8 Tips for Presenting the IT Story

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 03-04-2011

How to Present The IT Story

We feel your pain. You need to make a major presentation to your organization - which includes everyone from your CEO to the CFO to the rank-and-file in all departments - to "sell" the audience on an IT initiative. Or, perhaps you've been called to present to your board of directors for the first time.

You realize a long, dreary speech from the "tech boss" isn't going to get the crowd "pumped up" from the get-go. The solution? Don't give a long, dreary speech, according to Peter Guber.

With a proven track record in the entertainment, sports, and new media industries, Guber's successes are often directly tied to his command of "telling to win" during his presentations. In the book, Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story (Crown Business/Available now), Guber reveals that you don't have to be a Hollywood hotshot to dazzle audiences with your speeches.

There are many, highly transferable qualities of winning presentations that CIOs and other senior leaders can adapt for their own engagements. In the end, it's all about connecting by telling a purposeful story. "Stories emotionally transport the audience," says Guber, "so they don't even realize they're receiving a hidden message."

After an extensive history of leadership with Columbia Pictures, Casablanca Records and Filmworks, Sony Pictures and other high-profile entertainment organizations, Guber is now chairman/CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group. Films he produced or executive produced have been nominated for more than 50 Oscars. (Including Mandalay's The Kids Are All Right, which was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture.) Guber is also owner and co-executive chairman of the NBA franchise, the Golden State Warriors.

8 Tips for Presenting the IT Story

Here are eight tips drawn from the book that you can use for your next big presentation:

  1. Introduce "me-to-we" techniques that transform your story into a shared experience. In your "tell," you connect to your listeners through shared frustration or pain, turning your audience into viral advocates.
  2. All stories have a challenge, struggle and resolution. The beginning sheds light on the challenge. The middle explains what it takes to meet the challenge. The end is a call-to-action.
  3. Humanize the numbers. When you tell the story of the people behind any "success stats" presented, you put "real" faces on the data.
  4. Past failures can demonstrate authority/authenticity as well. If you apply lessons learned to failure through the story you tell, you convey admirable qualities of vulnerability, humility and resilience.
  5. Listen with your ears - and eyes. Listen and look to see if the audience is engaged. Are they nodding, laughing and taking notes? Or are they yawning, pulling out smart phones and slumping in their chairs?
  6. Be prepared to drop your script. Telling purposeful stories is as much about improvisational ability as it is about a good script. Take verbal/visual clues from the audience and remain nimble enough to shift direction as needed.
  7. Change passive listeners into active participants. Surrender control of your presentation to them. Allow them to "own" your topic with their input on action steps.
  8. Use "state of the heart" technology online - and offline. In doing so, you will make your story resonant, memorable, actionable   and more likely to be paid forward by your listeners.