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Storytelling Frameworks

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There is a well-respected principle of making one point per slide. This principle is important because it prevents slides from becoming overly ambitious and cluttered. With every principle come exceptions. Sometimes it is important to present a complicated concept in a broad stroke and then break it down into smaller, more explainable and digestible parts.

There are three basic techniques for laying out a complex concept on a single slide:

  • Transparent overlays
  • Animated reveals
  • Shape changing.

All of these techniques use animation, which is difficult to show in a written article. What you'll see, therefore, are screenshots of the basic slide transitions. Let your imagination kick into gear as you view them. Make decisions about how you would present the material: lots of little reveals (clicks); or one click to set a series of animations into motion, one after the other, while you stand back and assess the audience reaction; large reveals that are less controlled and restrictive for your audience.

Transparent Overlays

Transparent overlays are not widely used, and I can't figure out why. They are such a great way to build a complex concept without obscuring the previously presented part of the slide. This first set of screenshots use transparent overlays to convey two main concepts at once:

  1. What needs to happen before a global rollout can take place
  2. The geographical order for the phased rollout.

This slide does not get into the specifics of the reasoning behind the concepts. That will happen in subsequent slides. This slide just prepares the audience to absorb a couple of concepts that need to happen sequentially.

This is the beginning view. You can use a photograph of earth or other symbol you like better to represent the world. The symbol will have overlays, so choose something that does not have a great deal of detail.

A clipart globe is used here.

The next stage of information explains what needs to be in place in order to begin rolling out the global offering. A round puzzle cut into four pieces is used to overlay the globe. Each piece of the puzzle can be added individually with a click so that the presenter can offer information about each piece.

The puzzle can be found in series SG003.

The last stage of information is another overlay in the form of a target. The order of the phased rollout is revealed by clicks, starting with North America (the center) and radiating out. This is the finished slide. All of the layers are visible, so the audience still has access to all of the information presented.

The concentric circles can be found in series SG034 ("halos").

Animated Reveals

Animated reveals are the most common way of presenting complex sequential concepts. Even though it is the method is most commonly used, it is not a technique that you see that often. It takes a fair amount of time to analyze the different aspects of the message, select frameworks that tell the different parts of the story, and then fit them together so that they appear cohesive. There is rarely more than one or two of these slides in a single presentation. But if these slides are done well, the subsequent supporting/elaboration slides are very easy to develop. As with every skill, the more it is done, the better one becomes at doing it; and this is a skill worth developing.

The first reveal on this slide is the core values graphic. The presenter begins the change cycle discussion by establishing the core values, explaining that they must be at the center of all change.

The non-data-driven pie with a center cutout can be found in series SG010. This series also has "halos" around the pie, which you can just delete. The shadow, which "lifts" the framework off the slide a bit, can be found in DE002.

This reveal brings into play the contributing factors of change.It also gives the audience an historical and current understanding of the company.The split chevron feeds into a circle, which signifies the need for change.

The split chevron is found in HF015.

The steps in the change cycle are now introduced. They can be brought up all at once (as shown here) or each individual step can be introduced with a click. Notice that the inflow and outflow disrupt the cycle, showing that there are actually two stages within the cycle.

The top half of the change cycle is part of the 10-step circular flow in CF003. The bottom half of the change cycle is the top part of the 5-step circular flow in cf003 (grouped and flipped vertical and then flipped horizontal).

The final reveal shows what the future will look like. This can be boxed if you like. Make it roughly the same size and color/gradient as the in-flow of "Today" and "Yesterday" on the left if you do.

This slide with animated reveals effectively meshes parts of a whole (the core values) with two different flow devices (circular flows and split chevron): not very difficult to put together. But the combination conveys a very complex set of concepts.

The next slide is a bit more complex. The second reveal is applied force, which sometimes is not that easy to convey effectively. After the force graphic is applied, the rest of the slide comes together rather easily.

This slide is actually used as a bullet alternative. This is an excellent example of departing from the dreaded bulleted list. The industry is signified by a photograph. Any graphic can be used, of course.

The segmented halo is used to surround the industry and exert force. Little arrows were added to further convey inward flow to/force on the industry.

The segmented halo can be found in SG009, specifically sg009_0504_v4 (just delete the fields in this framework that are not needed). Arc text from WordArt is added to label each segment of the halo.

The interpret implications reveal for this chart is a simple flow. Interpretations always have an end result, so flows are a good graphic to use.

The flow framework can be found in series AV004.

The final result is then revealed. I like the impression that the slide gives: the concept starts out with something substantial and then boils down into something that is understandable and workable (the left side of the slide heavy on content that reduces as it progresses to the right side of the slide). You may wish to give the forecast probabilities a little fanfare, however. Box it or put an oval behind it if you wish.

Shape Changing

Shape changing is a technique that shows information in one format which then changes into another format. The example slide below, presenting a list that turns into a framework, is very effective at guiding an audience through a developing concept.

This is a standard bullet alternative that presents a list of information simply and elegantly. This layout sets the stage for the following reveals. Instead of a photograph (in this case a compass), the company's logo would work here as well.

The bullet alternative can be found in series BA001.

The lines that extended from the compass to the three list items fades away and a pyramid appears in its place.

The pyramid can be found in series HI008.

The gathering process can be illustrated with a simple flow.

The flow framework can be found in series AV004.

The last slide shows the data flowing into a spiral flow framework with steps. The goal of the day is to identify the steps in this process so that the strategic direction can be identified and set.

The spiral flow framework can be found in series SF002.

When putting a framework story together, approach it methodically.

  • Break the message down into separate concepts. If you're working from a list of items that you'd like to build a story around, then try rewriting the list so that the lead-in word is a verb. I find that this makes it easier to identify the type of framework that would complement the phrase.
  • Search out and select the best frameworks to illustrate each part of the message.
  • Combine them by adjusting layout, resizing, and color/gradient choices. This is an important part of finalizing the slide:
  • Use color to make "connections" between the different phases (use color as a tool)
  • Use gradients to underscore a flow direction
  • Standardize all text sizes according to the hierarchy of thought. If you label each step of the phase, make sure the text labels are formatted exactly the same but slightly different from the other text on the slide. This makes it easier for your audience to interpret and understand the individual frameworks that tell your story.