When crafting a presentation, there are two ways we can use stories – as anecdotes to emphasize a point and support evidence or as the foundation of the entire presentation itself. In this blog post we will look at how to structure an anecdote and will provide you with a generic example. These examples are more of a framework than an actual story as they lack the details, but are useful nonetheless. In a subsequent post we’ll look at how to structure an entire presentation so it takes on the shape of a story.
Using Stories as Anecdotes in Presentations
Grammarly defines an anecdote as a short, self-contained story that usually highlights one theme, lesson, or aspect of a person’s character and can be true or fictional. They are often used in presentations to break the ice, make a point, or add a distinctive touch. Anecdotes can be especially helpful when presenting to an audience who might not be familiar with your topic. By using an anecdote, you can quickly draw in your audience and make them more receptive to the information you’re presenting. It can also help to make a point more memorable, as it is often easier to recall funny or personal stories rather than statistical facts or figures.
When using anecdotes in a presentation, it’s important to:
- make sure they are relevant to the topic and appropriate for the audience.
- keep the anecdote short and to the point, as you don’t want it to take too much time away from the main content of the presentation.
- deliver the anecdote in a conversational tone. This will help to keep your audience engaged and make them more likely to remember the point you’re trying to make.
- pause after telling the story, so the audience has a chance to digest the information.
When it comes to structuring anecdotes, there are many techniques that can be used. One of the most popular approaches is using the structure provided in Christopher Booker’s book, the Seven Basic Plots. This approach has been used by writers, screenwriters, and storytellers for years in order to craft compelling stories.
The first plot: overcoming the monster.
This plot focuses on the protagonist’s struggle against a powerful antagonist or ‘monster’ in order to achieve their goal. Whether it be an external foe or an internal conflict, this plot is all about overcoming obstacles in order to reach success.
Example: It was a daring move to launch a new product on the market, and in the beginning, it was met with some success. Our expectations were high, and we thought our success was assured. But soon, major frustration set in. We encountered obstacles that seemed insurmountable, and we felt that our product was doomed to failure. We had to find a way to overcome this challenge, or our product would never stand a chance. We worked tirelessly, exploring every possible avenue to make our product successful. We held brainstorming sessions with our team, and we sought advice from industry experts. Nothing seemed to give us the breakthrough we needed. We had reached the point of desperation and thought all hope was lost. But then, against all odds, we made a breakthrough. The breakthrough was so small that at first, it seemed insignificant, but we soon realized its potential. We modified our product to meet the needs of our target audience, and our sales skyrocketed. Our product was a huge success. We had gone through such a roller coaster of emotions, but we ultimately succeeded against the ultimate challenge.
The second plot: rags to riches.
This plot focuses on the protagonist’s journey from poverty or obscurity to wealth or fame. It is often used as a way of demonstrating personal growth and resilience in the face of hardship.
Mandy and John were two entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in the business world. They had heard of a business for sale and decided to take the plunge. They purchased the business, but when they arrived they realized the business was in pretty bad shape. The building was run down, the accounts were in disarray, and the employees were disgruntled. Mandy and John were undeterred, however, and determined to make something of the business. They worked hard to right the ship and soon found success. The building was renovated, the accounts were organized, and the employees were motivated. Mandy and John were elated with their progress, but soon realized that their main challenge was to make the business independent. Mandy and John faced this challenge head on, facing difficult decisions and long days. They worked tirelessly to make the business stand on its own. Finally, after much hard work, the business was in much better shape than when they bought it. Mandy and John had accomplished something great. They had turned a business in wretchedness into one of success. Through hard work and determination, they had made the business independent and were proud of what they had achieved.
The third plot: The Quest.
As its name implies, this plot follows a protagonist on their journey in search of something valuable or important. Along the way, they must overcome obstacles and learn life lessons before they can reach their destination and receive their reward at the end of their quest.
It was a difficult decision to make, but the board of directors had reached a conclusion: the company’s sales targets were not being achieved, and a major new product initiative was necessary. The board had high hopes for the project, but they knew that the road ahead would be filled with challenges. The team began their journey with a plan, but as they went looking for a solution, they soon encountered problems. Technical issues, regulatory hurdles, and financial constraints were all part of the challenge. Eventually, they thought they had found a solution, but it wasn’t so. The problems they were facing seemed insurmountable. But the team was determined to find a way, and they kept pushing forward. Finally, the team achieved their goal after months of hard work and dedication. They had managed to develop a new product that was successful in the market and met their sales targets. The team celebrated their success and looked back on the journey they had taken. They had faced some really big problems, but they persevered and never gave up. Their effort paid off in the end.
The fourth plot: Voyage and Return.
This plot follows a hero who embarks on an adventure before returning home with newfound knowledge or treasure that helps them achieve success in their life back home.
We were excited to attend the AI convention. We heard that there were going to be the latest and greatest technologies on show and couldn’t wait to experience them. When we arrived, we were astounded by the sheer amount of technology on display. We were particularly drawn to a new app that seemed incredibly advanced. We couldn’t keep our hands off it and without thinking, we installed it on our phones. At first, we were enthralled by the new technology and couldn’t believe how easy it made our lives. But then things started to go wrong. Instead of helping us, the app started to control us. We quickly realized that it was malicious and were desperate to uninstall it. Unfortunately, the app was incredibly difficult to get rid of and no matter what we tried, we couldn’t get rid of it. We spent hours going from one tech support person to another, trying to find a way to remove the app. Eventually, after many hours of frustration, we managed to uninstall it and return to normality. We were relieved that we were able to reverse the damage done by the malicious app and were thankful that we were able to get out of the nightmare we had found ourselves in.
The fifth plot: Comedy
This plot are based on different themes such as love, loss, marriage, and revenge which play out over multiple episodes until the hero finds his/her happy ending (or not).
John and I had been business partners for years, so it was a surprise when we began to disagree on every decision we made. At first, we thought it was just a temporary problem, but eventually, it became so bad that we stopped speaking altogether. The tension between us was unbearable, and nothing seemed to work no matter how hard we tried to resolve our differences. We were both so frustrated that we were close to giving up and walking away from the business. That’s when we decided to hire a business coach to help us work through our issues. The coach was able to unearth some new information that stopped the suspicions between us. We realized that we had both been wrong in our assumptions and were able to move forward with a new understanding. Finally, after months of disagreement, we were back on speaking terms again. We were both so relieved to have our partnership back on track and were determined to make the most of it.
The sixth plot: Rebirth.
This plot focus on characters being faced with difficult choices that ultimately lead them down a path of self-discovery and transformation towards redemption at the end of their story arc.
A business example of this plot is when a business faces a period of stagnancy or decline and needs to make difficult decisions in order to turn its fortunes around. This could involve taking risks and making changes to the way the business operates, or even changing the product or service offering. The business may have to try different tactics to find its footing, and in doing so, will gain insight into its weaknesses and strengths, allowing it to become stronger and more competitive.
And finally, there is the seventh plot: Tragedy
When it comes to the seven basic plots, tragedy is often the most discussed and the most difficult to understand. Although the definition of tragedy has been debated since ancient times, it usually involves the death of a protagonist, usually due to a fatal flaw or misjudgment, and has a moral to the story.
This is a particularly relevant concept for many businesses, as all organizations have the potential to experience tragedy. In this sense, tragedy can be seen as a lesson in understanding the consequences of decision-making.
A business example of tragedy would be a company that is forced to close its doors due to poor management decisions. This is an example of an organization that has failed to learn from the past, and has paid the ultimate price. The tragedy lies in the fact that the business has been unable to recognize the need to make decisions that are based on the long-term interests of the organization, rather than short-term gains.
It is a lesson in the importance of assessing the potential risks of every decision and being aware of the consequences of every action. On a more positive note, tragedy can also be seen as an opportunity for growth. The experience of tragedy can serve as a powerful motivator for organizations to learn from their mistakes and take steps to ensure that similar tragedies don’t occur in the future.
Using Christopher Booker’s seven basic plots when structuring your anecdotes will make them much more compelling for your audience since each one highlights different aspects of storytelling including character development, conflict resolution and emotional depth which will draw readers in even further. So if you want to craft engaging stories that your audience will remember long after reading them, try out these seven basic plots!