Telling Your Story Produces Relaxed Communication, Effective Technical Presentations
As trusted advisors, technical professionals stand on the data first. Telling the story of the data overpowers most of our communication shortcomings.
The best advice for improving the quality and understanding of technical presentations is “tell your story.” The second-best advice is to be brief when you tell it.
A Form of Storytelling
According to marketing guru and story branding expert Donald Miller, customers will ignore you without a clear message. The same can be said of the relationship between technical experts and their decision makers.
Storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. – Wikipedia
In a business environment, storytelling provides several benefits:
Improves Decision Making
However, storytelling is not quite the same as “telling your story” when it comes to data and information full of complexity and uncertainty.
What Story Are We Talking About?
Telling your story starts with explaining how you see the data, models, and information through your technical background and experiences. Along the way, it is necessary to clarify what you mean by certain key terms like reliability, risk, and resiliency.
Telling your story includes what the data tells you or what it does not when you graph or visualize it. Telling your story ends with what you conclude based on your understanding of what the data is telling you.
Telling your story in a presentation as a technical professional means telling what you see in the data and what the data means to you.
For the Technical Manager (the “boss”)
For the boss, the direction for your staff to “tell your story” takes several burdens off them as a presenter. First and foremost, it removes much of the fear of failure that comes in several forms—fear of missing the key messages, fear of providing imperfect communication, and fear of disappointing you (the boss's boss).
"Tell your story" also introduces sincerity and opens the door to empathy.
Finally, “tell your story” demonstrates how the presenter evaluates and makes decisions (their ethics), which transparently exposes biases that we all have.
Thinking About It
Telling your story in a presentation as a technical professional means telling what you see in the data and what the data means to you. There is no need to memorize, no fear of imperfection, and no fear of disappointing someone. Just tell your story.
Remember, “tell your story" bridges the communication gap only if the story can be told briefly.