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Who decided on this corporate direction, you or someone else?
In the Board meeting, who said what to whom?
At what age did your realize the importance of strategy?
How do you explain corporate citizenship to your children?
What do you want to challenge your sales professionals to do?
What can they expect from you?
What will be better in their lives and careers?
How will this strategy position your company in the industry?

And, most important:

What do you want to be different after your presentation?

My approach is to ask questions that lead the presenters to tell me their stories and experiences. It may take a
little digging, but invariably we come up with compelling material. Most of these clients ask, “Does the
audience really what to hear these stories?” YES! It is essential that your audience sees the person behind the
position. We are more likely to be motivated when we can see the life lessons beyond the corporate message.

2. Choose a Structure

You don’t have to decide on your structure before you begin assembling your material. However, it will
probably end up falling into one of these familiar Hollywood formats: start at the beginning, start in the middle,
or start at the end.

Start at the beginning. This is the age-old “Once upon a time” technique, just like in every child’s
nursery story. It works for children, movies, and executive presentations. We learn who our story is about, and
we find a way to emotionally bond. Perhaps we relate, or are curious, or just interested to know what will
happen next. To keep the audience interested, we have to develop characters to drive the story forward. They
are on a quest or hero’s journey that is told in chronological order. This is the oldest storytelling technique
known to mankind. Start at the beginning and tell your story or talk about your experience. Just as in many
movies, you introduce the characters, describe the situation, and then keep going. The event may have lasted a
few minutes or a generation, but it is related in the order it happened.

Start in the middle. The Hollywood name for this is “In medias res,” Latin for “in the middle of things.”
You start right in the middle of the action, then go back to show how this happened. Rambo II opens with
Sylvester Stallone about to fight—in a monastery! Who and why? You’re eager to know. Sunset Boulevard
starts with a dead body in a swimming pool. What happened? The dead body then tells us how he got there and
what happened afterwards. Both these films turn into “flashbacks,” revealing what led up to this point, before
showing us what happened next.

My friend, Scott Halford, was going to make a speech about his career. “When I was a boy,” he told me, “I was
always interested in films. My parents encouraged me, and I went to screen school, and I became a
documentary filmmaker.” So far, this is a once upon a time tale. But would audiences immediately relate to this
curriculum vita version of his life? Then he told me something that made me sit up in my chair. “We had an
interesting assignment,” he said, “where we went into death row. I actually spent a week in solitary confinement
and ended up sitting in the electric chair.”

“Patricia, how would you tell this story?” he asked when he’d finished describing his career.

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