Over at Marketing Catalyst, Bruce Allen has written what may be the single best post I've ever read on how to deliver a great presentation. Part of it is storytelling.I live within ten miles of the best person at this in the world: Steve Jobs.
Anyone presenting anything can learn an enormous amount from Jobs. His speaking skills are legendary. He is so persuasive, so compelling, and so good, that hearing Jobs speak has been described as entering a "Reality Distortion Field." Here's how Jobs' presentation skills are described in the book iCon: Steve Jobs -- The Greatest Second Act In the History of Business.
Almost anyone but a professional lecturer or a self-help guru would put an audience to sleep. Not Steve Jobs. He is a captivating speaker who exudes as much charisma to an audience of thousands as he does one-on-one (when on his best behavior). . . While his public relations people stand in the wings, panicked because they have no idea what to expect, Steve takes the stage with the aura of Mick Jagger. He is a sensational speaker, gripping, magnetic. To know that he does this without notes, without a TelePrompTer, without rehearsal, is to know you are witnessing a magic act. Steve Jobs, magician extraordinaire, pulls the rabbit out of the hat every time.
In addition to boatloads of natural talent, Jobs is a brilliant speaker because his presentations track the three points in Allen's post. He keeps his slides incredibly, almost childishly simple. He tells a story. And he saves the technical details for later.
Any effective presentation or speech has to have some emotional content. Some drama, some humor, some impact. Endless, hyperbulleted Powerpoint presentations completely squash this. The presentation itself needs to be light on bullet points, and needs to tell a story. The audience does not want to sit and read the slide. They want to HEAR YOU SPEAK. The Powerpoint deck is merely decoration. Another excellent blog post on this topic is on a site called Presentation Zen, and explores the differences between the way Bill Gates does PowerPoint and the way Jobs does. Gates' presentations are terrible, because they're not very visual, and filled with bullet points. Jobs' are spellbinding, because he tells stories, talks to the audience, and uses a lot of images.
The handout is where you can dig into details. But people who are hearing a speech love to hear a good story. The rest, as they say, is detail.
For a brilliant example of Jobs at work, watch this clip. This is Jobs introducing the iPod. Although he goes into some technical detail in this speech, more than anything, he tells a story. "Here's what the world needed. Here's what we did. Here's why it's great. Look!"
If you're reading this, and you need to give a presentation, you can do the exact same thing.