ears that the default ratio on the latest version of PowerPoint is now 16:9 – the world has changed and it’s time for them to catch up.

 

2. Don’t lose your nerve

We’ve spotted a bit of a pattern on important presentations. At the very start of the process, presenters (yep, you) are full of good intentions. You embrace the concept of ‘less is more’ both in terms of content on a slide and slide count, full of vim, vigour and determination that this time it’ll all be different – no bullets, valuable visuals and a clear audience-centric message. It’s shaping up to the best presentation you’ll ever deliver – happy days.

The problem is that as time marches on, you start to lose your bottle. You start to sprinkle a little more detail here and there, sticking in a complex diagram to demonstrate that you’ve really put the hours into the research and tweaking your message so as not to rock the boat.

Often, because the stakes are so high, you make the fateful mistake of opening up your presentation to committee. This truly is the death knell to any chance you had of developing a powerful presentation. By all means, call upon your colleagues for feedback and collaboration but never EVER rescind control – it’s your presentation… own it.

Collaboration = good

Committee = unmitigated disaster

Now don’t get us wrong, friend – we know that standing up and delivering a presentation this important is gut-wrenchingly stressful but don’t fall into the trap of compromising and diluting it as D-day approaches. Go back to the ideas that were the catalyst for version 1 of your presentation – the structure and message, the carefully chosen supporting content and the simple but effective visuals. Granted, they may not have been perfect but they’re likely to be a much purer more focused set of slides than the watered-down, ‘safe’ and ultimately homogenous presentation you’ve ended up with.

Go on – be brave, have faith and don’t compromise (your audience and your message deserve it).

3. There’s more to life than PowerPoint

Granted, this one might require a small leap of faith (call it a leapette). PowerPoint is not the only tool available to you as a presenter. There – we’ve said it…

Presentation Landscape WheelArmed with nothing more than a good understanding of your audience, a strong message and structure and, when required, the ability to visualise key elements of your story, you can deliver a presentation armed with nothing more than a pen and napkin/whiteboard/notepad.

If you wish to get fancy, you might want to dust down the tablet you were given a couple of years back in a pique of technological excitement (it’s not just for Angry Birds). Or you might want to try the multitude of other options out there (Prezi, Powtoon, Keynote, SlideRocket…the list goes on).

We’ve never had so many options to consider as presenters so have a look around and see what works for you and your audience…and what doesn’t. And it’s this last bit that is soooo very important. Whatever option(s) you choose, it is imperative that it works for your audience.

Not you – your audience.

Playing with new technology is always fun but if the net result of your experimentation is a presentation that bamboozles your audience or leaves them thinking more about the animation effect you used rather than your message, you’ve messed up.

So there you go…three simple changes to the way you approach presentations that will make all the difference. A difference to the way you engage with your audiences, a difference to the clarity and impact of your message and a difference in the results you’re likely to get from all your hard work. What’s not to like?

Have a wonderful 2015…

The Eyeful Team x

The Power and Privilege of Presentations

Friday, January 16th, 2015 by Simon<

Ours is a ruddy wonderful job. Every day is different, every project a new opportunity to do something extraordinary.

But sometimes, certain projects jump out at you… We get the chance to work with amazing individuals who are making a massive and palpable difference to the World and the people in it. We also get a chance to flex our creative muscles, think outside the corporate box and develop something that does more than make us proud – it brings a lump to our throats.

Our recent work with MRC Technology is a case in point. Their unstinting energy and enthusiasm to work alongside peers to address the spectre of dementia is awe-inspiring. The fact they came to us to help them spread the word to the most influential medical professionals and government ministers is a privilege we don’t take lightly.

#thepowerofpresentations