Innovating on Storytelling

Cave Drawings

The temperatures in Seattle this past week hit 70 degrees, which meant that we, along with everyone else across the city, headed to our neighborhood pools in order to seek relief from this oppressive and dangerous heat wave.

As I was waiting for my children’s turn to jump off the diving board, I watched child after child try to do something a little different than the person before them. Cannonball. Backwards cannonball. Cannonball-turned-belly-flop at the last minute. Front flip. Back flip. Front-flip-turned-belly-flop.

Observing someone ahead of you while waiting in line, then figuring out a better variation of it… it was innovation in action! And of course it had me thinking about presentation skills.

As I reflected on these thoughts over the weekend, I came across a 3-minute TED Talk about innovations in storytelling that could prove interesting for anyone looking to prepare a better presentation.  

Here is a short TED Talk featuring Joe Sabia paying tribute to Lothar Meggendorfer, the creator of the pop-up book:

This short discourse on the evolution of storytelling over the past few centuries resonated with me because it’s what I think we should constantly be doing in our presentations and training events.

Just as Lothar Meggendorfer decided to change up centuries of written word by adding some dimensions to the pages to make the stories more interesting, what can we be doing in this age of flipcharts and PowerPoint Presentations in order to make our messages more engaging?

I once had a co-worker make a flipchart that had tabs and flaps taped to the back of the page, and as he was presenting he had various audience members pull a new tab in order to reveal his point. The dynamic nature of the presentation surprised all of us and kept us paying attention, wondering what would come next.

Embedding PollEverywhere slides into an otherwise standard PowerPoint deck can suddenly turn a 1-way presentation into an experience that relies on everyone in the room to create the data that appears on the slide.

A few weeks ago I attended a retreat during which the organizers wanted to introduce various aspects of the different organizations that were present. Instead of slides of data and mission statements, they sought out volunteers to prepare and present a series of short, Pecha Kucha-style presentations.

We can all take a lesson from the kids jumping off the diving board at the local swimming pool. We should be able to look around and think to ourselves: how can I take what someone else just did and improve upon it just a little bit?

What’s the most creative way you’ve seen someone tell a story or present their information? I’d love to read your comments below!

2 thoughts on “Innovating on Storytelling

  1. I love your comments, Brian! You inspire me! Re: creative presentations, I once saw a person video himself answering a question that- during the live presentation- he directed towards the PPT screen of himself. He was wearing the same clothes during his presentation as the day he created the video. Caught our attention…

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