Masters of Storytelling August 2012

Masters of storytelling
August 2012
Kevin Sugrue
What’s this all about?
Some context before we start
We spend a large proportion of our time bringing research, ideas, or data to life for our work
colleagues or clients. We present actionable insights and make clear recommendations; but are
our presentations always as engaging and influential as they should be?
Why is this important?
This presentation guides you toward more impactful and influential storytelling. Great stories are
memorable, influential and resonate with their audience. They provoke an audience response and
act as a catalyst for changes in behaviour.
Who is this session designed for?
This presentation was a skills development session originally designed to help encourage brand
consultants, account planners, researchers and brand managers to be more effective storytellers.
It provides advice on storytelling theory. As well as many practical examples, resource links and
tools that create more influential presentations.
I’m an experienced presenter, what’s so important about storytelling?
I believe storytelling makes presentations more memorable and influential. Bringing ideas or
information to life with stories primes your audience to share and act upon your
A great story makes your point resonate.
What’s in the box?
Examples of Presentation Tools and Data Visualisation
The first half of the presentation provides a toolbox of ideas and aids to better storytelling.
Dip into these, explore them and they should inspire you and improve your presentation
technique. Use them as relevant to your storytelling needs. They don’t provide one fixed
template for storytelling and using few should go a long way in any singe presentation.
The second half brings together examples of storytelling theory and tips on how to write
better stories in your presentations.
Data Visualisation
Data visualisation – go watch this first
Bringing data to
life in interesting
Both simple and complex information is made more
interesting through infographics
But you don’t need a graphic designer to bring your
story, thinking or data to life
Simple infographics you make yourself may work just as well to make your point
Another example of visualising data in a fun way to aid
In this example the power of the story overcomes a need for exact accuracy in the
visualisation – people get the point quickly, even if a cake slice is slightly too large or too
Brand A 8%
Brand B 12%
Brand D 26%
Brand C 9%
Looking for inspiration? Here are over 50 ways to
visualise data
Periodic Table of Visualization Methods
– Tip to creating word clouds
Word clouds shouldn’t look like this – where
phrases have been separated
Best Brand
I love it
Word clouds should look like this
My Favourite
The Best
Great Advertising
Use the Tilde key ~ between words to join them together in the word cloud.
e.g. My~Favourite
(Can’t find the ~ symbol on your keyboard? Then hold the Alt key down and type 0126 this = ~ (Tilde)
Introducing simple graphic design and
storytelling tools
Creating titles, key messages and brand specific
colour visuals
Installing Happiness
30% Ready
Spell with Flickr
Create graphic signposting and headlines in presentations to provide emphasis,
direction, or punctuation between sections.
Flickr Colr Pickr – add photos that match brand or
campaign colours into your presentation
Maybe you could use online tools to help spell out your
key message in an engaging way?
Try this for yourself
Fiverr : get people to bring your story to life – for $5
e.g. Video results written on a beach or a success celebrated with a song.
Have a graphic designer create icons or key words for you
Fiverr - get people to bring your story to life – for $5
Laser cut coffee and cupcake stencils to say your message
Pop art pic
From 35 page PDF to a flipbook emagazine
Have your message sung to any tune
There are lots of ways to tell a good story
Different ways of presenting your story:
McKinsey v Bain & Co
Densely complex – nothing missed out,
creating almost a mini presentation on one
subject or point in one slide
McKinsey Style Example
Visual and simple – requiring an engaging
explanation of the context and correct
interpretation – but once the convention is
understood, the slide explains the story
very quickly
Bain & Co Style Example
Richard E Mayer – the importance of visuals
People understand LESS when the
presenter simply reads every word on
each slide verbatim
People listen and understand MORE
when a story is spoken and illustrated
with relevant visuals
Karaoke presentations are ones where a presenter
reads aloud every word on a screen.
This causes the audience to listen to how well each
word is read aloud – rather than listen to and
become involved with what is being said and letting
the story itself influence them.
Does your pet food
meet the evolving
needs of your pet?
Multimedia learning theory – optimal learning occurs when visual and verbal materials are presented together
simultaneously. Meyers = People & Emotional Involvement (Qual inspired storytelling) and Rational supporting data
used more sparingly (Quant illustrated for emphasis, not just a pile of numbers).
Karl Kapp – Emotions in storytelling
Emotional storytelling is more impactful.
Emotions, more than facts, lead more
strongly to actions and behaviour
change in clients.
For example – use anecdotes and verbatims to
make the client relate to the consumer’s
emotions; make examples relevant to client’s own
e.g. Don’t just say ‘There is a 3% decline in
consideration among 16-24 year olds’ if you could
say ‘Younger consumers, like your kids, are growing
less engaged and fewer are now considering buying
your brand.’
Take a personal approach to presentations – be
enthusiastic in congratulating success and deliver
warnings in a measured professional tone.
Kurt Vonnegut: Thesis on storytelling
The author Kurt Vonnegut studied famous stories and found the most widely
known and memorable ones follow commonly repeating patterns.
Good fortune
Ill Fortune
Time Line
e.g. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back.
Kurt Vonnegut: Thesis on storytelling
Cinderella, or the gospels from the Bible’s New Testament
Good fortune
Ill Fortune
Time Line
Stores that take you on a rollercoaster but clearly resolve are more
entertaining, memorable and more likely to inspire action from clients
Kurt Vonnegut: Thesis on storytelling
But what if there isn’t a clear positive or hero to your
story? Does that mean the storytelling has to be dull?
Nebulous Heroes and Villains: Hamlet, The Sopranos, The Wire
Good fortune
Ill Fortune
Time Line
Even stories where there are no ‘good guys’ or where clear success is difficult
to demonstrate can be told as gripping stories.
Storytelling example : Spaghetti Sauce
A masterclass in storytelling by Malcolm Gladwell. This concerns a
researcher who changed the way brands think and what products they
offer to consumers; through an insight into consumer needs.
Learning storytelling from Kamishibai
Source: JF Chenier
Let the audience construst the story, don’t tell them
what to think
Don’t talk about numbers or things, tell stories about
Weave facts around simple story lines, helping the
listener organise the information
Speak with enthusiasm; perform!
Storytelling is a Show Business – don’t be bashful in
showing what you mean
With stats and details, guide the audience towards the
point and give them time to see how this links to your
Focus the story on what they should see in data
Don’t forget the candy; give them something positive
to think about that they didn’t have before
Kamishibai storytellers didn’t charge for their story – they sold candy
to their audience. What candy do you sell to ensure a warm
welcome when you turn up to present again next time?
So you want to be a great storyteller?
Where to start?
Use visual analogies to help bring story points to life
Did the client have a big idea, but
leave the consumer confused by the
ad – a bit like jumbling up the
picture shown above? We see that
all the parts are there, but the
finished work doesn’t quite make
Collect anecdotes that demonstrate relevant examples
of your point
This card was in a box containing a shirt bought from an online fashion retailer. It immediately puts the buyer
at ease, reassuring them and leaving them in control if they need to change their purchase. This provides a
good example of customer service
Analogies may be more compelling and memorable
ways of communicating a key point.
For example
This is Eugene Cernan.
He is one of only 24 astronauts who have travelled to the moon.
He was the last man to walk on the moon.
Do you remember him and what he did?
This is Neil Armstrong.
He is one of only 24 astronauts who have travelled to the moon.
He was the first man to walk on the moon.
Do you remember him and what he did?
People are more likely to remember brands that are first to achieve a major distinction.
What unique first and point of distinction will be your brand’s claim to fame?
Crayola Analogy
Product fragmentation vs. The Long Tail
Your brand needs to be clear
at which point ‘doing more of
the same thing’ becomes
unprofitable and ‘doing
something different’ becomes
Crayola Crayon Timeline
Be more interactive
– Use vote response cards during your presentation before revealing key results
Particularly useful for auditoriums / large audiences that are otherwise hard to gauge and
interact with. Probe by asking people why they voted the way they did.
Use a cultural, entertainment, or iconic thematic to
help you build engaging storytelling
The Brand Trilogy
Set your brand on the path to adventure and success:
What will be your brand’s...
Point of Supremacy?
Ultimatum for the consumer?
An idea from AMV
Use a cultural, entertainment, or iconic thematic to
help you build engaging storytelling
Brands don’t win awards for the Best
Performance without also having
Best proposition
Best script
Best supporting cast
Use a cultural, entertainment, or iconic thematic to
help you build engaging storytelling
Or are there heroes to
celebrate in your story?
Were there super powers in
brands to be dramatised?
Use a cultural, entertainment, or iconic thematic to
help you build engaging storytelling
Could a brand horror story be discussed with
a touch of humour, to defuse tension or
Brand Toys – a conversation tool for brands
Example: Talk about social media iconically
Appropriate use of graphics make a
presentation more engaging
Would icons aid navigation through your presentation?
The Resonant Phrase
Collect interesting images and quotes and save them on the
server – so great ideas are shared and not lost
The Resonant Phrase
• A good turn of phrase helps to gain audience attention
summarise a point or demonstrate an issue to great effect.
• A resonant phrase leaves a lasting impression on the listener
or reader. It’s memorable and motivational.
• A resonant phrase may act as a catalyst or clear warning;
helping to influence your audience, changing their behaviour.
• Some examples...
Example resonant phrases*
Brands with common sense or a sense of humour share the same thing; only they
move at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense dancing.
The more you celebrate the difference in your brand, the more there is to
Are we are becoming so specialised that we risk knowing more and more about
less and less?
Conformity is the arthritis that sets into a brand, making it less athletic, nimble and
Advertising shrinks demand for the ordinary and drives brands to astonish.
Celebrating a brand's uniqueness spreads infectious joy.
Our work is always a portrait of ourselves. The only question is whether we strive
to perfect, or merely reflect a shadow of the original.
*Some of these are quotes that I’ve adapted and repurposed for relevance in marketing or research
Resonant phrases I love
• Creativity isn't an occupation, it's a preoccupation .
- John Hegarty
• Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they
are the solution.
-Clay Shirky
• I don't want to invent anything that won't sell. Sales are
proof of utility, and utility is success.
- Thomas Edison
• The simplification of anything is always sensational.
- G K Chesterton
Writing your story
Using any presentation creation tool shapes the way we think, rather
than letting you be innovative in telling a story.
This is why presentation slides often look the same. PowerPoint is
great, but it constrains you; so you work within set parameters.
Pen and paper allow for freeform
thinking and let you imagine how
your data, ideas and story should
come to life.
Create an Oasis of Time and Space
To write a story you need to think. And
thinking works best when it is
So find a space where you can’t be
interrupted; a sort of oasis for writing.
Set both a time and deadline to write in.
Ensure you go to the oasis with a clear
understanding of the task – what needs to
be done. What does the finish line look
Listen to John Cleese discuss being creative
at the link below.
When you have your story – always have it checked
over by someone with a fresh pair of eyes
– Avoid mistakes you will never notice, because you
get too close to the work. Every great writer has an
editor and a proof reader.
Discuss and build the ideas in your story through
discussion with others.
Great storytelling is...
• Emotively Engaging (involving)
• Different (distinctive)
• Interesting
• Have a clear context
• Uses evidence to support the key points
• Includes actionable insights and clear recommendations
It should also be focused and ideally single minded, as the more unrelated points you raise,
the fewer the audience will remember.
By ensuring you include new news, unique information, present with credibility and remain
relevant to the audience and subject, you will be more persuasive.
These recommendations are inspired by Millward Brown research
Great stories are involving and memorable. They include anecdotes and
emotion. They make the audience think.
There are many ways to tell a story. But a story about people and ideas
is more likely to influence action among your audience than a story
that only sets out facts or numbers.
I hope I’ve inspired you to be more engaged in storytelling.
Kevin Sugrue
Thank you
This presentation is not all original work. It contains a combination of ideas
and material from dozens of talented people. I thank them all and have tried
to name them and link to their work where possible.