Telling your story (Part 3) – Set the scene

You started your presentation with a strong opening that caught your audience attention. Let’s now move to the second part, setting the scene!  In all the stories, the first part presents the good guy, the bad guy and the environment. This is this exact framework that a good presenter should use.

People love normality… with a twist. For instance:  Snow White (great re-interpretation with the movie Mirror, mirror), Spiderman and Star Wars. In each of these stories, the hero is a normal guy. Snow White is a young girl, although a princess, with a huge heart: she loves people and people love her. Peter Parker is a high school student, and orphan, living what seems a normal life before being bitten by a radioactive spider. Luke Skywalker is another orphan raised by his uncle and aunt, and acts as a normal young adult. In all cases, each of us could be one of these people. This is the good guy, you!

Time to define the environment in which you operate. If you present your business plan to investors or venture capitalists, after your opening, define the environment in which your company is operating. If you present a new project to the management team, start with explaining where you are before the beginning of the project. If you present your yearly results to the board of the company, remind the members the state of the market and of your department at the beginning of the fiscal period. In a fiction story, setting the scene allows to present the situation and the atmosphere of the plot.

Let’s not forget the bad guys. In business terms, competition! Let’s be clear, there are no good stories without bad guys, as well no sound business without competition. What would be Snow White without the Queen? What would be Spiderman without the Green Goblin? What would be Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader? In business, what would be Microsoft without Google or Apple? What would be Mercedes without BMW? What would be Nike without Adidas or Reebok? Competition is crucial, because it will the base of the tension necessary to deliver a great story (this will be covered in the fifth part of the series).

You may say that if you are to present a project to your management, there is no competition. Although this may vary (think for example of your project related to others if you want to attract more budget or resources), you will want to position early the challenges you will face. Understanding this will not be a cup of tea and being realistic is key to a compelling story.

At that time within your presentation, your audience should be all eyes and ears. There comes the time to bring them back in and answer the decisive question: WIIFM, What’s In It For Me? This will be next week topic.

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