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The simplest story structure for presenters

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Most corporate presentations lack that little bit of  ‘story structure’ that is the foundation of making sense to, and being remembered by, the audience.  A simple, 3-act story requires that your presentation has-

  • A definite beginning- That sets the context, introduces the characters (the presenter and the subject of the presentation), and sets the question to be answered by the story.  Act one has one purpose- to make the audience care.
  • A middle- In which the dilemma to be faced, the question to be answered, the thing to be done, is explored and the path laid for the final act.- The purpose of the second act is simply to develop the story in such a way that the audience cares about the result and understand why the ending is like it is, whether they agree with the conclusion or not.
  • An ending- The recommendation, the action required, the next steps.  Clearly stated and reasoned to. The purpose of the final act is to resolve the issue raised in act one.  Audiences like certainty (and a happy ending!) but we can’t always give them happy endings can we?

Novels, plays, films, poems and even jokes, rely upon this structure to deliver the message that they contain.  So often in business, we miss out a part of the story and provoke a response in our audiences which don’t help us to be successful.  We deliver the punchline without the set-up, or the set up and no punchline. And that is annoying for even the most patient person.

Here’s a really useful link to Wikipedia for a bit of history, if that floats your boat.  If you want the full, brilliant explanation of how story structure works, you must read ‘Story’ by Robert Mckee, Hollywood screenwriting legend.  His website is here.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey


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