In presentations, don’t do a flash back, do a flash present

by Pierre Morsa

It’s a trick I learned when studying how movies and TV shows are written. You don’t do a flash back, you do a flash present. For presentations, that means that you don’t tell the story as something that is over; that makes the audience passive. Instead, you bring the scene from the past into the present, or you bring the audience to the past, and tell it as if it is happening right now. This allows the audience to actively relive the scene as it happened, and is a much more effective way to tell stories.

Let me give you an example to show you the difference. Imagine you want to talk about that “aha” moment you had several years ago when you found the big idea to create your company.

First, the flash back version, told as something that happened in the past: “In 2005, I had the idea to create my company. It was about creating a platform to engage users by sharing social content based on pictures only. I had the idea during a discussion with two friends. At the time most social platforms forced users to use text…”

Now the flash present version, told as something happening now: “let’s all go back to 2005. I am having a beer with two friends. I’m complaining about how social media forces me to write something for every post. One of my friends, you know, the blunt one, tells me ‘then why don’t you create a platform where it is impossible to write something?’”…

Note that it is possible to use the past tense (I was having a discussion…) as long as you make the public relive the scene instead of telling about it as something that is over. Where a flashback is factual and flat, a flash present is engaging and dynamic. For master storytellers, each detail matters. This technique makes a big difference when engaging your audience.