Executive Presentation Tip: Think Like Aesop

Want to take your executive presentation skills to the next level? Ape Aesop.

There's volumes of good advice out there on raising the presentation bar, everything from get in the "zone," to have eye contact and don't have cluttered slides.
But tips like this are tactical. Executives and business leaders need to get strategic.

One strategy is to stop talking about quarterly results and start telling stories of how people achieved those results. The storytelling strategy worked for Aesop, The Grimm Brothers, Steve Jobs and Barack Obama, and it can work for any executive.

Storytellers captivate, motivate and inspire an audience. And executives who tell good stories are memorable. We all remember some story from childhood or a story a friend or relative has told us. You can't underestimate the power of an inspiring story. Great salespeople know its power, and a good story resonates for audiences the world over.

Your strategy is to use stories to inspire and educate your listeners. Use examples and stories of salespeople, customers, partners, products. Be known as someone who tells a great story we can all take a lesson from. If done well, storytelling is a strategy that can elevate your executive presence in no time.

So how do you plan a presentation based on story? What are the elements of a great business story?

It boils down to a simple formula: someone doing something against odds.

The "someone" can be a person, a company or even a product. The "something" is an action. In narrative terms, it's the plot. And the odds, well, that could be a villain or obstacle or challenge. These are the base elements of a good story. Now, how do you put those elements to work?

Start with describing the main character. This could be someone like Erik Weihenmayer an adventurer who climbed Mount Everest! It could be one of the countless homeless people who struggle everyday to have a decent life and survive on the streets. It could be a small company struggling to gain market share against Fortune 500s or a salesperson with a disability like Bill Porter who would not take no for an answer. Or your innovative product that just hit the 1million selling mark.

So now you've fleshed out the main actor in your story. But a good story explains how this character struggled to achieve something or conquered obstacles against all odds. For mountain cli
mber Erik Weihenmeyer, his challenge is that he's blind. He not only climbs mountains, but scuba dives and parachutes out of planes!

For Bill Porter, cerebral palsy that struck in childhood left him with impaired speech and a crippled, pain-wracked body. But that never stopped him for selling in a grueling door-to-door market. The movie of his life, "Door to Door", shows how he overcame insurmountable odds to be one of the top salesmen in America.

The best characters and challenges are inspirational, and like Aesop, the audience can see a lesson in the character's struggle to succeed.

And this is the most important part of your story--making the challenges relevant to your audience. Show how Erik Weihenmeyer or Bill Porter's challenges are similar to those of your audience. Doesn't your team face obstacles? What could they learn from Eric or BIll's determination and resolve?

Is the economy a villain working against a sma
ll company? What strategy did they put in place to succeed? Or a unit in your organization, show how they topped yearly targets again and again. Show your audience HOW they could do the same. Even better, what is your personal story of rising above the odds...your obstacles...your solution?

Mastering the art of the story can propel your speaking to new heights, but you need to practice it. It's definitely an art. Try storytelling on a regular basis in small meetings or staff events to gain feedback on your skills. And when you've mastered it, take it out for that memorable big pitch. When you've got the right story for the right audience, go for it!

The best ending to any executive presentation is not the applause, but the comment, "Wow, she is one great storyteller"!