How to give a presentation: (6) another way to tell stories

One of the services that FJWilson Talent Services offers is presentation training. Here our presentation coach, Anthony Haynes, gives the sixth in a series of concise, practical, tips.

anthony_haynes bnu cropped

In my previous post, I suggested organising a presentation around a story consisting or a problem-solution string.

An alternative is to construct it around pairs of characters. These characters may be individual people. Or they may be organisations, or ideas, or forces, or trends — or whatever.

To give an example: Lord Eatwell once presented a BBC television series on the ‘de-industrialisation’ of Britain. To explain his argument, he needed to give an account of the history of economic thought. How to do so to an audience that might know little, and care less, about the subject?

He chose two tendencies. In the one corner, he had economists who, generally, believed that markets worked well. In the other, he had those who believed they didn’t. This enabled him to introduce one argument, then explain why people dissented, the how people countered the arguments of the dissenters, and so on.

Whichever characters you choose, the key point is to focus the plot on the changing relationship between the two. For example, at times they might be antagonists; at other times they might work in tandem; or they might overlap in some way; or motivate each other, or…: there’s no shortage of possibilities.

For example, suppose that you work for a a membership organisation. You want to raise its profile. You might choose as the two characters in your story (1) traditional media and (2) social media. At the start of the story, they might be opponents: you have staff time to devote only one of them. But then you might find that your traditional media campaign leads to activity on social media; or you might send a traditional press release about an upcoming social media initiative; or you might separate the two kinds of media, using traditional media for one kind of purpose and social for another. And so on.

Such stories always involve simplification. But the advantage of this is that the plot may be easily followed. And the plots can be exciting, especially if you follow the arc of stories that we know people engage with  — from comedy, say, or tragedy or romance.

There’s just one point to remember. To keep the story focused, you need in addition to the two characters a third component, namely the focus around which the story revolves. In Eatwell’s story, it was the growth of manufacturing; in my example above, it was the raising of an organisation’s profile.


  1. select two characters;
  2. select a focus;
  3. show how the relationships change over time.

Leave everything else out.

Next in the series: the question of slides.

Respond here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s