Whether you’re giving a corporate presentation or simply looking for better everyday communication with execs, colleagues, and clients, you can look to the concise and engaging storytelling methods of Hollywood filmmakers to make you a valuable contributor in the workplace. Here are six strategies:
- The three key points: Screenwriters are able to write so quickly and powerfully because they start with three key scenes, and then build the rest of the story around them. This keeps them out of the weeds, and also makes it easier for an audience to remember the story and share it with other people. Business people can do the same thing: figure out your three most important points and emphasize those. It will make it easier to present your information, and you can choose what people remember.
- Make your points with examples: An audience understands and remembers a concept when they see an example. This helps them grab ahold of it and process the information. So always look for a way to describe your points with an example, and cap it off with the opportunity your point presents. Put the example and opportunity together and you’ve created a story they can relate to, and one they can take away and use.
- Make it visual and make it better: An example helps us understand a point, but actually seeing the example makes it even clearer. A visual component also puts everyone on the same page because we all wrap our heads around the same concept. Utilizing photos rather than drawings is usually more effective; photos depict real things, making it even easier for people to relate and believe.
- Speak to the emotional side: Whether it’s laughter or tears, exhilaration or fear, we all know how powerful movies can pull our emotions. But for some reason, when we get to the office and pull out our PowerPoint, we go straight for facts and figures and forget about emotion. Speaking to the rational side and simply informing will only take you so far. If you want people to get behind you, you have to inspire them and make them believe, and that comes with engaging their emotional side.
- Stand up for what you believe: Like a great actor, one of the most profound ways you can improve your workplace communication skills is to get up and engage your audience with confidence. Use gestures and body language to enhance your message. Most importantly, because the words are coming from you, you’ve positioned yourself as an expert and increased your credibility.
- Be real and relate to everyone as normal people: Filmmakers know their audiences and know how to hit the right buttons. You can follow their lead by understanding your audience. The more genuine you are, the better—it helps people bond with you, which is easier than trying to achieve a polished perfection. The reverse is also true when you interact with others. Everyone, including CEOs, are normal people, with concerns that can make them feel anxious or vulnerable. Understanding that they aren’t perfect can help you relate more easily, lead you to ask the kinds of questions that open them up, and get to the heart of what really matters. It’s easy to achieve this simpatico: just listen. When people feel heard, they share more, and they put more faith in you because they feel understood by you. Most importantly, it feels like a real conversation, because you’ve tapped into the engaging and emotional power of storytelling.
Written By Ted Frank.
Ted Frank is the author of Get to the Heart. As a story strategist at Backstories Studio, he uses movie-style storytelling to help people make their presentations quicker, more visual, and more emotionally effective. A longtime veteran in advertising, marketing, consulting, and filmmaking, Frank has discovered how to transform corporate projects into powerful stories for companies such as Netflix, Fiat Chrysler, Twitter, and Pacific Gas & Electric.