Blog post

Have a story to tell? We’ve got advice for you.

By Ed Gabrys | February 19, 2020 | 2 Comments

We’ve recently published a ton of tips and tricks on storytelling and persuasion. Last week we held a webinar called Storytelling Techniques That Create Enthusiasm for Your Digital Journey. If you didn’t get a chance to catch it live, the recording is now available. You don’t even have to be a Gartner client to listen. In that session, I cover why storytelling is an excellent method of persuasion, how to craft better stories, and how to better tell them.

Next, Gartner published the research note, A CIO’s Guide to Better Storytelling and Presentations. Don’t worry if your not a CIO. The advice is broadly applicable. Here’s what it covers.

Steps to Better Storytelling and Presentations

We go a lot deeper into how to deliver a persuasive presentation and provide specific tips and tricks you can start using today. To read that note, you will need to be a Gartner client, but let me give you a little peek at some of the content. I hope you can find something useful for your next presentation.

Increase Influence by Improving Body Language

Many methods encourage an outside-in approach, suggesting specific postures, hand gestures and facial expressions. For some people, this can feel insincere or awkward. An inside-out approach encourages authenticity and one’s natural movements. Here’s how to start:
  • Demonstrate your confident pose. Imagine a recent moment when you were feeling calm and confident. Maybe you were addressing your team, coaching your child’s sports team or regaling a colleague with your latest accomplishment. How were you holding yourself at that moment? There’s a good chance that your posture is upright, but relaxed. Your hands and gestures are open and expressive. Identify those comfortable and confident nonverbals that work for you, practice them and script them into your presentation the way you would your words.
  • Show off your warmth. Regardless of the setting, people expect to like the speaker. Smiling signals warmth and makes you more likable. Of course, not all situations call for a smile. Delivering bad news and smiling can trigger confusion and cognitive conflict. Warmth comes in different forms. If warmth doesn’t come naturally, start by practicing these techniques in low-risk situations. Your audience will appreciate it.
  • Embrace your complementary nonverbals. Ensure that your movements are purposeful and aligned with the emotions of your talk. Your body and tone of words must align. Raising your hands in the air when expressing success can be a winning combination. The same gesture when announcing cutbacks is not.
  • Avoid negative or distracting nonverbals that may suggest a lack of confidence, indifference or arrogance:
    • Self-touch gestures can suggest anxiety or a lack of control.
    • When speaking to an audience from a different culture, review your talk and the full set of postures and gestures with someone who genuinely understands that culture. For Americans, a thumbs-up or an okay sign is an acceptable expression; in some cultures, they are obscene

To read even more on storytelling, also check out this note; Selling Digital Transformation: A CIO’s Guide to Crafting Better Stories.

As always, I love hearing from you. What are your favorite storytelling and presentation techniques? What holds you back from storytelling more or better? Or feel free to ask questions. If I don’t have a great answer, someone else reading this may.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Mark Pearson says:

    Indeed, this is true. Not just for the presentations but also for any kind of digitized communication, I personally create and follow a story whenever I am designing a Business Intelligence dashboard. There are certainly many relevant details connecting one report to the other.

    • Ed Gabrys says:

      Hi Mark. Are you specifically mentioning the idea of increasing influence through body language, or are you talking about storytelling in general? I am hoping you meant body language because I want to hear more about that. I’m trying to imagine how you use body language when designing a BI dashboard. And to be clear, I’m not trying to be funny, although it may sound like it.

      Now, I’m going to assume you didn’t mean what I hope you meant. Still – it would be interesting to hear how you thread story through dashboards and other digitized communications. Any examples?