Sales Presentation Story Telling and Audience Engagement: Lessons from The Princess Bride
How many times have you been told that giving a sales presentation is like telling a story? How often have you heard about the importance of audience engagement? You know what to do—but how do you do it?
The trick is to not simply presentation storytelling. You have to bring your audience into the tale. Make it about them and go straight for the good part—as they define it. Engage them in “framing” the story, driving it forward with questions. Go the extra mile—even as far as the Cliffs of Insanity—to make sure you both understand each other. And repeat what you want remembered. Here are some practical tips, using the movie The Princess Bride as our guide.
Tell them what you are going to tell them—but in a way that is interesting to them
The movie opens on the bedroom of a sick boy more interested in playing a video game than having his grandfather read to him. The boy is like a prospect, forced to hear your sales pitch. In truth, he would rather be on his cell phone. The boy doesn’t respect or appreciate his grandfather. They have no common ground and he has no interest in “a kissing book.” He is like a prospect who is not buying. The grandfather doesn’t sell the magical romance, instead he sells what a young boy might like: “Are you kidding? Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes.” He gets the boy’s grudging attention.
Go right into the “good” part of the story–what interests the prospect—for audience engagement
The grandfather nearly loses his audience in the beginning of the book because it starts with the romance between Westley and Buttercup. When they kiss, the boy accuses his grandfather: “What is this? Are you trying to trick me? — Where’s the sports? Is this a kissing book?” It is only when Westley meets his doom that the boy starts to perk up: “Murdered by pirates is good!” Later, when Westley and Princess Buttercup kiss again, the boy complains: “Oh no. No, please…Do we have to hear the kissing part? Skip to the Fire Swamp—that sounded good.” The grandfather in his presentation story telling is sensitive to his audience, agrees to skip the kissing. The lesson: Your prospect will engage with what interests him, not with what you want to say.
Stop for questions. Ask for questions. Let the questions “frame” your story
Soon enough the boy is engaged with exactly what the grandfather promised—the topics that interest his prospect/audience/grandson. Yet the grandfather does not plow ahead. Sensitive to his audience, he asks: “I can stop now if you want.” Urged to continue he does, but asks the boy questions about the story, discussing the boy’s distress when Buttercup does not marry Westley: “Well who says life is fair?” Pretty soon the boy is asking questions, emotionally engaged in the story: “”He’s dead? Westley’s only faking, right?” The questions drive the story through its twists and turns. And it ends with what the boy did not want in the beginning. Grandfather stops reading before the end. The boy is impatient, asking: “What? What?” The grandfather replies: “It’s kissing again. You don’t want to hear it.” The boy urges him to continue and read about the kiss: “I don’t mind so much.”
Inconceivable: “I do not think it means what you think it means”
A shared mutual understanding of your customer’s needs and how you can address them is at the heart of closing a deal. Define your terms in your sales presentation. Repeat back to the customer what you think you hear and ask them if you got it right. It gives your audience a chance to talk about themselves even more for better audience engagement—giving you better insight and more ways to help.
Use repetition in your sales presentation: “My name is Inigo Montoya…”
The Princess Bride is known for its catch -phrases, from “you killed my father; prepare to die,” to “as you wish.” These phrases are repeated a half dozen times or more throughout the movie. Many people can recite these snippets of dialogue from memory. Think of the single take-away you want your audience to understand and remember. Encapsulate it into a short phrase and repeat it.
Turn your sales presentation into a story with audience engagement as good as The Princess Bride. You’ll have your prospect buying into your presentation story telling and buying what you have to sell. Instead of wanting to get away, you may get your prospect feeling much like the grandson: “Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.”