12 June 2014

Master This Storytelling Formula to Dominate Any Presentation

A few days ago I was reading a Copyblogger’s article by Demian Farnworth: Master This Copywriting Formula to Dominate Any Social Media Platform. The formula he wrote about is called PAS: Problem-Agitate-Solve. The idea behind it is that in order to make compelling narratives—such us product descriptions, sales letters, social media posts, etc.—you need to follow three steps:
  • Identify a problem
  • Agitate that problem
  • Reveal a solution
Here's an example he gave:

“Insecure? You’re not alone. Millions of people admit to being insecure. Yet, remain that way and you’ll live a life in the shadows. A life on the fringe. Always wishing, never doing. Fortunately, there’s an answer.”

Then you'd introduce the solution. As you can see the above statement clearly follows the Problem-Agitate-Solve formula:
  • Problem: Insecure? You’re not alone. Millions of people admit to being insecure.
  • Agitate: Yet, remain that way and you’ll live a life in the shadows. A life on the fringe. Always wishing, never doing.  
  • Solve: Fortunately, there’s an answer.
While reading the article, I thought the same formula—or a revised version of it—could also be used to improve our presentations, create messages that get across and win customers over.  
I’m thinking about the Aristotle’s three-act structure, a storytelling technique used in writing, movies and any other art form built around a story. The three-act structure divides a narrative into three parts:
  • Set up
  • Confrontation
  • Resolution
These will form the basis of your presentation. You will have a beginning (set up), a middle part (confrontation) and an end (resolution). 

Set up
At the beginning of your presentation you should describe the world as it is. The audience will agree with you because you are telling them a story they already know. Then at a certain point you should highlight a problem they have which completely changes their perspective. The aim is to create a gap between the world as they know it and the world as it would be if you had a solution to their problem. During a movie there is often an incident occurring to the main character which prepares the ground for what is known as a turning point, after which the protagonist’s life will never be the same again. 
At this stage you shouldn’t reveal your solution yet. Rather, you should keep playing back and forth with the gap you’ve created during the set up. Keep comparing the world as it is to the world as it would be with your solution in order for the audience to believe that the new world will make them better off. In a movie you would see the protagonist having to face ups and downs on a journey that makes you wonder whether he will ever answer the dramatic question raised during the turning point.     
Only after you’ve created a gap and played with it can you reveal a solution to the original problem. In a movie, this would be the resolution of the story.
You might be thinking, “How can I apply this formula in the corporate world? I can’t talk to my customers about new worlds and things like that”. Ok, let’s have a look at an example. Say you have developed a new product or a new service and you want to make a presentation to reveal it to a potential customer. Instead of starting by listing all the features of your product (which is the most common strategy followed by sales people), use the set up as an opportunity to describe the world as it is without your product. Then remind your potential customer of a pain they have—it could be money, time, quality related, etc.—which will eventually be solved by your solution. After all, your customers are not interested in your product; they simply want to know how your product can solve their problem. By doing that you are creating a gap between the world as it is and the world as it would be with your solution. Then keep playing with that gap by giving a few concrete examples of what the world looks like today and what it could look like tomorrow. Finally, reveal your liberating solution. By using this formula you’ll make your audience participate with you on a journey towards a better world thanks to your product. 

This technique has proven to be effective any time there is a story to tell. And a presentation—even a business presentation—is an opportunity to tell a story. 
Do you think mastering this storytelling formula can help you win customer over? Click to Tweet 

IMAGEChris via Flickr (changes have been made)