Forget the Hero's Journey (for Presentations)

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Storytelling should be in the toolbox of every presenter, right next to a focus on the audience, and the use of visuals. Storytelling is nothing new - it's a tried and tested technique and its use in presentations should come naturally. But storytelling in presentations is not the same as storytelling in writing or in movies. Let me explain.

When you look up "storytelling" you'll find a lot of material and best practises on its use in advertising, in movies, and in written fiction. The latter two will give you a lot of room to tell a complex story. And so, naturally, you'll find articles and lectures about the use of the most popular storytelling device, the Hero's Journey. Even in the unlikely event that you haven't come across this term before, you will surely have encountered it in action, since pretty much every Hollywood movie of the last 40+ years has followed that pattern, be it a romantic comedy or a science fiction epos. In fact, Star Wars, the original movie from 1977, is one of the best examples of an almost slavish application of the Hero's Journey.

I won't go into the details here as there's enough material about it out there. What I actually wanted to say is: Forget about the Hero's Journey if you're preparing a presentation!

In your presentation, you simply won't have the time to go through the twelve stages of the Hero's Journey. A typical movie is 90 minutes. Your presentation, I would hope, is much shorter; half of that time at most, even less with most modern formats. While your typical audience these days pretty much expects to hear a story, they want some insight, too. If they wanted only a story, they'd go see a movie.

Fortunately, there are much shorter patterns for storytelling. If you're going to present a solution to a problem, here's a simple pattern. For the next level, try reordering the pieces or start with the end. And if neither of those fit your need, get some inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut who discovered that stories have a very simple shape.

But as far as presentations go - forget about the Hero's Journey.

(Image by avi_acl, from pixabay, CC0)

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Creative Commons Licence "Forget the Hero's Journey (for Presentations)" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.