You have to listen to two words only before Cristian Prieto grasp your attention till the very end of his talk, even if it was about cats! everybody just goes silent, listening carefully, staring and waiting for more!…and the secret behind it, as I see it, is HE IS A PERFECT STORY-TELLER!
Let’s face it, people like stories; we watch movies, we read novels, even news sounds much more interesting when there is a “story” behind it! it is the nature of humans.
As a consultant you want to affect clients and change them to be better: their practices, their way of thinking, their skills… all what you can make better, and the key to all this, my dear reader, is getting their attention! make them aware, make them realize, and what better than a story to do that!
And yes, even the most boring technical idea can be turned into a very interesting story! watching the great story-tellers, I have noticed they have these elements in their talks:
- Have a beginning: a “Once upon a time” phrase that is suitable for the idea.
Examples: “In 2003 at the beginning times of .net, programmers used to…” or, “When the WCF team thought about adding x to the library, there was no…”.
- Create a knot: where the peak of the story is formed, either a big problem that will be resolved by the end of your talk, or a very pleasant atmosphere that is going to be ruined by a sad end of your talk too! (IT industry is full of that, isn’t it ;))
Examples: “…developers started using more and more config files, XML was everywhere! misspellings, malformed files, different schema versions…it was crazy!”, or “…the feature really solved a problem, everybody felt good about it because it was just simple!…”
- Teaser questions, and involve the audience.
Examples: “…and guess what they suggested to solve this?”, or “What would you if you were in the teamleader’s shoes?”
- Use profound words with vocal emphasis, but avoid misleading exaggerations.
Examples: “They wiped EEVVEEEEERYTHING they had on the database”
- Use hand and body gestures: the more you are involved with the story you are telling, the more effect it is going to have on the audience.
Example: when you say for example “they wiped the structure of the database” make a gesture with your hand that expresses that. (make sure you don’t offend anyone by any EHM gesture! :P)
- Conclude with confidence.
Examples: “..and THAT my friend what made this feature so unusable in the latest version”
On a side note though, this is a talent that you need to practice a lot, and it is NOT easy at all! some people just have it by nature like Cristian, but for the rest of us, we need to practice hard!