Listen Up! I’ve Got a Story for You

It has been a few weeks since we last had a guest post on our site. For this reason, it was a pleasure for us to receive the following article from Angelo Ponzi, who is Director at C3Centricity partner PhaseOne. His suggestions on storytelling are a must-read for all those in marketing.

Storytelling can be found throughout history and in every culture around the world.  The art of storytelling is certainly not new and has been used to recite the tales of great heroes or villains.  Storytelling has been used to shape and redefine events in order to persuade and change possible outcomes in history.


Who’s your audience?

When you think about storytelling, don’t think in terms of “once upon a time” but instead what story you’re trying to communicate. When you think about presenting your br and to the marketplace or the 110-page report you just developed after weeks of research, you need to think about your audience and how your presentation, whether it’s a TV commercial or PowerPoint, will persuade and motivate them.  Persuasion requires that we distinguish our message from other messages to which our audience is being exposed, provide them with information they are unable to get elsewhere and do it in a meaningful way.

Great business leaders such as Steve Jobs or Jack Welch understood how to use stories when talking about their companies or products.  Advertising also embraces the idea and impact of storytelling.  Think of the conquering heroes of the Red Bull “Got Wings” commercials or how an entire generation embraced Pepsi.

There are lots of ways to approach telling your story. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, play, book or the presentation to the board — keep it simple and focused.


What Does Your Story Say About Your Br and?

Every one of us is impacted by the stories told by br ands.  In fact, we each make br and/product choices hundreds of times each day.  In most cases, we don’t even think about it.  While the reasons we make those choices vary, br and choice is always a part of our decision process.  What does the br and st and for, and what is its story?

Think of Coke, Pepsi, Chevy, Volvo and Virgin America, for example.  I’d be surprised if every one of their stories didn’t pop into your mind, regardless of how you feel about the br and.

The goal for the br ands you represent is for it to become an integral part of your customers’ personal or business lives.  If the story your br and tells fits into their lives and provides them with a solution to their needs, then you have customers for life.


Be Relevant

However, a story that is not relevant and means nothing to your audience will lose audience engagement.  Your job is to make sure your audience cares about the story you’re telling.

PhaseOne’s research has defined some guiding principals to help companies deliver key messages in the stories they tell. These concepts can be applied to company, br and, advertising, and of course that important presentation to management.

From the beginning of man to our current digital age, storytelling has been an important aspect of life. As the cave man stood in front of the fire pointing and grunting to tell the story of his hunt, to the executive at the local watering hole after work telling her colleagues about the killer presentation she made to the CEO, storytelling has and will continue to be an important part of who we are.

This post is based upon one that was first published in Alert Magazine’s January 2013 issue. You can read the full article here:

For more on how you can improve your organisations use of storytelling and presentations, please check our website: and/ If you would like our support on this topic, then ask about our 1-Day Catalyst sessions; one topic, one day, BIG improvements. Please contact us for an informal discussion about how we can help.

C³Centricity uses images from  and

Presentation success: 5 Tips to go from good to great

Are you sometimes frustrated that nobody seems to listen to your presentations as closely as you would like, or to take the actions you are recommending afterwards? 

Having been in the same position myself, I also know that you probably work hard to make needed transformations in your presentation content and style, to get the attention of management, but they either don’t notice or even worse don’t give you the chance to show that you can do better. If so, then this post is for you.

Recently, I came across an inspiring – if long – video made by Sony Music about their segmentation work. Anyone who has run a customer segmentation will surely underst and that although the project itself can be quite complex, even daunting at times, it is nothing in comparison to the challenges you must face to present it to the organisation and to get them to action it.

In the video they speak of a number of ideas that they came up with to get the company to buy into the study and to make the adjustments in their customer approach that were identified by the results. If you haven’t yet seen it I would definitely stop reading and click on the link given above; it is an inspiration to all who watch it, I guarantee.

Watching this video made me realise that however complicated an analytics project might be, it is only when the sharing of the results is effective, that it leads to action and success. Therefore I came up with the following five tips to help bring the change and action you are hoping for from your presentations, be they the results of market research projects, the summary of information you have gathered from trawling the web, or any other form of knowledge gathering, analysis and sharing.

#1. Don’t tell me what you’ve done

I know we all want to be believed and we think that sharing all the work we have done, the hours of analysis, the thous ands of interviews carried out etc will impress the audience. This can’t be further from the truth. Either the listeners already know what was done, or at least can find more information in the report should they want to.

Instead, why not tell them what they need to do? What are the actions they need to consider, to take advantage of the challenge or opportunity you have uncovered? Let’s spend time talking about ideas rather than information.

#2. Dump the data

Almost any gathering of data and information provides more knowledge than anyone can swallow at one time. Instead of sharing everything you have found, why not share only the small proportion that led you to the decisions and actions you are proposing? If people want more they will certainly ask and in general most people ask for less rather than more data in a presentation. Use their time for dialogue rather than a monologue!

#3. Dramatize by Visualizing

A picture tells a thous and words, so why do you continue to torture people with text and tables? Show pictures instead, or simple graphs at the very least, so that people will listen to you rather than trying to analyse and comprehend all the numbers you are showing, or trying to read all the words on your slides.

One great example of how people love pictures rather than too many statistics, is the rise in popularity of Infographics; why not make one yourself and give it away at the end of the meeting, rather than sending a report? You can find many inspiring examples on different topics  here.

#4. Do tell a story

Nothing is worse than drowning in data and never-ending tables of information. Make a change by telling a story rather than showing tables of the results and findings. Everyone likes a good story and what’s more they remember it. How often do people remember tables of data?

Sevendots, a C3Centricity partner, prides itself on storytelling in presentations and their clients have been known to retell the story to their colleagues afterwards and also to use the visualisation elements they saw. It is so much easier to remember a story than an analysis.

#5. Don’t give results give actions

Analysts love to drown us all in data and information, when what we are looking for are insights and actions. So instead of presenting results, why not develop insights, by integrating all the other things you know about the subject under discussion and proposing actions or changes that would answer the issues or opportunities that have been identified? This way everyone goes away with concrete ideas of what needs to be done, rather than a sore head from all the data and information. If you have followed tip 4 then this will be a natural conclusion, as every story has an ending.

These are five ideas that I came up with to help the world move away from boring presentations to the more inspiring world of storytelling. They should certainly help your presentations be more successful. Do you have any other ideas on how to make information sharing fun for everyone? I would love to hear about your own best experiences; how did you inspire your audience?

For more on knowledge sharing and presentations, do check out our website here: and/

This post is based on one that first appeared on C3Centricity Dimensions on April 26th 2012. uses images from and

Build Better Insights in just 4 steps

We are lucky to be living in an information rich environment, where numerous data sources are readily available to us.

However, this can also be a challenge since we are usually:

“Drowning in data and starving for insight”

as I have often been quoted.

If you too are drowning in data, take a look at these four easy steps you can take to meet the challenge of better insight development. We call them the four “I’s” of Insight development to impact business:

Step 1 – IDENTIFY: first identify the most relevant pieces of information for the issue or opportunity you have selected to address, as well as for the business or industry you are in. How do you decide what is relevant?

Look at who your target audience is; what do they like to do in their spare time; what are their hobbies; what are their needs, desires and dreams; what motivates them; what are their basic values? What are they tweeting and blogging about? Do they speak about problems they have with the products and categories you are reviewing? All of these will help you to really underst and them and what issues or opportunities there are for your product or service and br and.

Step 2 – INTEGRATE: once you have gathered and prioritized the most valuable sources of information, it is necessary to integrate them in order to reap their full benefits. Customer information and facts that are integrated help to build deeper knowledge. It also enables the extraction of essential underst anding on which the business can grow.

Data integration can be done manually or using technology, which is advisable when managing large amounts of information. Integration of underst anding can be done by looking for themes and key topics that get repeated across the different sources.

Step 3 – INSIGHTS: after integration of the information, you need to develop the insights. If you haven’t already done so, get a mixed team of experts from different relevant departments together to review all the information, and have the project led by one of your Market Research or Insight group. They will love both the recognition and the challenge of running an insight development session, using everything that has been gathered and integrated.

Step 4 – INSPIRE: as the team begins to hypothesize insights coming out of the information, find someone who can then synthesize their findings into a compelling story. Storytelling will fire enthusiasm into both the team and the company at large, and everyone will be more ready and willing to take the required action. Storytelling helps the findings and insights to be transmitted to all interested parties within the organisation. In some cases, a presentation using storytelling is sufficient for decisions to be made.

How do you develop insights in your own organisation. Do you have other ways to integrate information and knowledge? Please share your ideas with everyone.

For more on Insight development, please see our website and/

This post first appeared in C3Centricity Dimensions on December 29th 2011 uses images from

Knowledge Sharing and How to WOW!

Do you work in one of the many organisations that conduct market surveys, or in a department that provides information services internally, only to see your findings dismissed or even worse ignored? If so then maybe I can help you end this frustration.

Over my years working with companies in such diverse people-facing industries as Finance, CPG / FMCG, Leisure, Transport, Pharmaceuticals, Technology and Retail, I have noticed that they were all struggling with the one same area; that of turning information and knowledge, into underst anding and insight, and then actioning their discoveries. There were many reasons for this, sometimes even multiple reasons, but in the end I was able to help them to overcome this and to start taking the necessary actions that resulted in business growth. Let me explain how.

Insight development is often likened to an “Aha moment”; if insight is the Aha, then action has to be the WOW! And I know which most companies would rather have. Therefore I thought I would share with you the five ways I have found to be the most useful in wowing business to take the right action following a period of information and knowledge gathering:

#1. Simplification

One of the most common criticisms I hear of market research and insight people is that they remain in their own little worlds, almost preferring not to leave their offices and the safe haven of their computers, for the real world of business. As if this wasn’t bad enough, when they do “come out” they seem to prefer to speak in a language of statistics and psychology, appearing almost to like the fact that the rest of us don’t really underst and what they are saying.

Solution: If you want to share your findings and get management to back your recommendations, then you need to help them underst and what you are saying. Keep the presentations short, the slides if you are using them, to a minimum, and the “so what” rather than the “what” at the forefront of the presentation or discussion.

#2. Visualisation

Whether it is the 200 tables from a quantitative study, or the 200-word slides from a focus group, market research presentations can be deathly boring! It is said that a picture is worth a thous and words, and sometimes a million numbers! Use graphs and visualisation wherever you can, instead of words. However, this doesn’t mean graphing every number found and showing every cross-tab from every question asked. Visualisation can also mean showing pictures of users, the product or a diagram of how it is being used.

Solution: Infographics have become extremely popular in recent years for one very obvious reason; they make information interesting and attractive again. If you can’t develop an Infographic on the topic, at least ensure that your graphs replace and don’t duplicate your results and words. Use colour-coded dashboards to highlight trends and pictures wherever possible.

#3. Storytelling

History has relied on storytelling down through the ages for the transfer of information from one generation to the next. It is the most natural way for humans to share knowledge and ideas and technology has not replaced this, only enhanced it. However storytelling takes different skills than does analysis since it requires that the findings be shared in an appealing and attractive way. I am sure you agree with me that there are many great market research agencies, but not all of them are good at telling stories, but the best most definitely are.

Solution:  Knowledge that is shared as a story enables everyone in the company to underst and in the same way, the complexities of the customer, across businesses, departments and cultures. It is also a more engaging and memorable way to do so, than simply sharing numbers and graphs alone. Some of the best publicly available examples that you can see are on TED, where speakers must present in under 20 minutes and in most cases, they get their message across in much less than this. How much time would we all save if we made this a rule for all presentations? If nothing else, keeping things short brings more focus and a greater need for a clear story in the time allowed.

#4. Analysis Paralysis

When I was first starting in my career, being precise and correct was what I strived for, and luckily for me, it came naturally since I was born in the astrological sign of Virgo. However, over the years, I have learned that even when I was precise I wasn’t always right, so why get hung up on it? Today, I am just as comfortable working with gut-feelings and imprecision, as I am with precision and statistics. However, what is more important than anything, is to clearly lay out what has come out of all the analysis, data and knowledge; what it all means to the business and what actions must be taken.

Solution: This doesn’t mean I recommend you invent results, but I am suggesting that you don’t ignore findings because they are “only” 94% or 89% validated by statistical testing. If the result is substantiated throughout the analysis, then there is a pretty good chance it is right. Storytelling doesn’t come across too well if every sentence is qualified by a confidence interval or a comment about sample size.

#5. Watching and Listening

You are certainly going to tell it as it is – with the one reserve I just mentioned above – aren’t you? Well sometimes it is not enough. Even if you followed every interview and read every transcript, your audience most certainly hasn’t, so forgive them if they doubt what you are saying, especially if it goes against what they were originally thinking internally.

Solution: There needs to be more than just one person telling the story. I don’t mean to present in pairs, or worse, as the whole team that worked on the project (which I have actually once seen when the agency knew their results were not going to be popular!) but share what you have learned in a more interactive way. Which do you think is going to hit the message home more succinctly; reading “your product is too liquid” or seeing a consumer with the product falling off their fork, or between their fingers when trying to use it?

When possible, add some audio and video clips to a presentation. Not only do they bring your message to life, but they also add the reality of consumers’ lives to the business world – a life many of your audience will not in fact be living themselves.

If you use these five ways to improve your knowledge sharing, I am sure that you will find improved interest in and appeal of your presentations and discussions and a greater willingness to action your recommendations.

Do you have a question or challenge about knowledge sharing or improving your presentations? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

Do you have other ways for sharing your information and findings that get the reactions and actions you are looking for? I would love to hear about your own successes, just add them below.

Please share this post and retweet it to your colleagues who might find it useful or may have their own stories to share.

For more information on knowledge sharing, storytelling and presenting, please check out our website: and/

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