This story has also been published on Medium.
I have spent countless hours breezing through novels. The evolving plot has consumed too many hours of my sleep. It is almost as if I am scared to abandon my novel from the fear the plot will move without me. True story, this is how I got my spectacles. By reading Harry Potter in my night lamps after my mom switched off my lights assured that I would switch to slumber. But, I have also spent countless hours sitting through presentations. The ones face-to-face I attend, a cellphone often becomes my savior. Online presentations are easier to dodge when once my video is switched off. So what is the difference between an exciting Novel and a presentation? A Novel is seldom associated with exciting, as much a presentation boring. Does it have to be this way? Do presentations have to be boring? As a Product Manager, I do spend considerable hours creating presentations. It almost feels like a duty to do right by the audience who are giving me their precious moments of attention.
As Product Managers, we give countless presentations. We present to stakeholders our exciting new features. We convince our leadership that our Roadmap is well thought of. We present to our teams to introduce them to our ideas. We present to customers to judge their reactions to upcoming features. The presentation we give must resonate with them. More importantly, successfully communicate the key messages we intend them to take away. A story is without a doubt more engaging than a bunch of randomly thrown facts, figures, and words thrown on a blank slide. A story is exciting, has a plot, involves twists and turns, and is more importantly effortless to consume. Let’s take a leaf out of the book, or borrow the entire book from Novelists and see how we can use it to build up our product presentations. Here are five inspirations that will help you build a better storyline. Each of the styles works well independently or in an interwoven fashion.
Add a Hero to your story
Not a persona, a person
This style works great to introduce your product to new folks. It works as well with stakeholders unfamiliar with your product line, or anybody who is not fighting in the trenches with you. The key to capitalizing this form is to make the audience feel this person you are describing. Taking inspiration from Anton Chekhov,
A creator shall not tell the audience what to feel but create the scenario to make them feel so.
Make the audience feel themselves in the shoe of your hero. You want your audience to empathize with the hero. To laugh when the hero laughs and to understand her pain and problems. Let them create a first-person perspective for themselves.
As the clock struck 8.30 am, she started panicking. Her first meeting started at 9, and there was a mountain of unwashed utensils still in her sink. Her kid’s unfinished breakfast still scattered the dining table. Even if she left now, 10 minutes to hail a cab (if she got lucky), then 20 minutes ride. This was going to be a close call.
So many words are not the only way to make the audience feel. You can use a combination of illustrations, videos, basically whatever works best with your audience.
Take the Audience through the user journey and key in your Product concepts
Interweave your solutions into user problems
The 7-point story structure, a commonly used storytelling technique often used in Novels can be translated very easily to Product presentations. This approach especially works well in scenarios where you need to explain the multiple features that your innovative Product has to offer. You drop the audience in the middle of the timeline and begin telling a story. A story that makes your audience put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Every one of the audience begins to feel the extent of the user’s pain points. And it is then that you subtly or not-so-subtly drop your solution.
She looked at her watch. It was already 8.45 am, and there was no sign of a cab. She had been trying to hail a cab as they, one after the other, ignored her and refused to even slow down. She spotted an empty cab slowing down near the signal. All her helpless self could do was to run after the cab, bang on his window, and demand to be given a ride. Only if there was a way to book her daily cab. The wait is always excruciating and she would reach her office sweaty.
Build a castle and bedazzle
Starting from a big concept and breaking it down
Sometimes your audience is already on the same page. They know the users as well as you. They understand their problems as well as you. Repeating the context will not do much but bore them. So you start grand. Start with building the castle. You introduce the big idea and start breaking it down to what you have to offer. Your hook in this case is your innovative idea.
The grand unraveling of the exciting new Product CLICKnGo. The solution to all your travel needs.
Make complicated ideas sound simple
My current product is extremely complex. There are at least 3 sets of user personas that take this journey together. My challenge, hence, becomes, how do I communicate the complexity without the complexity? I will not say it has been easy. I have tried different approaches with different audiences and iterated based on their reaction. This idea is inspired by the merging stories in a novel. I am sure you would recall reading novels that follow this structure. The first few chapters are to develop the stage for the first protagonist. The next few carry you to a different dimension and setting, to a new story, a new protagonist. But then protagonist 1 and 2 need to meet for the story to continue.
I must say that there is no right or wrong way to follow this style. Completely disjoint and parallel stories work as well as interwoven ones. Adapt the framework to your product and your comfort level. And, this takes me to the last framework which is also one of my favorites.
Drawing a parallel analogy
Inspirations from around you
Sometimes your audience has never been in your Hero’s shoes. Sometimes you are convinced that even if you tell them a story they could never be in your Hero’s shoes. Not as much as you want. Will they, in that case, be able to appreciate your solution? Probably not. This is the scenario you use the technique of drawing an analogy. You narrate a parallel story. You see the light go on in your audience, and then BAM! You switch to the parallel track and take them on your product journey! You draw a parallel to the value proposition. A parallel can be as close or as far away from your story as you want. Sounds simple, does it not?
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Excited to hear from you on what works best for your Product! If you have got some more interesting ideas on how to make your product presentations standout, share them with me.