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The Secret of Great Presentations? Great Storytelling

Of all the business skills that can confound office newbies, learning to be a persuasive and compelling public speaker can be among the most challenging. Even if you have gotten over your performance anxiety and honed your Power Point skills to Jedi level, there is still the actual structure of your talk to think about. How can you organize all the data and information you want to convey without putting half the audience to sleep?

Author and CEO of Duarte Design, Nancy Duarte, takes to the American Express OPEN Forum blog to offer her answers to this question and many others about creating compelling presentations. Among her best ideas is advice on how to structure your pitch to tap into your audience's natural love of stories. At a minimum, she says a speech,

Should incorporate some frameworks from a story. The most obvious components would be a clear beginning, middle and end. Incorporate turning points before each new section that signals to the audience you're making a transition from the beginning to the middle and then another one to transition from the middle to the end.

For example, when transitioning from the beginning to the middle, declare a bold Call to Adventure that clearly articulates the gap between the status quo world (what is) and the future world with your idea adopted (what could be). Transition to the end of your presentation by articulating a Call to Action, but don't stop there. End the presentation by painting a picture of the new bliss. What are the utopian attributes the world will take on if the audience fulfills your Call to Action? End the presentation with an inspirational picture of that future-facing view.

People, after all, are willing to pay ten of their hard-earned dollars or so to be told simple (sometimes straight up stupid) stories by Hollywood. So tapping into our primal desire to sit around a campfire and hear a tale well told makes more sense than believing a barrage of data will pummel your audience into submission. For many more insights from Duarte, check out the rest of the interview.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr user isubiker, CC 2.0)
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