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

Leaders: Use Story to Create the Future

Lou Gerstner, the IBM CEO who led Big Blue out of the wilderness, said, “I tell Wall Street stories about IBM’s future because facts about the future do not exist.” What sets competitors apart today are not the scientific skills of dueling algorithms, but the aesthetic talents of storytelling: imagination, insight and creativity. With enough data, any executive can read a cross-section of the now; only a few, like Lou Gerstner, can author the future.

Story is more than a communications tool, more than a sales tool; it is a decision-making tool. I mentor my clients in all three uses of story-in-business: to bond, to persuade, to envision. Each of the three has three dimensions.

TO BOND: Use story to:

1) Speak in a human voice that creates empathy between employer and employee, building engagement in the work.

2) Inspire teamwork within and across corporate divisions.

3) Enhance the flow of communication up, down and across the corporation’s pyramid of power.

TO PERSUADE: Use story to:

1) Create positive brand awareness in the public’s mind.

2) Forge new markets within that public.

3) Sell. The modern business wraps its identity in the meaningful emotional web of story to capture the customer’s awareness and persuade sales. Compare the engaged storytelling of Siemens’ highly effective branding campaign, Answers, with the syrupy, eye-fatiguing montages of Cisco’s failed and abandoned campaign, The Human Network.

TO ENVISION: Shape knowledge and feeling into the form of story to:

1) Broaden and deepen an executive’s wisdom,

2) So he or she can make effective decisions based on both hard and soft data, and

3) Lead implementation of this strategy the way a great author guides the reader through a novel. Executive genius is a kind of literary genius.

The story a leader tells becomes corporate strategy, a map to the future others can follow to a success-filled climax.

The higher up the pyramid of power an executive ascends, the broader and deeper her vision. The more distant her horizon, the more all-inclusive her wisdom. The more complete her story, the more impactful her decisions.

Reliance on data, coupled with an inability to express oneself in story leads to disengaged employees, bland marketing, failed deal making and, most critically, bad decisions. In 2013, Siemens fired its CEO Peter Loescher because, as the German press put it, “He had no story.” Imagining corporate life like an author actually makes decisions all the more logical, all the more insightful.

A leader sees possible futures; his decisions create the future. When you use your imagination to envision the world in story form, you can sense how your corporation’s desire will rub against the world’s antagonisms before this friction sets events on fire. Story gives you foresight to see the consequences of future events long before they happen. A leader prepares for change no matter how illogical its cause. In fact, sensitivity to irrational change is quintessentially rational … if you wish to lead.

Until recently we’ve only been able to speculate about persuasive effects of storytelling. But throughout the last decades, neuroscience has researched the relationship between story and the human mind, and results repeatedly show that our attitudes, hopes and values are story driven. Fiction changes beliefs far faster than logical argument. Lawyers understand this.

Evidence has its place, but a trial tells two stories—one of which the jury believes.

Therefore, this caveat: Although we tend to watch PowerPoint presentations with skepticism, when a story absorbs us, we drop our intellectual guard. The mind-molding power of story may blind us in ways only facts can prevent. Therefore, a business leader has an ethical obligation to only use story in service of what he deeply believes to be a positive, human value.

A powerfully told tale always seems like a gift. But a story is actually a delivery system for the teller’s theme and purpose. A story sneaks a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind and can be an instrument for good or ill. Like fire, it can warm a civilization or burn it down.

Story is morally neutral. It can express profound truth or propaganda. The two greatest political storytellers of the 20th Century were Winston Churchill and Adolph Hitler. Because storytelling is a form of persuasive jujitsu, and because the world is full of black- belt storytellers, the corporate leader has to train both his offensive and defensive moves. Like a magician’s sleight of hand, storytellers use empathy and curiosity to distract critical thinking.

So while you work to master storytelling for the corporate good, it’s equally important that you learn to see the pitch coming so you steel yourself against the power of “Once upon a time …”

Want to find out more about why story works in business?

• Read Robert McKee’s FREE white paper on how to incorporate story into your business. Click here to access the full white paper.

• Join Robert McKee for his STORY-IN-BUSINESS seminar on September 26 in New York City. This exclusive, one-day event shows businesspeople how to create and use stories to persuade, inspire and engage employees and customers. As a PresentationXpert reader, save $50 when you use promo code SIB50Off to register!

About the Author:

Robert McKee is “the world’s best-known and most respected screenwriting lecturer,” according to the Harvard Business Review. He has been helping writers tell powerful stories for more than 25 years through his legendary STORY Seminar and his award-winning book, STORY: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. More than 100,000 students have completed his courses, including numerous Academy Award, Emmy Award, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winners. Now Robert McKee is helping business leaders from companies like Microsoft, HP, Siemens, Mercedes-Benz, Time Warner, The Boldt Company and others use story to more effectively persuade and engage their various stakeholders. Find out more about Robert McKee, his STORY seminars and additional resources to support writers by visiting

Presentation Tales: It’s About the Story, Not the Storyteller

By Jim Endicott

Wedged in the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern half of Tennessee is the two-century-old town of Jonesborough. As small towns go, this one is relatively rich in history but its greatest claim to fame isn’t its strategic significance in the Civil War or a famous resident. Jonesborough has distinguished itself as the epicenter of a worldwide revival in storytelling and the National Storytelling Center.

Lest you relegate the art of storytelling to small town libraries on a Saturday morning, a quick visit to their website ( and their Creative Applications pages will broaden your perspective considerably. You’ll discover that the same set of skills that keep a 5-year old glued to a Sunday school teacher are not unlike the balance of spoken versus visual material (augmented by some good personal communication skills) that keep an anxious board of directors or high profile client intently listening to your “story.”

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon
in a leader’s arsenal.”
Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard University

We’d like to believe that the art of delivering a good presentation is unique. After all, we use this software called PowerPoint to capture our thoughts, laptops and electronic projectors blast colorful images on the wall and, oh yeah, all audiences are different too – or are they?

Before you abandon the idea of storytelling for a more traditional approach to presentation delivery, let me challenge your ideas about the presentation process. If I win, you’ll change for the better. If I lose, you get to keep doing things the way you always have.

It’s about the story, not the storyteller

Imagine for a moment that we took the story away from the storyteller. All the very best delivery skills and beautifully illustrated pages could not sweep the audience along for even a minute. In the same way, presentations desperately need a strong underlying story that is appropriate for the audience. It needs to connect with issues, characters and personal interest that represent common ground with the audience.

For lack of a compelling story, many presentations have died a slow and agonizing death.

Strong opening statement (Opening chapter)

In the opening moments of a presentation, an audience will make a quick determination if the presentation they are about to sit through is about them, the presenter or their prowess with the software and technology.

We use the opening moments of a presentation to create clear relevance to an audience, often times through a well-rehearsed opening personal story or challenge statement that engages not only their minds, but hearts as well. Practice this critical time until it flows like water. A good start will also help you through the initial moments of nervousness as you get your bearings with the room and your audience.

Smooth topic transitions (Chapter transitions)

All the topics of a presentation should paint a clear path towards the promises made in your opening comments regarding how this presentation relates to them. When there is little connectivity between subtopics, we run the risk of losing momentum in a presentation or even worse, our audience’s interest.

When rehearsing your presentation, work on how you transition between presentation subtopics so a thread of the storyline is carried through to the next area. Subtopics of a presentation break up a long and lengthy single topic delivery like chapters in a book break up the storyline into more palatable packages of thought.

Well-orchestrated and rehearsed conclusion (Strong ending)

Far too often presentations appear to end not because there is a clear conclusion, but rather it seems the presenter ran out of slides, time, or both. A storyteller works hard so his or her audiences understand the moral of the story. If the whole point of the story is not clearly understood, a good storyteller would be hard pressed to consider the day a success. Yet many presenters fly through the end of their presentations with little regard for a crisp, well-rehearsed conclusion.

Spend 30% of your practice time simply working on the opening and closing 5- to- 8 minutes of your presentation. Pull all the pieces together so the audience understands the main points behind your presentation. If your time is cut short, never compromise the time for your closing comments. Abbreviate the depth of description in the middle of the presentation if necessary, but never the conclusion.

Graphics Aren’t the Story

The pictures in a book are not the story, only a graphical set of supporting images that add greater depth to the spoken word. The pictures create emotion and connection (right-brain imagery) between the audience and storyline. Show them the same old pictures in every story and they will quickly lose their impact. In the same way, using the same stock PowerPoint template and clipart is a fast track to mediocrity.

Imagine if the storyteller simply held up the book and expected the audience to squint and read the pages for themselves. Text-intensive presentations seem to ask the very same thing from their audiences. Just like a children’s book has unique design considerations for the medium, presentation graphics also require unique considerations that center around saying less with more graphically-oriented supporting images. The illustrated story can never upstage the storyteller.

The Illustrated Story

One thing’s for sure, a storyteller uses his or her entire body to communicate a story. Their passion is reflected in how their eyes connect with the audience and “invite” them to participate. Eye contact with a senior staff or potential partner is no less critical. That’s why reading off cue cards or turning and reading from a projected presentation screen are usually the kisses of death for making any kind of relational connection.

A good presenter, like a good storyteller, orchestrates physical distance to create emphasis and greater relational connections. When you are making a key point or telling a personal story that supports your presentation, a step or two towards your audience will raise their attention level and give those words more impact. Don’t overuse that sacred delivery space or it too, will lose its importance.

The evidence is painfully clear: many presenters today fail to effectively connect in a meaningful way with their hopeful audiences. Their overly structured delivery supported by gratuitous use of text and graphics leave them and their audiences wondering if things could ever change.

I would suggest that we could all benefit from a trip to Jonesborough, even for a day, because our biggest obstacles as presenters are not the technology, software or audience — it’s the prevailing paradigms we’ve associated with presenting that hold back average presenters from being truly great.

About the Author:

Jim Endicott is president of Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching.  For more information about his firm’s services, visit

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