Storytelling for technical presentations involves breaking down complex information into simpler forms by supplementing them through a relatable and highly engaging story. The focus is on providing an easily understandable story that can achieve the objective of delivering technical information.
First, let’s consider why technical presentations are different, and then we will head over to the storytelling part. We will consider why storytelling is important, how we can perform storytelling, the 5 Cs, and end with how to improve storytelling.
What is a technical presentation? How is it different from the other ones?
It is a presentation where technical information- often involving complex and detailed information– is broken down in an accessible and summarized form. It is common in conferences and academic forums. The main purpose is to deliver highly complex information in a way that is understood by the target audience.
Other forms of presentation may not involve such highly complex information. Check here to learn more about other types as well.
Why is storytelling important in presentations?
Storytelling tends to facilitate engagement– this is very important because grabbing the attention of an audience can be a major task, especially when there is relatively uninteresting information involved.
Even apart from engagement, it helps to process things easier. Most of us think in terms of stories or experiences (framework example, x happened after y, which is what made x important). Hence, putting information in the form of stories or even embedding a concept through an otherwise unrelated story can facilitate greater understanding and remembrance because we process that information better.
Lastly, storytelling can help in persuading an audience towards a particular goal.
How do you tell a story in a technical presentation?
The goal here is to deliver technical information. The story is a framework around which this is done.
Create relatable characters
These should be easy for the audience to identify with. E.g., in an audience with employees, “Let’s talk about Adam. He is a fictitious employee working in a company just like ours. He also struggles with….” Notice how it also brings attention to a conflict needing to be addressed.
Talk about relatable experiences and familiar concepts
This will make the audience eager to find out how the characters resolve it. For this, you need to know your audience- their level of understanding and what sort of experiences they tend to have. While at it, bring some touch of reality to it. E.g., “Adam puts so much effort into that code of his, and the typical user just skips that part in the program!”
Build shocking elements
These should make the content memorable, if possible, without it being forced. E.g., “He was doing his usual tasks and happened to discover… and it completely changed his workflow! And according to some studies, 88% of people benefit this way. That’s a huge number, right?” It is also essential to describe the positive change in sufficient detail such that the audience can adopt it themselves if that’s your intention. You can also put some evidence and factual information while telling the story. Alternatively, support the story with the evidence (e.g., statistics) right after.
Provide a meaningful conclusion
This should be one that feels relevant and highlights the main point you were trying to convey. It should be simple enough that a child would understand it. If there is prerequisite knowledge required to do so, mention it so at the very least, if someone does not know and is still interested, they can go back and look it up.
Check this article to know some storytelling ideas for technical presentations.
Furthermore, if you’re interested in how to deliver presentations in class, check this article.
5 Cs of storytelling
These are Circumstance, Curiosity, Characters, Conversations, and Conflicts. They essentially delineate important elements of any story that should be kept in mind by a speaker.
It adds context to the story. When it took place, why it took place, and where it took place. It should be descriptive enough to visualize but not so much that it brings attention away from the main point.
This part brings in an element that the audience is interested in. Something unknown to them at present that they want to know more about. This is exactly how thrillers work- people want to know what happened next, so they keep turning the pages.
The characters in your story should be relatable. If they’re flawless and perfect, the audience fails to relate and may not learn as well through that lens.
The story should have elements that evoke conversations. This is typically through evoking strong emotions. E.g., something extremely funny would be more likely to elicit conversation because the audience will want to make others laugh as well.
This involves some sort of struggle or issue that the characters aim to resolve. The process of doing this is the main crux of the story.
Types of storytelling
Storytelling can be categorized in many different ways. A few of these are:
- Rags to riches: How someone transforms themselves from a poor background to a rich one while undergoing struggles.
- In Medias Res: Instead of starting the story based on its chronological sequence, we start off with the main action or conflict and then go back. This is often done in movies nowadays and builds curiosity quite well.
- Converging Ideas: Shows how different ideas or perspectives come together to form a single desirable outcome.
There are many more types than this and you can pick one based on what suits your theme. Check here for some popular forms, along with examples.
How to improve presentation storytelling?
- Aim to understand your audience and tailor your presentation to their level.
- Have a structure in mind rather than speaking whatever comes to mind. This way, you can highlight important sections, like the main conflict and conclusion.
- Use visuals if applicable. It does not have to be the exact thing but sufficient enough to help the audience better imagine the story you’re telling them.
- Include as many real and relatable instances as possible. Those get through to people much more than other content.
- Practice! The tone, pitch, and a few other features can only be assessed once you try it out. Have a few tries presenting before the actual thing.
Want to know more about how to deliver an effective presentation? Check this article.
The article provides an understanding of technical presentations and storytelling. It then delineates how to tell a story in technical presentations. It also provides the 5 Cs of storytelling that acts as a framework for creating quality stories. Lastly, we consider how to improve storytelling in technical presentations.
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