Story chapters

Story-audience matrix
Story-audience matrix
Story chapters
When I’m writing a story, speech or presentation, I usually create a simple structure of ‘chapters’ or ‘modules’ – the different building blocks of the story. It helps me define the key components of the story, start building the story, start listing content I will need. This is often a step before creating a detailed breakdown of the content slide-by-slide and I will usually only start crafting the different chapters after I know what to tell.:

  • Who is my audience? I usually create an empathy map of some sort to define the key audience.
  • How do I want to structure the meeting or session? I will often either create a meeting structure using the meeting canvas.
  • What are the key variables/requirements for the presentation? I pretty much always fill out a story header to get the basics for the presentation right. This will also help others to quickly be up-to-speed with the key requirements of the presentation.
Crafting the story chapters will help you answer several questions:

  • What are the main building blocks of the presentation? Especially when preparing internal presentations, I will need some form of context for people to understand what you are talking about. E.g. what key KPIs, overarching projects or work streams is your project contributing to? You might want to use a structure like where are we now – where do we want to be – how do we get there (the road to change model). You might want to make sure that your conclusion at the end is a good summary of what you told in the rest of the presentation. Etcetera. Etcetera.
  • What is the purpose of each of these blocks? What do you want to achieve with each of the chapters? Sketching the context will usually help 1) to get people on board, getting in the right mindset (people usually have had other meetings before yours, so they will need some time to be up to speed) and 2) to show that you are contributing to things that are important for them and the company. A “trends” chapter usually should build 1) your expertise (rooted in data/research) and 2) build the foundation for the plans and strategies you will be presenting later. Your “innovation” can be used to 1) shock people, for example to then present a more moderate alternative after or 2) should be very clear and precise to have people completely understand it. Etcetera.
  • What will be the order of these building blocks? Working with chapters will help you play with the structure of your presentation? Do you want to start with a bang and present your big vision/innovation first or will you need to build it up slowly? Do you need some “breathing room” in your presentation because you have to much content or too much “serious” content? Do you need an engaging element or structure to engage the audience? Using blocks, modules or chapters will help you spot this.
  • What is the main content you will need for each of these blocks? When creating a story, you will often be depending on other people helping you out with the content. Creating the chapters will give you insight which content you will need and who to chase. It will often show you as well that -for example- you do not have enough research/data support for your claims and/or that your presentation is too heavy on graphs and data and could use a bit more storytelling.
  • What visualization will you need for each chapter? This all will also help you decide what visualization you will need. Does your story or presentation need to feel well-researched/data-driven, you might need a bit more clear graphs. Do you want to tell an enticing story? You might need to cut down on graphs and need more visuals and oneliners.

It also helps you prepare your story for different audiences:

When I’m writing a story, speech or presentation, it will often happen that the content will be used for different settings. It can be as simple as a project that has to be presented to the direct manager, the board, the rest of the team and on a conference for an external audience. In that case, I will use a story-audience matrix to create an overview which audience will see what content chapter in what form. For example, you don’t want to bother the board will all different examples within your project, but do need to present them the full business case. On the other hand, you can not present anything from the business case to an external audience as it might be confidential, but you do want to take them with you on the journey that has been the development of your project (history).
If I need to engage people in building the story chapters, I will either create a shared document (e.g. a Google Docs) or use the Presentation Gallery Walk structure to walk through the different chapters and add elements.StorytellingStructuring your presentation or speech.