How to Develop an Effective Presentation Narrative, and Why it’s Important.

19 April 2018

Updated March 2021

Are you wondering why a strong narrative is so important in a presentation – and how you can develop your own?

In today’s market, no business can afford to squander face time with a customer by not being clear and succinct about what they do and the value they deliver.

If your presentations aren’t getting the traction you need, it could be for a number of reasons. It could be your presentations are too generic and not relevant to your customers, your messaging may not be clear and you could be experiencing the infamous ‘death by PowerPoint’.

Either way, it’s never a good feeling when your presentations are letting the side down – and narrative plays an essential role in developing customer-centric interactive presentations that truly resonate and engage your audience. Without it, they tend to switch off and lose track.

Yet, people tend to overlook narrative and can forget that at the end of the day, there is a customer who is going to be listening to your presentation. Walking in with a generic deck and going through it in a linear style, skipping slides or having to move backwards and forwards, often with no thought or consideration to the narrative, can be very off-putting and confusing.

That’s why we’re going to explain more about the importance of a good narrative below, as well as giving you some helpful tips on how to develop yours.

What makes narrative so important?

The narrative is the heart of any good presentation; without a clear narrative, there is no story for your audience to understand and latch onto. This means your audience will have to work hard to try and figure out what is being said, where you’re presentation is going, what you need them to do or think and why you are the right partner for them. It makes it hard for them to recall your key messages and retell your story to other decision-makers.

Essentially, a narrative means you’re telling them a story with a clear, simple and logical flow; you’re conveying to them an idea and telling it in a compelling, engaging and meaningful way that builds towards a clear action point for them. It stitches together what are a set of individual slides, and makes sure they are coherent and work together. With a good narrative, you can ensure that every slide and every line of content has a purpose.

Without a narrative, all you have is a series of slides. There’s no story for your audience to understand, and you’re left talking at them – instead of having a meaningful and mutually beneficial conversation.

Remember: a presentation is all about getting your audience to take the action you need them to take – such as adopting an idea, moving to the next stage of their buying process etc. – therefore you must have a clear narrative argument that lays down why they should do what you want them to do. This is central to the whole idea of narrative.

How to develop a good presentation narrative

1. Action

First things first; in order to develop the best narrative for your presentation, you have to establish the action you need your audience to take afterwards.

Don’t underestimate this step.

Your entire presentation should be based on moving your audience to take the action you need them to take. It must be specific, clear, achievable and fit with their processes. For instance, every company will have a buying process and stages they need to go through with a new partner, so make sure your presentation clearly recognises this and don’t jump the gun. It’s rare that any deal will be signed off the back of a presentation so think carefully what can be achieved in your presentation to move the customer one step closer to signing a deal with you.

2. It’s all about your customers

Now, you have to align this with your customers;

  • The problems they’re trying to solve, their challenges and goals
  • Look at their job roles, the market they’re in, and the current trends impacting their sector
  • What is it about your products or services that they need?
  • How do these things affect them in their everyday life?
  • What opportunities or insights can you bring to them when you partner? 
  • How will you mitigate any risk in them adopting your solutions?

You need to put yourself into your customer’s shoes and critically review what you will be presenting to them. And, ask yourself the most important question “So what”. If you apply So What to one of your value propositions and you can’t succinctly answer that question then you need to look more closely at your proposition.

We discuss how we work with clients on developing a narrative

Once you’ve taken everything above into account, these points can be brought together as a slidemap or storyboard, the first step to building the narrative and your presentation. This phase is about laying out your argument and proof points in a logical order. You could use sticky notes, each note or slide should represent a message or key thought or proof point. Don’t cram everything into one page give your argument room to breath.

Now, there will be a number of ways you can build your narrative, you may have ideas for different starting points e.g, do you start with the about us section, or industry trends or the customer challenges. There isn’t really a right answer, it very much depends on the customer, their knowledge of you their challenges and where they are in the buying process etc.

But, at least with a storyboard you can easily test out different approaches to find the right mix. Your final presentation may also be interactive so this will let you tailor the narrative and flow depending on the audience questions.

As a creative technology business, we go through these exact steps with all our clients. This is also something that any good agency should be able to help you with – even if it’s just to offer some free, impartial advice.

TIP: For more advice, check out our blog (with video): ‘How to Tell a Persuasive B2B Story With Your Presentations’.

Advice on developing presentation narrative

If you’re looking to develop an effective and compelling narrative for your own presentation, we’d recommend you carefully consider the points above. We find that working through the above with our clients has quite a dramatic effect on how they approach important presentations and meetings and really helps them to refine their proposition and messaging.

There’s nothing to stop you following this approach yourself, however, you may feel more comfortable engaging with an agency – even if it’s just to get a bit of outside perspective which can be crucial in sense checking your proposition.

As an example of the process, one of our clients Isotrak had lots of old sales presentations with no consistent narrative or message with a focus very much on the product. So, we held a workshop to go through the presentations and talk in-depth about their customers. From here, we created the content map which went a long way in helping them to focus on their key messages and proposition.

We then created a storyboard which enabled the entire sales team to review and practice the presentation to ensure the narrative and messages were spot on; at this stage, they were all focused on the content and narrative, without having to worry about the final design. You can see the final result in a more detailed case study.

Interactive presentation for Isotrak

In summary

By now, you should have a good idea of where to start when developing a customer-focused narrative. The above advice is something you can either follow yourself when creating a narrative, or it can be something an interactive agency should also be happy to help you with. It’s completely up to you.

If you do decide to go to an agency, they should be able to show you previous examples of their work, along with offering you some free, impartial advice and guidance – so you can make the right choice for your business.

Curious about what else is possible when developing an interactive presentation? We encourage you to get in touch with us. We read and reply to every email we receive.

Stuart Janicki
Head of Customer Experience
 
If you’ve got an idea and want to chat it through then just get in touch. Or give us a call 🤙 on 0117 329 1712.
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