How To Bring Boring Case Studies Alive – In 4 Easy Steps
by Andrea Pacini —
One of the worst things you can do when sharing examples, stories or case studies in a business presentation is to make them about yourself一instead of the client or the audience.
I’ve seen it so many times. I hear phrases like:
We’ve been the industry leader since 2010
We have 123 offices in 36 different countries
We have 7,500 clients across 80 industries
We’re a pioneering company in our field
We make the world’s best cup of tea
It’s all about how wonderful we are.
The problem with this sort of approach is that it doesn’t create a good connection with your audience. In fact, it creates distance between you.
I’m sure we’ve all been stuck at a party with the person who brags about their own achievements. They’ve always done everything anybody mentions and bring the conversation back to themselves. There’s no space for others to participate. It’s so tedious you just want to walk away.
In communication, when you make it about you, you’re acting like that person. The audience wants to get up and leave.
A more subtle mistake people make when telling stories or sharing case studies is failing to frame them in a narrative that includes the audience. In not doing so, we make ourselves, our brand, our company or our product the hero of the story.
But nobody cares about us. Our audience only cares about themselves and their needs. So you should tell stories that make them understand how your brand, company, product can help them get what they want.
You should relate your stories to the client or the audience and make it more about them. It needs to be their story not yours.
In this article we applied a similar approach to your whole presentation. I discussed how you need to make it their presentation, not yours. It’s always the audience’s presentation.
When you tell a story, the same principle. It’s their story not yours.
As Donald Miller says in Building a StoryBrand, the client is the hero of the story. Your role should be that of a guide who gives the hero a plan, product, service or solution that helps them get what they want.
Sales expert Mike Bosworth, author of books like Solution Selling and What Great Salespeople Do, says, “Be the wizard who gives the hero a magic sword.”
The way to achieve this, and implement what both Miller and Bosworth are saying, is to flip your case studies into success stories.
The way you transform your case studies is to turn them into narratives from the perspective of the real hero一your client.
The client used to have a problem. Then a guide (you, your company, your brand) came along and provided the solution that helped them achieve success.
There are two key elements which make this a great formula:
- It’s a narrative, which means that it follows a story framework. That makes your communication far more engaging, relatable and memorable.
- It’s told from the perspective of the client. It’s not about your success, it’s about the success of your clients. The client is the hero.
Practical tips to liven up your stories
It’s all very well explaining the theory一but how do we put these ideas into practice?
If you’re not a natural storyteller and don’t know how to start, let me offer some help.
The simplest way I found to implement the idea of success stories comes from the book Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell by Mike Adams.
He shares a straightforward four-step framework:
- Turning point
Setting: All you need to do at the start is mention time and place. For example, ‘Three years ago we worked with ABC in London’. When you start a message with time (three years ago) and place (London), the audience knows you’re about to tell them a story.
Complication: Here you describe the problem your client had. What problems, challenges and issues were your client (the hero) experiencing before they met you?
Turning point: This is where you come along, not as the hero of the story, but as the guide. Explain how you helped your client solve their problem.
Resolution: Now put a spotlight on the success of your client. What did they achieve as a result of your help? Remember: it’s about them. It’s their story and success, not yours.
A real life example
We worked with a business leader at Circulor, a London-based B Corp which uses technology to help their clients make their supply chains traceable, ethical, and sustainable.
Here’s a success story she included in a presentation we developed together.
‘Let me give you an example of a well known brand that’s already using our technology to improve their supply chain. Three years ago we started a first pilot with a global company with operations in Rwanda.’
‘One of the key components they need to source is batteries. The problem is that batteries use rare earth minerals that are only mined in places like Rwanda or Democratic Republic of the Congo一where some suppliers have human rights issues and other ethical problems. The brand cares deeply about their corporate responsibility, so the last thing they want is to be associated with a major disruption or scandal.’
So, they decided to try our solution for mapping their complex supply chain for batteries. The technology gives them an unprecedented level of traceability so they can confidently promote sustainable practices in their supply chain and provide better transparency for their customers.’
‘This pilot strengthened their commitment to an ethical supply chain, using raw materials with a net zero carbon footprint. It paved the way for the entire raw materials industry to achieve the goal of producing truly sustainable products. This project was so successful that our client expanded the use of our technology into other areas of their operations and they’re contributing to a more sustainable business.’
Being less focussed on yourself will bring rewards
According to a Deloitte study, “Client-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies not focused on the customer.”
If you can remember to relate your content, especially your case studies, to other people you’ll take your communication to a higher level.
When you elevate your communication skills, you’ll also take your business to a higher level.
So, let’s get started.
Go back over all the examples, stories and case studies you use in your communications (whether that be on your website, in your marketing materials or your presentations) and assess them against the story framework you’ve learned here.
- Is the setting clear?
- Is the complication explained from the perspective of the client?
- Is it clear that your role is not the hero but a guide who supports the hero (your client)?
- Is the resolution about the success the client has experienced?
If you answer no to any of these questions, turn your stories into powerful narratives that do follow this framework.
Your communication and your business will soar as a result.
Talking too much about yourself is dull. It’s like the person at a party who just bores on about themselves.
If you do that to an audience during a business presentation you’ll lose them. That means you’ll miss out on business opportunities.
A better approach is to relate any examples, stories or case studies to your audience. Demonstrate how you helped someone or can help someone.
The client needs to be the hero of any case study, not you. Your role is that of the enabler who helped the client achieve success.
An easy way to bring stories to life and make them relatable is to focus on the setting (time and place), the complication (the problem the client faced), the turning point (how you helped them) and the resolution (what they achieved).
From now on, whenever you want to include a story in a presentation, apply that simple four step process.
If this article has helped you please get in touch to let me know. If you feel any colleagues or friends might also benefit from reading it, feel free to share it.
If you want to improve your presentation skills further try out the Confident Presenter Scorecard.
After answering a series of simple yes/no questions you’ll get an instant score plus suggestions for improvement. It takes less than 3 minutes. Once you complete the scorecard, you’ll receive a free pdf copy of our best-selling book Business Presentation Revolution.