South Park, the Philosopher, and the Power of Visual Storytelling

Incite InsightsAlan Watts rocks.

So do Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

When they combine forces to spread some Wisdom — the results demonstrate the power of visual storytelling.

Telling Your Business Story

Let me ask you a question…

When you think of a:

  • Sales presentation
  • Product demonstration
  • Portfolio of work

Do you think of PowerPoint slides or a Hollywood film?

Too many people think of PowerPoint. That’s why most presentations suck.

Creating an engaging and compelling presentation is hard. Creating an engaging and compelling story is easier.

What makes the Alan Watts pieces so effective is the way they draw you in. Sure the animation is cool — especially if you’re a South Park fan. But the story that the animations tell is achieved by the perfect dance of the words and the images.

Dick Hardt tells a story, rather than delivers a presentation. So does Jeff Brenman.

“How Do I Get My Message Across?”

I get asked this question a lot. People tend to struggle with the best way to present what they’re offering. My advice is always the same — tell your story.

When you’re an entrepreneur, everything is marketing. Everything is selling. Being able to teach your audience about you and your expertise is the best opportunity you have for success. Stories create a connection that allows knowledge to be shared in a way that makes it easy to absorb.

Nobody cares about what you have to sell them. But they do care about what you can teach them.

How do you do that?

By changing your mindset — and learning to tell your story effectively. Presenting to Win by Jerry Weissman, and Story by Robert McKee, should be required reading for any entrepreneur.

To connect with your audience, stop being a business writer and start being a screenwriter. Stop being a PowerPoint user and start being a director. Stop hawking and start educating.

As an entrepreneur, you have a story to tell. Tell it in a way that makes it memorable.


  1. Some great advice. Presenting a story, rather than a slideshow, could really make a difference at my next business meeting. Not being afraid to really step outside of the box (Matt and Trey have) can really motivate people.

  2. Man! After looking at Dick Hardt’s presentation I realized my Power Point Presentation for my Sharpening Seminars STINKS!!!! Thanks for the kick in the pants!! I’ll get right on this!

  3. Tanner – Once you get into “story mode,” you’ll actually find it easier to develop. At least that’s usually the case.

    Jim – Hey no worries — recognition is the first step towards recovery 🙂

  4. I once heard a talk where someone was saying that if you tell a story, your audience will forget everything else that you said but will remember the story. I’m not sure I remember his story, but I remember he said that. ^.^; Maybe he didn’t tell it effectively?

    As long as we’re talking about alternatives to dry Powerpoint slides, how ’bout alternatives to Powerpoint? has a free program called Impress, that can even run Powerpoint slides.

  5. Jared – Actually if that was his core message, he nailed it 🙂

    As for PowerPoint itself, remember PowerPoint doesn’t kill people, people kill people. It’s a tool, and when used right, is very effective. Unfortunately folks confuse a tool for a process.

    I’ve also used Impress on Ubuntu.

  6. That was a fantastic presentation. I’m sitting here with a completed presentation for tonight’s proposal just fighting to not scrap the whole thing and start over.

    To put on a show and tell a story like that takes so much more work, but I’m sure it pays off in the end. Just imagine if everyone else at that conference had “normal” presentations… “Bob McDougal who? I like that quick talkin’ story guy’s stuff! Identity 2.0, here I come.”

  7. All very true statements. The visual aspect of a presentation more often than not is what catches people. Sometimes it amounts up to them paying attention to the “boring” stuff in order not to miss the next cool visual.

    In my early days as a consultant I would “Tag along” on sales visits or client teaching semnars and sat through countless presentations (yes powerpoint) on some of which I was fighting the weight of my eyelids every second of the presentation.

    When a couple of years later it was me up on the podium doing a teach-in on SQL server, I found myself being the one putting other people to sleep.

    It took me about a year to get over that, but when I finally did and I preapred my next presentation, I found that with a balance between humor, working examples and code examples combined with story telling and of course the lesser desired actual material that needed to be covered, there were more attentive listeners, less interuptive bathroom breaks and an applause at the end.

    Okay so I am no Hollywood director, but at least I wasn’t the embodiment of the greek god Hypnos !

    OKay, now I got to get some work done.

  8. Let’s not make presentations the bedtime stories of tomorrow though, like Michel said: “with a balance between humor, working examples and code examples combined with story telling and of course the lesser desired actual material that needed to be covered, there were more attentive listeners, less interuptive bathroom breaks and an applause at the end.”

    Great stuff Michel, just had to quote you on it.

  9. You’ve certainly convinced me. That shifthappens (Jeff Brenman) slide show blew me away. It reminded me of The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, but it packed a lot more power. (In fairness to Friedman his book contains a lot more information, but it does get tedious after a while.)


  10. Jesse – That’s right, the extra work is well worth the effort.

    Michel and Tanner – Engagement is key. A mix of good visuals, and a well paced delivery, will help draw the audience in rather than put them to sleep.

    Elizabeth – Sounds like a great project, and something we definitely need more of.

    Jean – That’s an important point. Being able to deliver a message in a way that is short, to the point, and that sticks will win out every time. I also enjoyed Friedman’s book, because I like in-depth analysis. But so many people have told me they just couldn’t finish it.

  11. Thank you for this post. It is a great reminder about the power of story telling with some great ideas on how to do it better. I want to become a better story teller in all areas of my life.

    Your post also reminds me of Seth Godin’s book “All Marketers Are Liars”, which really teaches about telling the story of your product or service to your potential customer.

    Thanks again,

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