How do we feel when someone’s presentation consists of them reading their Powerpoint slides?

Bored to tears.

“You could have mailed it to me,'” says presentation expert Jerry Weissman. His clients are typically financiers charged with raising hundreds of millions of dollars by persuading institutional investors to make large investments.

Jerry’s advice?

“You are the story… The presenter is the story.”

“Whatever your business,” writes entertainment mogul Peter Guber in Tell to Win, his wonderful book on storytelling, “When it’s time to tell your story, it’s showtime!”

This week we’re exploring best practices from Tell to Win on the “art of the tell” or how we can to deliver powerful stories to achieve our desired business outcomes.

How we deliver or tell our story is critical so our audience will own it, act on it, and then tell it forward.

The key, Peter writes, is to turn the audience into active participants, not just passengers. Because then they’ll pay closer attention, absorb more information, feel more engaged, and be far more likely to get our point.

How do they participate?

By laughing, crying, getting excited, questioning old beliefs, embracing possibilities, answering questions, standing or moving their bodies, or handling our props.

We start by taking a lesson from professional athletes and performers: We need to “get in state” before we face our audience. As storytellers, as presenters, as meeting participants, our goal is to “get into the right mental, emotional, and physical state,” Peter writes. “It involves focusing your entire being on your intent to achieve your purpose. This state is vital to the art of the tell because your intention is actually what signals listeners to pay attention to you.”

We focus all our attention on our intention.

UCLA neuroscientist Dan Siegel explains the mirror neurons in the brain only turn on when they sense the other person is acting intentionally, with conscious and active purpose.

The words we say account for only 7% of meaning. 38% comes from the tone of our voice, and 55% is communicated through body language.

Our goal?

Train our body and mind to be clear on our intention. We review our story and goals. We focus on the emotions we intend to move in our audience. We relax our body and control our breath.

What we focus on grows.

The great aerialist Karl Wallendra‘s capacity for concentration on his intention was legendary. He performed death-defying feats on the high wire for more than 50 years. Then, before a tightrope show without a safety net in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he did something he had never done before: he personally supervised the attachment of the guy wires. His wife recalls him being anxious before taking the wire. He seemed focused on the risk of falling rather than on succeeding.

That was the night he fell to his death.


Reflection: What’s worked best for you in the past when preparing for a big presentation?

Action: Prior to my next presentation, focus all my attention on my intention or desired outcome.

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