Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts

Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts leads business writing and presentation workshops through the country and is the author of 25 books, including Storytelling in Presentations For Dummies, Technical Writing For Dummies and 135 Tips for Writing Successful Business Documents. She has been featured in The New York Times and in magazines such as Profit, Home Business, and CIO.

Articles From Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts

6 results
6 results
Business Writing with AI For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 06-17-2024

Unleash the power of AI to transform your writing process and revolutionize your creativity. This Cheat Sheet introduces you to some common AI lingo and popular AI tools to get you started, and helps you to identify your target audience, generate a writing brief, and polish and proofread your content.

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How to Create Truly Engaging Presentations

Article / Updated 10-30-2023

It’s in our nature to tell stories and share our life’s events. And you probably use hyperboles (exaggerations) to make your stories more engaging — peppering them with statements such as, “I nearly died of embarrassment” or “My feet were killing me.” While this casual sharing is different from being in front of an audience, you do know how to tell stories. You have lots of them. After all, you started telling stories when you made babbling sounds as a baby. You can use this innate storytelling ability to create presentations that engage your audience, rather than put them to sleep. Don't have time to read the entire article? Jump to the quick read summary. What do we think of when we hear "presentation?" PowerPoint slides. And, yes, slides are helpful — but they're helpful as visual aids, not as the main storyteller. Good storytelling can make your presentations sizzle in ways that slides can’t. An introduction to storyopia When people ask or search for "how to create a presentation," or "how to create a PowerPoint presentation," they're focusing on the technical aspect of the process. Of course, that's important. However, there's something even more critical to consider before you get down to creating your slides: Storyopia. My concept of Storyopia represents the ideal. It's marriage of the words "story" and "utopia." It’s the ideal story that takes the audience on a journey from what is to what could be; a journey to where they see themselves as heroes along that same path. Try to recall presentations you’ve attended. What drove the presentation? Bullet points? Charts? Tables? The monotonous drone of a facilitator plodding through a dry rendition of data? My guess is all of them. (A pretty tedious experience.) Since people began to communicate, storytelling has been the lifeblood to getting points or ideas across and making them memorable. Stories make ideas and words come alive. They explain examples or points of view in a way that resonates. People naturally connect emotionally with stories, associating their feelings with their learning. Stories aren’t meant to be objective. They’re meant to sway emotions, generate suspense, add surprise, create wonder, facilitate the call to action, and take your audience on a journey to success. Using the story arc When you create a presentation, keep the story arc in mind. The figure below shows the typical story arc (also known as dramatic arc or narrative arc). It represents storyopia. When creating a story using the arc as a guide, your story will have a natural, connected flow: Cite the incident (the plot) telling what is. Build rising tension toward the climax. Work towards the resolution, which is what could be. Always create tension in your story. It’s critical but often overlooked. If the tension isn’t obvious, this is a good opportunity to embellish with a story. After you’ve filled out a start-up brief — a tool for identifying your audience — you’ll have a good idea of your audience’s pain and what matters to them. Focus on storyopia: the gap between what is and what can be. Take them on that journey so they see themselves as heroes on the same path. To learn more about the start-up brief, as well as storyboarding and other helpful tools for preparing excellent presentations, grab a copy of my book/eBook Storytelling in Presentations For Dummies. As part of creating presentations, your story will have characters: people, companies, or things, such as processes or equipment. There will be goals, struggles, challenges, and a positive or negative outcome. Either outcome serves as a valuable lesson. Let’s see how beginnings, middles, and ends can become a story: Beginning: Introduce characters with the same challenge, problem, complication, or issue your audience is facing — the reason they’re attending. You’ll hook them because they’ll feel like they’re in the same situation. Edit the details to keep the story simple and relatable. You may start with, “One of my customers was dealing with your exact issue(s).” Middle: You’ve already sparked their curiosity. Now focus on the characters’ problems and how your solution brought the change they needed. Don’t merely go from Point A to Point B. The long cuts and shortcuts are what make the journey interesting, worthwhile, and relatable. End: This is where you tie it together, targeted to the CTA. Deliver the main takeaways and lessons your audience should remember based on the success of your characters. Let your audience see the happy ending where they imagine themselves as heroes achieving these same positive outcomes. Always give your characters names to make them more relatable, but change the names for the purpose of anonymity. People don’t identify with words such as attendee, coworker, colleague, or manager. Also, provide a vivid description of your main character and the setting so your audience can envision the scenario and place themselves in the situation. For example, if you’re presenting to a group about sales strategies because sales have been slumping, you may share a story of [name] who worked for [company for x years] and how he was able to bring his sales and commissions up to a much higher level by [strategy]. Pitting the heroes against the villains From bedtime stories when we were kids to great novels and movies as we became older, a good story draws us. We love heroes. They display qualities we admire. They show us how to overcome challenges. We can recall superhero caped crusaders: Batman, Batgirl, Superman, Zorro, Shazam, Wonder Woman, Scarlet Witch, Thor, and others. We all want to be superheroes and live happily ever after in our worlds of family, friends, and business. Are there heroes in business presentations? Absolutely — the audience! This is how heroes and villains play a role in happy endings: Heroes: Think of the character Yoda from the Star Wars series. Yoda was the legendary Jedi Master who trained Jedi Knights for 800 years. Yoda was cool. He was a hero in addition to being a mentor and instructor. He unlocked the path to immortality in characters such as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and others who became heroes in their own rights. You can be the Yoda in your presentation, unlocking the path to slaying the villain and guiding your audience toward success. Heroes can even be antiheroes — people who display true human nature. People who make poor decisions that may harm those around them, intentionally or not. Some are even well intentioned, such as Robin Hood, the classical literary antihero. He stole from the rich (bad) and gave to the poor (good). Even Donald Duck has been labeled antihero for his short and often explosive temper. Villains: Without villains (often the most interesting characters) there would be no stories and no heroes. For example, if not for Cruella De Vil, 101 Dalmatians would merely feature lots of spotted canines running around. Without Scar in The Lion King scheming to be next in line to seize the throne, there would be no story, and Simba wouldn’t have become a hero. In business, the villain is the problem or challenge. That can be unscrupulous people, anti-technology diehards, a combative person, the competition, and so on. A villain may also be a non-person: a specific event, befuddled communication, meager lead generation, declining customer base, poor cash flow, inability to retain valuable employees, failure to balance quality and growth, software that isn’t producing as expected, and so much more. Happy endings: You don’t want the victory to be too easy or too predictable — it kills the interest and suspense. At the beginning of every story the villain must be strong, the victim’s problems must seem insurmountable, and the hero’s task must seem challenging. Your story needs an imagined future where the audience puts themselves in the place of slaying their villain and making themselves heroes. Perhaps your audience will use the knowledge they learned from you to: Add $$$ to their bottom line Become more innovative Discover the right tools or technology Take a leadership position Communicate with impact Get the big contract signed Procure a grant Quick Read Summary In our daily lives, we often use hyperboles to add zest to our stories, making them more engaging. But when it comes to presentations, we tend to default to bullet points and charts, which can be monotonous. However, there's a better way to captivate your audience: the art of storytelling. Think of a presentation, and you might envision PowerPoint slides. While slides have their place as visual aids, the real storyteller should be you. Good storytelling can infuse life into your presentations, leaving a lasting impact on your audience. Before diving into creating slides, consider "Storyopia," a concept that merges "story" and "utopia." Storyopia is the ideal narrative that takes your audience on a journey from the current reality to what could be, casting them as heroes along the way. Storytelling is a timeless means of communication. It breathes life into ideas and words, resonating emotionally with your audience. Stories are not meant to be objective but to evoke emotions, generate suspense, and facilitate the call to action. When crafting a presentation, keep the story arc in mind: Cite the Incident (What Is): Start by presenting the current scenario, laying out the facts. Build Tension: Create rising tension, keeping your audience engaged and curious. Work Towards Resolution (What Could Be): Guide your audience toward a better future, making them see themselves as heroes on the journey. To make your story relatable, introduce characters facing the same challenges as your audience. In the middle, highlight their struggles and how your solution brought positive change. End with the takeaways and lessons your audience should remember. Heroes and villains play a crucial role in your narrative. Your audience becomes the hero, looking to you as their guide (like Yoda in Star Wars), helping them overcome the villain (the problem or challenge). The villain can take various forms, from uncooperative individuals to technological obstacles. To ensure an engaging story, make the victory challenging but achievable. Your audience should envision themselves slaying their own villains and becoming heroes in their respective narratives. Incorporate storytelling into your presentations to inspire your audience and leave a lasting impact. Whether it's increasing profits, fostering innovation, or solving challenges, your storytelling can guide them to success. Unleash the power of Storyopia and transform your presentations from mundane to unforgettable. Make your audience the hero in their own story of triumph. Hungry for more? Go back and read the article or check out the book.

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Know Your Audience to Create Engaging Presentations

Article / Updated 10-19-2023

In the context of creating presentations, I compare understanding your audience to many of the courtroom scenes you’ve viewed in the movies and on TV. During the trial, attorneys pose leading questions they know will impact the jurors as they intend. They can do that because they’ve had the opportunity to get to know them beforehand through questioning. The attorneys can relate stories aimed at strengthening their clients’ cases to sway the jurors. The jurors become the heroes because they (presumably) reach a fair and equitable judgment. The selection of jurors can contribute to winning or losing the case even before it’s even tried. Let’s relate this to presentations. As you are beginning to create a presentation, of course you won’t select your audience, but the same principle of knowing them applies in order to have a winning presentation (for them and you). When you fill out the Start-Up Brief (see the figure below), you learn all you can about your audience so you can target stories and the entire presentation toward the outcome you intend, and they’ll leave as heroes. Knowing your audience When people ask the question "how to create a presentation?" or "how to create a PowerPoint presentation?" they're often only thinking about the technical aspects, like how to put together slides. You will need to do that, if there's nobody else to do it for you. However, a flashy PowerPoint or Canva slideshow should not be your goal. It's far more important to focus on the substance of the presentation, and one of the first things to consider about the substance is "who will make up your audience?" The better you understand your audience, the better you’ll be able to craft messages and stories they care about in terms of their interests, level of understanding, attitudes, and needs. Here's more to consider about each of the questions in the Start-Up Brief: 1. What’s the key issue — the one takeaway message I want my audience to remember? Your audience won’t remember everything you say or show. What’s the one message you want them to remember above all else? This is like an earworm. If you haven’t heard that term, it’s a tune you hear that plays over and over in your head that you can’t seem to shake. What do you want your audience’s earworm to be? What should they do? Think? Feel? Learn? Condense the key message into one sentence. Until you can do that, you won’t be focused. Imagine you have just one minute to get your key issue across clearly. What would that message be? 2. Who’s my primary audience? Why is it so easy to communicate with friends or close colleagues? Because you know them. You know their preconceived idea, level of expertise, probable reaction, and so forth. The same theory applies to your audience. Understand who they’ll be and whether they’re attending by choice. There are so many types of audiences you may encounter. Here are just a few: Peers or subordinates Senior-level managers Middle-level managers Technical or non-technical Internal to your company or external Competitors Buyers Merchandisers Sales associates Customers (new and/or potential) Customer service When you create presentations, it's helpful to determine the demographics of your audience prior to presenting. While there are limits as to what you can learn, on occasion it’s apparent. For example, if you’re addressing a technical group, you can assume that most are young, educated, and tech savvy. If the makeup of your audience isn’t apparent, here are a few things you might try: Conduct surveys, questionnaires, or interviews with the event organizers. They may have knowledge of job titles, industries, and even a breakdown of age and gender. Survey the audience before the event. Ask what they hope to do, think, feel, or learn as a result of attending. Also inquire about their knowledge of the subject matter, organizations they belong to, volunteer activities, and so on. Tap into social media. If you have access to the event's social media accounts, check out who’s following or engaging with them. Observe the audience and conduct informal conversations before the presentation starts. 3. What does my audience need to know about the topic? Please pay attention to the words need to know. Too often we give too much or too little information. For example, if you’re discussing a specific aspect of genetic engineering but your audience isn’t familiar with basic genetics, you’ll have missed the mark. On the other hand, drastically underestimating the audience’s knowledge may result in a presentation that sounds condescending. For a mixed audience, consider reviewing important key terms and concepts so everyone starts with baseline knowledge. Here are some things to think about: Does your audience have any preconceived ideas? Are there any barriers to their understanding (language, cultural, technical, or other)? Will there be any resistance? Will there be any adversaries? Will you have supporters? 4. What’s in it for my audience? Have you ever listened to WIIFM? The answer is “yes,” you listen to it all the time — What’s In It For Me? Whenever you listen to something, you unknowingly ask yourself, “Why should I care?” On the job, you might ask if this an opportunity to look good to superiors, make your job easier, solve a problem, or learn a new skill. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be listening. Dial in to WIIFM to make sure you understand what’s in it for your audience. Dig deeply. For example, if you’re teaching them a new skill, will it impact their job performance? Help them look good to management? Ultimately get them a pay raise or promotion? You don’t want anyone sitting in your audience waiting to find out what’s in it for them. Let them know right up front. 5. Does my presentation need a special angle or point of view? Managers typically need the big picture to make big decisions. The lower down the chain of command, the more details may be needed. Technical people want all the details. Salespeople need benefits. Potential customers want to know why they should select you. When presenting to hybrid audiences, key phrases may be: I’d like to take a few minutes to make sure we’re we are all up to speed on the three key aspects of [topic]. The crux of the matter is … The big picture is … Let me give you some examples … In practice this means … 6. What will my audience’s reaction be toward the topic? Positive? Neutral? Negative? You may not tell people what they want to hear, but you must tell them what they need to hear. What will their reaction be? Positive? Neutral? Negative? If you’re not sure, ask yourself the following questions: Are you disputing existing data? Will you create more work for them? Are they attending by choice, or were they forced (strongly urged)? Are they interested in the topic? Will your information come as a surprise? What is their relationship with you and with each other? How will the presentation help them perform their jobs better? What are the most interesting parts of the topic? How much will the audience know about the topic? Which audience members may be more/less interested? The following are suggestions for positioning positive, neutral, or negative topics: Delivering a positive or neutral topic: When your audience will be positive or neutral, use the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) approach. Your presentation isn’t a joke where you need to put the punch line at the end. Tell them what they need to know right at the beginning. We’ve all sat through long, boring presentations waiting to hear the most important part we came to learn — the conclusion or findings. Delivering a negative topic: Strategically build up to your main message. Create a sandwich with good news, negative news, good news. Give reasons why. Offer options. Make lemonade. What is the purpose of your presentation? Whether you think your purpose is to communicate, inform, sell, or whatever, chances are you’re trying to “persuade” someone to do, think, feel, or learn something. Once you realize that most of what you present is to persuade — your message will be “strategic,” not generic. Keep peeling the onion (as the expression goes) because an underlying or unspoken purpose often boils down to money. For example, assume your presentation is to introduce a new corporate initiative. The unspoken message to those who embrace the initiative may be to perform better, look good to their superiors, increase the company’s earnings, or perhaps be thought of more favorably when raises or promotions are due. The takeaway message you’ll fill in on the second blank line (that follows) is the call to action. What do you want your audience to do, think, or feel, or learn? Your intention must be clear in your own mind so you can make it clear in theirs. What’s their call to action? What’s in it for them? Too many presenters don’t get the action they wanted because they didn’t make the expectation clear. To state your strategic purpose and the call to action, fill in the blanks of the following statement: My purpose is to ________________ so my audience will _____________________________________________. Anticipating questions from your audience You may not think of every question your audience may have and need answered, but the following will help you consider as many as you can. They all relate to any or all of the following: What who, what, when, where, why, and how questions will my audience want answered? For practice, let’s assume I’m inviting you to a meeting. There are questions you’ll undoubtedly have when you receive the invitation, such as: Who else will be there? What is the agenda? When will the meeting be held? Where will it be held? Why am I being asked to attend? How can I prepare and contribute? There are two sets of questions to think about when preparing a presentation: Column 1: Questions to ask yourself to prepare your presentation. Column 2: Questions you anticipate the audience will ask that you should include in your presentation or be prepared to answer. Prepare two columns with who, what, when, where, why, and how. The following table provides some possibilities to consider. Delete the questions that don’t pertain to your presentation and add your questions that aren’t listed. Questions to Ask When Preparing for a Presentation Your Questions Audience’s Questions Who … ...will be supportive and make supportive comments? ...will be adversarial and make combative comments? ...may feel threatened by my recommendations? my contact person for logistical and other issues? ...should I bring in as a subject matter expert? responsible? ...will be impacted by the change? What … ...are the major concerns of my audience? ...can I tell or show to help them address those concerns? ...stories can help them remember key points? they know about the topic? my relationship with them? ...obstacles may I encounter? ...discussion points should I encourage? ...tough questions should I expect? ...are the alternatives? ...are the advantages and/or disadvantages? ...are the next steps? ...if we do nothing? When … the best time to deliver this presentation? ...should I distribute the handouts? ...does this take effect? you need a decision? Where … ...can the audience get more information? ...can I get more information? ...will the funding come from? ...can I get more information? Why … the audience attending? ...was I chosen to make this presentation? ...are you recommending this? How … ...much time should I spend on providing background? (Do they need any background?) ...will I open/close the presentation? ...does this relate to the strategic impact on the organization? ...will we measure success?

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Finding Stories for Your Presentations

Article / Updated 10-18-2023

Whether presentations are live, virtual, or hybrid, they’re one of most effective business communication tools of our time. Strong presentation skills are a hallmark of strong leaders and people who aspire to become leaders. When you want to be seen as a subject matter expert (SME) or knowledge source, a presentation can showcase your skills and potential. So, how can you create and deliver engaging and effective presentations? Through storytelling. This article is about how to find stories to incorporate into your presentations. How to create stories for a presentation Before you create a presentation, think about how you can create stories. Open your eyes. Open your ears. Open your mind. Stories are all around you. The key is to be aware and pay attention to your life and the lives of others. Be curious. Look about. Observe with all your senses. Try new things. Take up a new hobby. Explore different places. Talk with people. Ask lots of questions. Everyday life offers an endless plethora of experiences — all of which are potential stories. Some of the best stories come from just being around people. Schmoozing at networking events. Drumming up conversations at dinners, meetings, and conferences. Even chatting with strangers standing behind you in checkout lines. For example, I was on a long checkout line several years ago and started a conversation with a guy standing in back of me. He wound up being one of my best clients. Serendipity! The more people you speak with — especially people with jobs and backgrounds different from yours — the more stories you’ll find and the more interesting your life will be. Becoming an active listener Active listening is a communication skill that involves going beyond simply hearing the words someone else is saying, as you see in the figure below. It will have a positive impact on your business and social relationships. Active listening can also harvest some interesting stories. When I'm talking with people in my workshops about how to create a story for their presenting, people often share their own stories. The following story was shared by someone during one of these workshops. I’m glad I was listening with my ninja ears because it’s a winner. I made a note of this story to use at an appropriate time! Story: Several years ago Nora attended my email workshop. She told the group of a very embarrassing situation. She’d sent an email to several hundred coworkers. In her rush to leave the office after working late, she didn’t proofread carefully and wrote that she was pubic relations director, instead of public relations director. She learned of her mistake when she reported to work the following morning. Oops! I filed the story away for future use. It has provided a great introduction on the importance of proofreading everything. How and when I use it: When I get toward the end of the writing workshop and discuss proofreading, I tell the story of Nora, the hapless PR director. I don’t use the word pubic because I want the audience to use their imaginations. I merely say … and she left the l out of public. Think about that for a moment. People think momentarily, then chuckles start. Of course, I don’t mention her name or company, but the story proves a valuable point about the importance of proofreading — everything. Part of the process of creating an engaging presentation is storyboarding. Learn how to create a story board and all the other aspects of creating engaging, effective presentations in my book Storytelling in Presentations For Dummies. Honing your skills of observation "How to create a story" for your presentation might be weighing on your mind. But stories are all around you. We often go about our days on autopilot, not noticing what’s around and in front of us. By consciously observing our surroundings, we can grow our awareness and flex our noticing muscles, thereby perceiving the world with higher resolution, detail, and clarity. Story: I was stopped at a red light and noticed a sign posted on a poll. In large letters it said, MISSING DOG. Underneath was a small picture and some text, neither of which could be seen by passing in a car. The poster completely missed the mark. Had the owner put a larger photo of the dog and the type of breed in large print, passersby would have known what kind of dog too look for. For example, MISSING DALMATIAN, would have told passersby immediately the breed of dog to spot (pun intended). How and when I use it: During my writing workshops I focus heavily on creating robust headlines. I tell the missing dog poster story to emphasize the importance of delivering key information at a glance. Here’s the difference between a strong and a weak headline. Strong headline: Status report indicates 2 percent rise in sales Weak headline: Status report Noticing when an experience sparks a reaction When you have a reaction to something that happens or a reaction to something you hear or see, that could be fodder for a story. Whether it’s funny, scary, heedless, upsetting, informational, negative, positive, or whatever, it may have story potential. Story: I was sitting at my computer a little over a year ago writing a book. An email popped up on my screen from my friend Pam asking me to meet her for lunch. That message sparked such a strong reaction that my heart skipped several beats. Why? Pam had died six months earlier after a long bout with cancer. Her message must have been floating in cyberspace, and she probably wondered why I never responded. How and when I use it: During my email workshop, I relate this story to convey how you should never assume someone received your message. Emails can get lost, wind up in the recipient’s spam or junk folder, get blocked by the server, have an invalid address, or who knows what else. If you don’t get an expected reply within a reasonable amount of time, either send another message or (better yet) phone the recipient. Noting when you (or someone you know) beat the odds You can create your own story out of an experience in which you “just knew” that you (or someone else) couldn’t do something. It was too difficult, too strenuous, too farfetched, too whatever. Discuss how you (or someone) wouldn’t take “no” for an answer but kept on plugging away. Story: Before I got my first book published eons ago, I sent manuscripts over a period of several years to dozens of publishers and got dozens of refusals. I had read that writers have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting a book published. However, I believed in myself and refused to give up. After several years of getting one rejection after another, I finally got a “yes.” I’ve had 25-plus books professionally published. How and when I use it: I host a writing group for seven other people; we call ourselves the Scribe Tribe. They aren’t professional writers, yet they’re wonderful scribes. I’ve reminded them of my long journey to getting published as I encourage them to submit their work. Many of them started submitting their work (and after many rejections) have gotten articles published. One even published a book. I’m so delighted that my experience of beating the odds has inspired them. Drawing upon what you’ve read The stories we heard as kids taught us many lifelong lessons: Laugh at your mistakes; be a true friend; make yourself heard; there’s no place like home; you can’t always get what you want; everyone has a special gift; pick your battles wisely; be a good sharer; good things come to those who wait; and so much more. As adults, our stories aren’t that simple and they don’t necessarily start with “Once upon a time.” But the stories we opt to share will instill valuable teaching and learning lessons. In addition to your own stories, you’ll find stories in newspapers, magazines, and on social media. When creating a story, a presenter should feel comfortable telling other people’s stories, as long as they give credit where credit is due. Here are two examples I include as a contrast: Story example 1: When the Affordable Care Act (also known as ACA or Obamacare) was enacted in 2010, it was several thousand pages long. (The numbers vary depending on which site you look at, but it was veeeeery long.) The frightening truth is that our representatives routinely vote on huge, complex bills without having read anything more than an executive summary. This isn’t a political statement. Most reps admit they never read more than the summary in the ACA, and the same is true for many other lengthy bills. Now, contrast that with the United States Constitution, often called the supreme laws of the land. It’s only four pages long. Story example 2: One of the shortest letters ever written was from Cornelius Vanderbilt, (business magnate who built his wealth in railroads and shipping). It read, “Gentlemen, You have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.” (19 harsh words) How and when I used them: I make reference to these two examples when I’m presenting the workshop segment on keeping it short and simple (KISS) while stressing how to find a good balance and using tact. In all writing and speaking, include what’s necessary and ditch what’s not. Avoiding story overload and clutter Storytelling is like salt. If you don’t include any, the dish is bland. If you include too much, you ruin the dish. Just the right amount makes for a delish dish. So, how many stories should you tell? There’s no magic formula, but there’s one constant: Space stories out so audiences have time to absorb and reflect on each one. Here are some guidelines: If your presentation brings together many different layers, such as scientific data, evidence, or other hard content, interjecting stories makes the data more digestible — somewhat like sherbet served as a palate cleanser between courses. Each story should bring your point to life and transition from one topic to another. Consider a solid story for each major section of your presentation. However, don’t include a story for the sake of telling one. It’s better to tell no story than tell a weak or irrelevant one. If the presentation is less than a half hour or it’s to share one specific idea, one story should suffice. Tell it near the beginning of your presentation to engage the audience. If the purpose of your presentation is to describe (for example) how people from different walks of life have benefited from a situation, you might think of sprinkling stories in two or three places. Referencing your opening story at the end is a really great way to tie the presentation together and lead into your call to action. Regardless of how many stories you tell, cut the clutter. This relates to anything that doesn’t increase understanding, such as inconsequential facts or figures. Remember that not all data are equally important. Ask yourself what you need to express the essence of your message and eliminate what’s not relevant. As Blaise Pascal (French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and philosopher) famously said in the 1600s, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Make sure to use the most current facts, figures, and statistics because data can change quickly.

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Storytelling in Presentations For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 09-05-2023

Storytelling is one of the most effective tools in presentations for several reasons: Stories engage the audience and evoke emotion responses. They make information more relatable and memorable. They can increase retention and make messages more compelling. And they help build trust between the presenter and the audience. This handy Cheat Sheet provides some guidelines to make your presentations more interesting and powerful.

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Technical Writing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 06-06-2023

This Cheat Sheet includes an outline for writing a technical brief, which is an important first step in the technical-writing process — whether you're an experienced technical writer or a beginner. A technical brief helps you identify and organize important information, such as your reader profile and the writing and approval process.

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