Drive your seminar attendees to action, not distraction — become a better storyteller. Indeed, two of the most powerful presentations in history, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, used storytelling as a structural device.
For speaking to large groups or presenting one-on-one, there’s no more compelling way to package your message than in a story framework. So says Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design, focusing exclusively on presentations. She is passionate about using storytelling to connect with audiences and rouse them to action.
Wrapping a presentation in story casts you as a mentor — the wise storyteller. That goes far to link audiences to your idea and persuade, Duarte says.
In her most recent book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences (Wiley 2010), she reveals how to emotionally connect and make presentations memorable experiences by employing story techniques typically used only for screenwriting and novels.
Duarte Design, one of Silicon Valley’s largest design firms, has created some 250,000 presentations for the world’s top brands. Its clients include Adobe, American Express, E*Trade, General Electric, Google, Microsoft and Wells Fargo Wealth Management, to name a few.
A Berkeley, Calif., native, Duarte, 48, started out selling office supplies, then custom high-frequency cable assemblies. Meantime, she married Mark Duarte, who, in 1980, founded Duarte Design while in college.
Two years after they wed, Nancy, then 20, joined Mark in what became a family enterprise. A keen strategist, she now heads the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm; Mark is CFO, builds custom databases and oversees I.T.
One recent afternoon, Research talked with Nancy, a dynamic, in-demand speaker herself, about how to build trust through storytelling, the best kinds of stories for FAs to tell — and more. Here is some of what she had to say about merging facts with story to turn flatliner presentations into sparkling gems.
Financial advisors need to differentiate themselves from their competition. Is storytelling a good way?
Advisors have to play this very carefully: They need to come across as very proficient and adding value, but they also need to make that emotional connection. Aristotle said that facts alone aren’t sufficient to persuade — you need three types of arguments: emotional appeal (pathos); analytic, or logical, appeal (logos); and [ethical] appeal (ethos).
So often, especially in the financial world, we jump right into the analytical. But there has to be at least a thin layer of letting audiences see your human side and why they should follow you. A lot of that comes out in the sincere stories we tell about ourselves.
But how effective is storytelling?
Story can connect the audience to your material and whatever you’re trying to persuade them to do. If you and your competitor’s product and offerings are equal but if you connect emotionally with the client and the other firm doesn’t, they’ll choose your product over the competitor’s. However, if you tell stories that are contrived, your credibility can be diminished.
What story form is best for advisors to use?
All the greatest communicators use story structure. It has a clear beginning, middle and end. It has tension and release of tension. A good story form for the advisor is where the tension and release comes from contrasting what currently is, with what could be: You’re currently here with your finances — and here’s where you could be. Using that as a structural device will get you really far in persuading [clients].
What kinds of stories should advisors tell?
You want to use a story that not only amplifies your material but makes it memorable. The story has to be relevant to the material and tie in naturally. It needs to be a story that’s told with personal conviction. It can be a fable or a personal story, but it doesn’t have to be a personal anecdote or a once-upon-a-time kind of story.
For example, data has narrative in it. With a chart, you can explain the reasons for the rise and fall. That’s a story right there. There’s narrative in numbers.
How does what you call “The Big Idea” apply to advisor presentations?
The two elements of your unique point of view and what is at stake put together in a sentence create The Big Idea. If I say, “The Florida Wetlands,” that’s a topic not a Big Idea. If I say, “The Florida Wetlands are being destroyed by humans,” that’s my point of view. But if I add “…and it’s going to cost taxpayers $700 billion,” that’s what’s at stake.
The Big Idea is your guidepost. Connect everything in your presentation to your Big Idea. If you haven’t established your Big Idea, you don’t have that guiding light to help give your presentation laser focus.