Story Time

A collection of facts is not a story. If you have the chance to give a presentation, why would you talk about only facts? What is the story?

As scientists, we like to focus on facts—facts are safe, they aren’t up for debate. Facts (i.e., data) are what we agree to before we start the discussion; the discussion that follows can focus on the interpretation of the data, but the facts—the data—is not up for debate. (At least by the time you get to the point where you are giving a presentation.)

When we think of a story, we probably assume three acts: a beginning, a middle, and the end. But framing a presentation in this framework can cause worry to a business audience. It’s often helpful in this setting to provide the bottom-line-up-font (BLUF). Yes, it gives away the ending, but this technique creates a useful top-down narrative that anyone with too many meetings on their calendar will appreciate.

If you want to engage the audience—whether one, five, twenty or a hundred—tell us the story behind the data. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out tale, but it needs to be enough to provide context and justify the time commitment you are asking us to give.

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