PRESENT TO SUCCEED LESSONS LEARNED

That Reminds Me of a Story with Kendall Haven

PRESENT TO SUCCEED LESSONS LEARNED

That Reminds Me of a Story with Kendall Haven

In our Present to Succeed Lessons Learned series, we include all the fascinating, valuable, and wow moments from the sessions of our debut 2021 conference. We aim to share with you the best takeaways and help you improve your presentation craft every day.

Kendall Haven is a brilliant storyteller and a globally renown expert in the science of story structure. His books have changed the way we think about how stories shape human perception and meaning. He also works as a consultant for governments and corporations all around the world.

His session at the Present to Succeed Conference 2021 was an in-depth look at how stories operate and how we may use them more effectively. He discussed how our brains process information and how we may influence it with stories and their elements.

How our brains process information

Kendall started his session with an example of how speakers can be misinterpreted by their audience. He asked the audience at the conference to say “Hi” in a variety of ways, but the audience mistook it as “say it with different words”. And instead, he wanted them to just pronounce it differently. He stated that this happens all the time. We distort all information we receive, which prevents effective communication daily.

According to him, the question we should be asking ourselves should not be “Did I say what I wanted to say?” but “Did you hear what I needed you to hear?”.  And it is never the audience’s fault, it is the speaker’s responsibility to make sure the audience hears what they need.

Kendall also presented an example of two sentences that were initially unconnected. Our brains automatically inferred connections and implied story elements to make that information make sense. The human mind just automatically assumes that there is a connection.

When we see two sentences like the ones Kendall used in his example above, our subconscious automatically assumes that there is a connection between them and it adds the missing context.

Once you understand how stories interact with our subconscious, you can understand what you can achieve through them much, much better.

How our brains create context

So, how do you link the dots? Where do you get the information? Kendall explained that it comes in two ways. The source material, your story, is what you talk about. That’s the source material, and your target audience has banks with prior knowledge. Your audience members fill in all the gaps in the information they receive from those knowledge banks.

Your opinions, experiences, everything you think, everything you have learned, everything stored in your brain is all an example of previous knowledge banks. That’s what you use to fill in gaps in the incoming information and create complete stories. So, what you do with those prior knowledge banks is establish context.

So, what does this mean? If you can create context and relevance for your information, research shows that it is eight to ten times more likely to be remembered and recalled accurately.

The elements of a story

Kendall proceeded by talking about the eight elements of the story we need to successfully engage with anyone’s subconscious. They are informational elements that the brain naturally uses to make sense of any incoming information even before it gets to your conscious mind. By the time the information reaches the conscious mind, you have already converted the story and forced context upon it, if it has any gaps in it without even knowing you did it.

Kendall Haven took the audience through all of the elements of an effective story in great detail.

By including those in your presentation, you can provide your audience with the necessary information without forcing them to fill in any gaps in your story’s context. They are all very simple and we all already know them because our brains are hardwired to use them. But if you want your stories to get remembered, you have to be aware of them.

The elements Kendall mentioned are the following:

Goal

A goal is the first thing you need. It is at the heart of every good story. We want to know why characters do what they do.

Conflicts and problems

You need conflicts and problems. These are the things that keep your character from getting what they want. By definition, anything that blocks a character even momentarily from reaching a goal is a problem. The conflict is a subset of problems that places the character in direct opposition to another character.

Risk and danger

It is not the problems themselves that we care about. We care about the risk and danger that they create. They create excitement and intensity in a story. Risk and danger are great tools to hold the attention of your audience.

Struggle

You want your characters to struggle. Even if you’re talking about your own company, don’t make it easy for them. The more your company has had to struggle to get to where it is now, the more empathy and support you will receive from an audience as you tell the story.

Motive

Another critical element of a story that is underused is motive. Motive is the information that explains why a goal is critically important to the character. Happiness, family loyalty or values, beliefs, attitudes, and cultural conventions all fit under this category.

Character

So, what makes a story believable? It’s all in the details. Sensory details such as how it looked, sounded and smelled. We use our senses to process information about the world, so we must supply the same information. When you paint vibrant, rich, and expansive pictures in your audience’s minds, the story becomes more genuine because this is the image we get when we experience something ourselves. Details give a sense of reality.

Details

Because all stories revolve around their characters, it goes without saying that this is the most important thing you need. All effective stories are character-based, not events or information-based, because they become relevant to the audience only if they relate to the struggles of the characters.

Character traits

So, what makes a story believable? It’s all in the details. Sensory details such as how it looked, sounded and smelled. We use our senses to process information about the world, so we must supply the same information.

Kendall took the audience on an in-depth journey through the science of how and why stories work.

For all of the elements of a story, Kendall gave specific and detailed examples plus science-backed information from his research on the neural and cognitive science of story.

Let's summarize

With Kendall’s eight story elements, you’ll be able to create a character with a goal that your audience will care about. Then, with the help of certain motives, you make that goal crucial to the character and the audience. Throughout the story, the protagonist must overcome challenges while facing risk and danger to reach the goal that is important to them. This is what helps your audience engage with your stories and view them in the way you want them to.

Your brain, like everyone else’s, is programmed to process incoming information such as stories in this way, and if you want your stories to make sense to your audience, you have to provide those elements in your presentations.

Let us know what the most valuable bit of information was from Kendall Haven’s session for you in the comments!

If you want to understand all the elements of a story in true depth and use this knowledge to better prepare your presentations, you have to watch this session for yourself. Kendall Haven gave many invaluable tips that you can apply immediately to your work. Kendall’s session is part of our Storytelling track recordings that you can get for just €39. And for €79 you can have all the 30+ sessions from Present to Succeed 2021.

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Join Present to Succeed - the biggest presentation skills conference in the world

Whether you are part of an organization or running a business, how your slides look will always factor in your success. Learn how to become an influential speaker by joining our 30+ industry-leading speakers’ sessions.

Start engaging your audience better and influencing them to embrace your concepts, hire you, or buy your products. Now is the best moment to get your ticket!

Join Present to Succeed - the biggest presentation skills conference in the world

Whether you are part of an organization or running a business, how your slides look will always factor in your success. Learn how to become an influential speaker by joining our 30+ industry-leading speakers’ sessions.

Start engaging your audience better and influencing them to embrace your concepts, hire you, or buy your products. Now is the best moment to get your ticket!