Exec storytelling tips & brand awareness metrics

One of my most popular newsletters to date was on the topic of building an executive narrative.
This past week I earned a little more practice doing exactly that again. 
There is a real art to distilling down complex information into simple, digestible bite sized knowledge nuggets that not only bring a unified understanding between parties, but serve as tools to inspire, motivate, connect and influence groups of people to take action. 
As a consultant, of course, a lot of my job is to do exactly this. It’s to take a large, complex body of technical discovery and distil it down to WHAT they need to do and WHY it matters. Then the HOW can follow in the report detail or the appendix – or sometimes depending on the audience, it can be sent before the conversation for a pre-read. 
I’ve been consulting for approximately 50% of my career to date (the other 50% of my time was spent in-house) but it’s really only been the past 24 months that I’ve truly placed my focus on honing this skill. 
The reason? I’ve observed the incredible power that passionate storytelling has to move large bodies of people to action. 
I’ve always been someone who naturally has been quite entrepreneurial. I’ve always had an innate vision and purpose attached to pretty much everything I do. I’ve had a need to maintain a personal “why”, I journal frequently about the kind of person I want to develop into and the legacy I want to leave this earth with. 
Even as an ankle biter I was self-nominated President (obviously) of The Secret Society Club, a neighbourhood club I all-but-forced every kid within our estate to join. There were an array of tactics used. From writing pamphlets I dropped in their letterboxes to promising them a revenue share from the lemonade stand we held in my front driveway. These tactics helped but it was the vision of what it really meant to BE in the Secret Society Club that mattered. We were the only club that mattered in that suburb and soon, I’d have kids knocking at the door asking what they had to do to become a member. 
Suffice to say, on some level I’ve always known that storytelling well can move people to action. In the context of driving analytics maturity progression, data literacy and insight-led decisioning in large corporate organisations, this is an art that is VERY needed. 
So today I took my team through a lot of the tips and some of the pitfalls I’ve experienced along my journey. I am sure I have much more to learn and there will be another version of this dropping in your inbox at a future date, but for today, these are my top tips for executive storytelling:
Don’t bury the insight  
For years I fell into the trap of leading Powerpoint packs with “Here are all of the areas I looked into” before finally getting to the punchline of “… and *drumroll* here’s the move you should make” 
The problem? Everyone has fallen asleep and the excitement has most definitely subsided by the time you get to the punchline. 
Now I flip it. 
“This is what you are here to see. THIS Is the move.” 
Followed by…
“… and here’s how I got there”.
Totally different. 
As one of my team members put it today “Put your homework at the back”. I liked that framing and it rings true. 
Match maturity 
Whatever you do, don’t assume everyone knows what you are talking about.
I’ve never experienced a situation where a level-set goes unappreciated. Sure, there might be a few people that are all “Yeah, I know…. Get on with it” but the risk of moving forward without knowing that everyone in the room is on the same page will only cause more havoc later. 
I used to ask the question, but I find that often people don’t like admitting they don’t know what they don’t know. 

Sometimes too, people think they know but may have a slightly different definition from you. 
Wherever possible align on key definitions, offer a brief 101 on technical topics and don’t be afraid to drop the “I’m sure many of you already know these definitions but I do want to be certain we all have the same understanding of what we mean when we say THIS” 
Consider the context 
What is going on for your audience at the moment? What’s happening in their business? In the industry? How is the initiative you are promoting going to support them in the immediate, short, mid and long term? What are the upstream or downstream impacts? 
I had a presentation earlier this week where there is significant change in a client’s industry measurement standards. I addressed it head on and linked back exactly why what we are doing matters despite the lack of industry alignment and clarity. 
Step outside of your own perspective and into their shoes. Think “What questions would I have on the viability, desirability and feasibility of this solution in the context of what else is going on for the business right now?”
Don’t drown them in detail 
A little similar to “don’t bury the insight” but slightly more nuanced to the way each individual slide is crafted, and then the pack as a whole.
I’ll never forget I had a client who I worked very closely with to craft multiple versions of a pack that we eventually both gave our blessing to have circulated with his executive superiors. After one of our first calls together when we were iterating on the draft he had said to me “Kate, you’re super switched on and you clearly know your stuff, but you need to figure out how to say that in three boxes on one slide”. It was one of the best pieces of advice I ever got and it’s exactly why I can be penning this week in review today. 
Use analogies, metaphors and framework based strategies 
Probably quite an obvious one, but wherever possible, ELI5. (that’s explain like I’m five).
I actually love using ChatGPT to help me with this. 
I’ll drop an ELI5 [body of text] or “Give me a metaphor or analogy for X to spark some ideas. 

I also love being able to offer framework-based strategies as a way to simplify a lot of complex or competing ideas. 
Consider the format 
Last but not least, consider the format or format(s) that make the most sense. 
For many clients I’ve chosen one, or all of the below:
  • Executive Presentation Pack + Report Detail: 
    Two separate packs. One for reading and one that is presented. When presenting, use the PPT features to your advantage by ensuring only the bullet points or images you are talking to animate up one at a time. It helps to keep people focused and feeling clear headed as you present.
  • Combo Pack: 
    This is often when I’lll produce the above but in one pack. Exec summary and CLEAR simple slides at the front, homework at the back.
  • Poster: 
    Yes, I have been known to craft a sort of “poster” that encourages teams to print off and pin up your key framework to reference.
  • Video: 
    A great option if you can. I’ve seen some incredible infographic style videos in my time that do wonders especially if you need to send around an initiative you’d like a large group of people to get behind.
Bonus tip: Remember that client I referenced who gave me that cracking good feedback? That fabulous ex-client-turned-mentor-turned-friend recently shared with me an executive presentation they crafted. 
One element they included that I thought was particularly clever, was the inclusion of flags for “Must Have” and “Should Have” initiatives. I really loved the distinction as it simply allowed the viewer to know what level of information they needed to hold in their “urgent brain” and what could be removed from the mental load, considered only for a future state conversation in a not so distant future. 
It’s been a fun week. I love being able to craft clear presentations that articulate the value of what we do. It’s made that much better when you can see your clients eyes light up with that “AHAH!” moment that only comes from making the complex, simple. 
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Hi I'm Kate! I'm relentlessly curious about the attribution and origin of things. Especially as it relates to being a corporate girly balancing ambition and a life filled with joy.

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