Narration – The New and Improved Slide Deck


Most, if not all, of us in communications and marketing are intimately familiar with the age-old slide deck. Long a staple of the white-collar workplace, slides are a near-universal instrument in the presenter’s toolkit. But if recent trends from some highly successful players are any indication, that may be changing—and we think, for the better.

In an article for Inc., Carmine Gallo, author and aficionado of narrative storytelling, excitedly describes how Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has banned the use of slides in executive meetings. Instead, the business mogul employs a “narrative structure” that frames the meeting with a story the participants read and discuss.

Gallo applauds this strategy for its appeal to our foundational communications methods. “We process our world in narrative,” he writes. “We talk in narrative and—most important for leadership—people recall and retain information more effectively when it’s presented in the form of a story.”

That’s not to say you can’t tell a story with slides, but to default to them is to put the cart before the horse. Bezos and other innovators—Gallo references Elon Musk and Richard Branson as others who have sworn off bullet points on slides for actual sentences—recognize that the medium must conform to its content, not the other way around.

For those of us in healthcare communications, understanding the importance of a good story is nothing new. While the very language of science, medicine and healthcare may intimidate the uninitiated, stories allow our audiences to access the information through a familiar framework in a far more personal setting than an intimidating wall of bulleted text.

What’s more, storytelling creates a narrative that can better incorporate patients, healthcare professionals, and research institutions while highlighting their intertwined relationships. A story of a patient’s personal experience through diagnosis, treatment and recovery is far more engaging than a list of symptoms, hospital tests and possible therapies. In this sense, a storyteller can get the message across in a way that simplifies, educates and resonates.

Gallo agrees with Bezos that data and metrics, while extremely useful, are best used when they are in sync with intuition and emotion. In other words, the most effective stories and anecdotes make both “rational and emotional appeals,” since even the most astounding findings risk falling flat if the audience is not emotionally invested.

In an area as holistic as healthcare, the way we communicate should be equally comprehensive. So the next time you’re giving a presentation, consider not only what information you need to convey, but also why your audience should care and how best to engage them. You may find that slides are not needed.