Greetings from Denver where I will be coaching lawyers for their fifth and last time today.

Like my visit to Los Angeles last week, at lunch we’ll go over what we have covered this year and again one of the topics will be presentations.

Lawyers frequently ask me to critique their presentation materials. As I expressed last week, most often when they send me their first draft, there are few or no visuals, bullet points and too many words on a page.

Presentations, even presentations on legal topics, should tell a story.

Let me share an example with you. On July 17, 1981 one of the greatest disasters in American construction history occurred. On that night the walkways at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed killing over 100 people and injuring an additional 200 people.

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Everyone in the construction industry was aware of the tragic accident. It became known as The Hyatt Disaster.

It is included in this list of Top 10 Worst Engineering Disasters. It provided the perfect back-drop for me to discuss the duties owed by architects, engineers and contractors.

After literally months of research, I made at least five presentations in 1982. At the time there was no PowerPoint, which forced me to speak visually and tell a story. In essence, I had to create in the audience mind the two visuals you see and more.

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Take a look at the first page of my Outline of Remarks to Roanoke ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers).

I began each presentation with this:

I have a story I want to share with you. It’s a story about one of the greatest engineering disasters in history. It’s a story with legal points every engineer needs to consider and think about as they design complex projects.

I will leave you with this thought: Think about the difference between two potential announcements the ASCE might have done to encourage their members to attend my presentation. If the presentation was not in a story format, the announcement might have been:

Duties, Responsibilities and Liabilities for Civil Engineers

Because the context of my presentation was the Hyatt Disaster, the announcement might have been:

What every civil engineer needs to learn from the Hyatt Disaster

Which program announcement would have created the most interest?

Want to learn more? Take just a few minutes and read: The Power Of Storytelling.