Hackernoon logoStorytelling for Engineers — Vol.2 by@stezz

Storytelling for Engineers — Vol.2

Stefano Mosconi Hacker Noon profile picture

@stezzStefano Mosconi


Every time I was going to my boss I would get the same answer: “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions”.

I would get so frustrated because I thought I was going with solutions… for the love of god I am an engineer! I’m a master at exactly that: solving problems.

I would tweak the slides a little bit, take stuff away, VERY IMPORTANT stuff that apparently wasn’t understood and then go back. Same story. I would have to go back again and again, countless times.

Frustration kept mounting and I used to get mad at “the others”.

Until I started understanding that the problem wasn’t “the others” but it was me.

More specifically: the way I was presenting things.

As engineers we get in love with the details, we get in love with the technology and the inner workings of the world.

Photo by Pat Taylor on Unsplash

Like any good watchmaker we know how clocks work and could spend hours talking about the cogs and the levers that are inside a watch.

Watches are fashion items though.

Nobody in their right mind would talk about the cogs and the levers if they wanted to sell a watch to anyone.

Everyone would talk about the quadrant, the leather wristband, the price.

Very few have the time to put into understanding the details and even if they had probably it wouldn’t help you very much to sell your idea.

Give me the exec summary

So here’s the executive summary: Technology is flooding the world of business and tech guys and girls (i.e. you that are reading this) are more and more needed to make business work.

What sucks is that on average tech people are not very good at presenting things in a way that everyone else “on the other side” would understand them.

Because of this decisions are taken without apparently really listening to the tech guys.

And it sucks. Big Time.

How do I know?

I know because I sucked at doing this myself.

That’s when I started to realize I really needed to get better at telling stories.

Since I am an engineer I needed a framework, something to make my life easier when building presentations.

Something logic.

Something that would make sense.

At the beginning was a bullet point list

I started to study the art of presenting with the hope I could extract the science from it and understand the things that were behind the most successful presenters.

I started working with a bullet point list, a pretty simple one:

- Opening

- Body

- Conclusion

That made a lot of sense but many things were left out.

I added a few more things on the side:

- Key message

- Audience

- Occasion

Sometimes I would start from the Audience, sometimes from the occasion.

Sometimes I just wanted to focus on the key message first.

Other times the opening was the thing that sparked my creative vein (assuming that I had one :D ).

A bullet point list wasn’t cutting it. It was too constraining, too sequential, too limiting.

So I thought to build a mind map. But again it was just a bullet list on steroids, too dispersive… I couldn’t have everything under control at once.

That’s when I saw the “Business Model Generation” book on my table and I thought: “Hey what if I use a Canvas?

And that’s pretty much how it started working by itself (thanks Alex!).

Then it turned into a canvas

With the Presentation Design Canvas I could think at everything and write the script of the speech pretty much right away.

In 20 minutes I could jot down the main things and stop staring at the powerpoint for hours.

It saved me a gazillion of time.

You can see the Presentation Design Canvas below and download the PDF high-res version here.

This Canvas is condensing years of work, study and experiences into an A4.

It’s a tool and like any tool it really depends on you to learn how to use it.

Like a hammer once you have this everything will start to look like a nail.

Even this blog post was first conceived on the Canvas itself.

It’s a tool to send messages and prepare yourself to withstand a crowd.

It helps you think about the key areas that often you forget to think about.

It increases your empathy because it helps you be in other’s shoes.

And as a plus it’s freaking logical :)

Do me a favour

I hope that with this engineers around the world will be more and more able to tell stories to everyone, regardless of their tech prowess.

Because it sucks to not be understood. That feeling is something that I personally hated so much that I needed to do something about it.

It’s not just for engineers of course, it works great with every type of person but as an engineer I know that I really needed this and I know that people like me really appreciate it.

If you like this idea, please do me a favour and share it around, like it and send the link to a friend that needs it, if you share the link above I will be able to know who has downloaded it and grow the community using it.

Thank you! 🙏

This is a follow-up to another post I wrote a couple of year ago, that is how long it took me to come up with a solution to that problem :)


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