How to use timeless storytelling arcs in presentations
You don’t have to be a film buff or a book worm to notice the similarities that run through most films and books. In fact, these similarities run through all stories. The heroes, complications and plot twists are what keep us entertained, which is why they’ve been used for thousands of years.
We’ve recently written about a popular storytelling arc – the hero’s journey – and how it can be incorporated into presentations to help engage audiences and support presenters. Today, we’re looking at two other popular storytelling arcs that can be used to craft an effective, attention-grabbing narrative in a presentation.
So, let’s get going.
The Rebirth storytelling arc differs from the hero’s journey in that it places the focus on a villain protagonist who redeems themselves over the course of the story to become the hero.
First, this villain falls under the shadow of a dark power, before meeting a transformative redemption figure who encourages them to change their ways. That’s what keeps us watching.
In most cases, this redemption figure is a child or the main character’s partner who helps the protagonist (and soon-to-be hero) remember what love feels like and see the world in a new light.
The arc can be broken up into the following 3 acts:
Act 1: The hero falls under the shadow of a dark power
Act 2: It seems as if the dark power has completely triumphed
Act 3: The miraculous redemption of the hero
One of the best examples of the Rebirth storytelling arc is A Christmas Carol, which follows the villain protagonist – Scrooge – on his journey to becoming the hero. In this case, the redemption figures are the ghosts. If you didn’t already know, it goes like this:
Act 1: Scrooge has become a cold, selfish character
Act 2: The ghosts show Scrooge a future where nobody mourns his death
Act 3: Scrooge wakes up a changed man, vowing to embody the Christmas spirit year-round
To put it simply, any story that follows a protagonist who is initially morally ambiguous but eventually emerges as the story’s hero, follows the Rebirth arc.
The Rebirth Storytelling Arc in Presentations
In a presentation situation in which you are trying to persuade your audience (e.g. to buy, to act or to change their way of thinking), the Rebirth arc can be particularly useful.
So, how do you use it? First, paint a picture of an existing situation that is flawed or corrupted in some way. Perhaps the would-be heroes of your story (your audience members) have fallen into some bad habits, like failing to fully protect the confidentiality of their clients.
Then, introduce your product or service as the solution that allows your audience to see the light and adopt a better, more efficient way of life. This could be a new security software that prevents your audience members from accidentally sharing confidential information. Instead, it promises to fully protect client confidentiality, allowing your audience members to be redeemed from accidental villains to active heroes.
Framing your presentation around this type of plot will help your audience see the benefits of your product more clearly and identify with your message on a more personal level.
Overcoming the Monster
The Overcoming the Monster storytelling arc is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: a framework in which the hero sets out to overcome some kind of evil (a monster). Usually, this “monster” is bigger and more powerful than the protagonist, meaning it takes a lot of courage and strength to defeat it.
The plot of this type of story goes like this:
Act 1: The hero learns about and anticipates the arrival of a monster
Act 2: The monster arrives and the nightmare begins, as the monster seems to triumph
Act 3: The hero finally builds up the strength to defeat the monster, which results in the victory of the hero
The Overcoming the Monster storytelling arc has been around for thousands of years, with stories as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh following its framework around 3,000 years ago. More recently, you might recognise this arc from films like Dracula.
The story of Dracula follows this plot:
Act 1: Jonathan Harker realises that the Transylvanian count he's helping is a vampire
Act 2: Dracula plans to drink Mina's blood, but nobody knows where he is to stop him
Act 3: They track Dracula down and kill him, Mina is saved
This framework is classic and simple. Good always triumphs evil.
Overcoming the Monster Storytelling Arc in Presentations
Incorporating a monster into your professional presentation might seem a bit inappropriate. But, the monster in the Overcoming the Monster storytelling arc doesn’t necessarily need to be some gruesome creature or a blood-thirsty vampire.
Instead, it could be an abstraction, such as a fear. Or, the ‘monster’ could be something a lot more mundane, like a spell of bad business or general unhappiness. In a presentation situation, you could build the story around any ‘monster’ that suits your narrative.
In a sales pitch for a new project management organisational tool, for instance, the monster could be disorganisation, unhappy clients and lost revenue. In the story, your audience member becomes aware of this ‘monster’, but fails to take the necessary action to prevent it, leading to the nightmare situation of project management disarray!
This is where you introduce your product as a means to defeat/solve the nightmare situation, allowing your hero (audience member) to better organise their project management and thrive once again.
Effective Storytelling Arcs
Both the Rebirth and the Overcoming the Monster storytelling arcs provide useful frameworks upon which to base your presentations. They allow you, the presenter, to effectively frame your audience member as the hero of the story, helping them to see themselves in your narrative and better engage with the content of your presentation.
This, in turn, will help you influence and inspire your audience to act.
For support in crafting your narrative and creating a powerful, story-led presentation, get in touch with us today.