Presentation Storytelling: Meet Microsoft Sway

Microsoft’s new online program called Office Sway is another presentation program, but it is not PowerPoint. In fact, it is not even remotely similar to PowerPoint, and that’s great because this difference provides Sway with a new platform and no comparisons are needed!

So what exactly is Sway? Sway has been designed from the ground up to be more of a storytelling presentation program rather than something you will use for slides in your next boardroom meeting where every slide has a chart. Well, if you wanted you could still use Sway for those typical presentations, but PowerPoint probably would work better!

Sway 1Sway is easy to use, does not require any download or installation since it is a program that runs within your browser – and it lets you create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more by combining text and media to create an online presentation. Make note though that a downloadable version of Sway is available for mobile devices such as iPads and Windows tablets.

You can view and edit Sways from almost any modern web browser. You can also share Sways directly from within the browser via so that others can discover and share them. Clearly, there’s so much to learn about!

There are several tutorials on the Sway site at that will help you get started.sway 3

The first step though is for you to sign into your Sway account. If you have a Microsoft account, then you already have a Sway account! A Microsoft account contains credentials you use to sign into any of Microsoft’s services such as Hotmail, Outlook, XBox, Live, Zune, etc. Once you sign into Sway for the first time, you will see content uploaded by others. Why? That’s because you still need to create your own Sway!

Are you a little confused about how we are using the term “Sway” in this article? Yes, we do refer to both the program itself and the presentations created as Sways. You will understand what we mean via the context in which the term has been used in a sentence.

sway2To create a new Sway, you will click on the prominent Create New option, highlighted in red in two places within the screenshot on the right.

You can also create a new Sway by importing a Word, PowerPoint or PDF file. To do so, click the Import button shown highlighted in blue within the screenshot. You can sign out of Sway by clicking on the three dots shown highlighted in green. This will bring up the menu shown in the screenshot below where you can choose the Sign out option.

You can learn more about how Sway evolved in an interview with Chris Pratley, who is General Manager for Microsoft Sway.


 Geetesh Bajaj iGeetesh2s an awarded Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for over a decade now. He has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and heads Indezine, a presentation design studio and content development organization based out of Hyderabad, India. Geetesh believes that any PowerPoint presentation is a sum of its elements–these elements include abstract elements like concept, color, interactivity, and navigation–and also slide elements like shapes, graphics, charts, text, sound, video, and animation. He has authored six books on PowerPoint and trains corporate clients on how to plan, create, and deliver presentations.  For more information on Indezine and Geetesh, click here.


Are You Telling Stories or Anecdotes? Here’s Why It Matters

The president wanted to hit a grand slam at his first all-hands meeting with employees watching the broadcast from around the world. Obviously, engaging those seated in the large auditorium in front of him would be easier. But he didn’t want to miss this first opportunity to win their confidence and trust that he could handle the job left vacant by his predecessor.

“So you said you plan to open with a story about your time in Germany as a young sales manager and what you learned from failure with a client there. Let’s hear it,” I said in our coaching session together. He took his place at the front of the room.  I flipped on the video to record, and he began.

“So what do you think?” he asked after finishing.

“Good energy. Passionate delivery,” I said.  “But it’s not exactly a story.”

He looked dumbfounded.

I went on to explain the difference between an anecdote and a story.

His face turned red. Sheepishly, he asked, “Am I the only executive who has missed that difference during their entire career?”

I assured him that he was not.  A quick-study, he took the situation from his experience in Germany, and we shaped it into a great story to use in his “debut” speech.  And I heard from several sources on my return trips to the company that he won their allegiance that day because it illustrated his humility and willingness to take a risk—and that he’d become an outstanding storyteller.

What you’ve just read above is an anecdote—not a story.

The Difference Between Anecdotes and Stories

An anecdote is an incident that’s usually amusing, odd, sad, or tragic.  Typically, they illustrate a point. Other anecdotes that are biographical or autobiographical often serve to reflect someone’s personality, attitude, or philosophy.

Stories, on the other hand, have an “official” literary definition that you may recall from English class:  A hero or heroine struggles to overcome obstacles to reach an important goal.  (Of course, that “hero” might be an organization struggling to stay afloat and avoid bankruptcy. Or the “hero” might be a new product developed on a shoe-string budget struggling to become number one in the market. Or the “hero” might be a team fighting to prove its worth and avoid being laid off during a merger.)  You get the idea.

So why should you care?  As a leader, CEO, politician, coach, speaker, entrepreneur—why nit-pick about this issue?

4 Persuasive Pluses for the Story

Stories involve the listener in the struggle. As the hero overcomes this and that setback, the listener identifies with similar problems—or at least the frustrations and disappointment such problems cause. Empathy sets in. Listeners (employees, spouse, coworkers, suppliers) can begin to identify with the hero in the story, trying to solve the problem and reach the goal.

Stories forge a deeper involvement and engage emotions on many levels. The details necessary to set the scene and structure the story involve multiple senses:  The physical scene. The appearance of people, things, or places. Fear. Beauty. Starkness. Hearing—conversations, disturbances, arguments, laughter. Withdrawal. Shyness. Mockery.

Stories bring closure on a significant goal.  Listeners actually feel a sense of closure and satisfaction after the story “ends” in much the same way they feel at the end of a movie. Whether the movie or story ends “happily ever after” or butts up against some harsh reality, still there is closure—a truth to be processed and internalized.

Stories are memorable because they have structure. Although good speakers know how to tell even an anecdote well, a story stays in the psyche because it has a definite arch that is always the same: Beginning, middle, end. Not so with an anecdote.  Anecdotes can simply be a slice of life.

Steve Jobs told stories to launch his Apple products successfully. Warren Buffet tells stories about his investment strategies and philosophies.  Presidents and world leaders tell stories about what they’ve achieved while in office and where they want to take the country in the future.

The next time you need to inspire your team, launch a new vision, or motivate people as a leader, perfect great stories.

About the Author:

Dianna Booher is the bestselling author of more than 46 books, published in 26 languages. She consults, writes, and speaks on leadership communication, executive presence, productivity, and faith. Her latest books include What MORE Can I Say: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About ItCreating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate With Confidence, Revised and Expanded Edition. National media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, and Bloomberg have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues. For more information, visit

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