“We’re in the insurance business,” Sébastien Lenaerts, the Head of Digital at BNP Paribas Cardif Belgium said from his office in Brussels. His company sells mortgage insurance and credit protection services and he is responsible for its digital B2C channel sales and content.

“This business is all about the numbers so our presentations are always the same.”

But Sébastien decided to shake things up when preparing his 2015 budget presentation.

“Rather than presenting just the numbers, I told a story about a user and how we were helping him. Once I went back to the numbers, they now had meaning.”

He described the move as risky because he broke from the traditional way of presenting. But his gamble paid off in two unanticipated ways.

“I was the digital guy that nobody understood. In the past, executive management would listen to my presentations and tell me to keep up the good work. But they had no idea what I actually did.” Yet, after Sébastien started applying story-structure, something changed. “The customer stories gave them a better way to understand me and to stay with me.”

“Executives are now thrilled to come to my presentations. They understand what I do.” A few were so impressed with his skills, that they’ve asked for his help with their own presentations.

Positive reactions to his new presentation style added a second unintended consequence; it helped persuade some of his marketing peers to rethink their content. “By looking at our content from the customer’s point of view, they could see how our customers felt when they received email or other forms of push marketing. We’re now trying to look past boring corporate gibberish and write from the end user’s point of view.”

Sébastien found his way to storytelling through a personal interest. “I had read a couple of books, but they were more about copywriting than storytelling.” That’s when he found the StoryHow™ PitchDeck.

“The deck is easy to put into practice,” Sebastian said. “It’s a pragmatic approach rather than theoretical. For me, you nailed it.”

“My favorite card is the Meet Cute (Card #22). I use it to show how our customers find us. I also like the Irony card (Card #56). Irony is a great way to start a presentation.”

During the past eight months, Sébastien has noticed that his use of the deck has evolved. Comfortable with the StoryHow elements (roles, events, influences, and techniques), he frequently finds himself using the deck to double-check his work.

“After I’ve put together a presentation, I pull a few random cards just to make sure that I’ve covered all of the things that I need to do.”

Photo Credit: Sébastien Lenaerts