In The Storyteller’s Secret I devote an entire chapter to one of the great spiritual leaders of the world, Pope Francis, who turns 80 today. Francis learned his communication skills as a Jesuit seminarian and continues to deliver speeches that rely on the building blocks of narrative to capture attention: metaphor.
Whether he’s comparing greed to “the dung of the devil” or the church as a “field hospital” that must go into the streets to find the spiritually “wounded,” Francis’ speeches are loaded with vivid imagery to make the abstract tangible.
In some speeches Francis will use more than one metaphor in the same sentence:
“For Mother Teresa, mercy was the salt which gave flavor to her work, it was the light which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.” People who have done evil and know it, live “with a constant itch, with hives that don’t leave them in peace,” he once said. Vanity is “like an osteoporosis of the soul: the bones seem good from the outside, but on the inside they are all ruined.” Some people, argue Francis, are afflicted with “Spiritual Alzheimer’s.”
In April, 2016, Francis released his first major paper on marriage and the family. “Amoris Laetitia” is beautifully written. Once again, Francis relies on metaphor to communicate the topic. Quoting the psalms, children are “like olive shoots,” full of energy and vitality. Letting them go is like “flying a kite.” When the kite begins to waver, you don’t pull the strings tighter. Instead you give it some slack.
An increasing body of evidence is emerging in the neuroscience literature to support the power of storytelling; specifically, the effectiveness of using analogies to bring abstract concepts to life. Stories work because they activate many parts of our brain. Metaphor and analogies are critical devices to make it happen. Pope Francis is a master of the technique and his speeches are well worth studying.
Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker, best-selling author, and communication advisor for the world’s most admired brands
“Take your presentations to the next level with Carmine as your coach.” – Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks
I was grateful to receive that endorsement from Howard Schultz for one of my books on leadership and communication. Schultz recently announced that he would step down as CEO of Starbucks. Needless to say, Schultz has reinvented the coffee culture in America by introducing Italian-style cappuccinos and lattes to the U.S market.
When I interviewed Schultz I learned a valuable lesson about inspiration and leadership, a lesson that has had a profound influence on my career, writing and speaking. And that lesson is this:
“When you’re surrounded by people who share a common purpose around a collective passion, anything is possible.”
In my first conversation with Schultz I was astonished that he rarely mentioned the word coffee. I was the first to bring it up.
“We’re not in the coffee business. It is what we sell as a product, but it’s not what we stand for,” he explained.
Starbucks is NOT in the coffee business, which is why it’s successful. You see, Schultz loves coffee, but he’s passionate about the people, the baristas who make the Starbucks experience what it is. Schultz’s vision was much bigger than to make a better cup of coffee. His moonshot was to create an experience; a third place between work and home. He wanted to build a company that treats people with dignity and respect. Those happy employees would, in turn, provide a level of customer service that would be seen as a gold standard in the industry.
Inspiring leaders like Howard Schultz are not afraid to share their passion. Passion is everything. A leader, manager or entrepreneur cannot inspire without it. Dig deep to identify your core value, the area where you want to make a ‘dent in the universe,’ as Steve Jobs once said. And ask yourself a question that Howard Schultz says is the key to success: What business am I really in?
Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker and communication advisor. Howard Schultz is one of more than 35 business leaders featured in Carmine’s bestselling new book, The Storyteller’s Secret: Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t.
Congratulations to Pampers for designing an eye catching ad for a good cause, World Prematurity Day. The ad ran in major newspapers across the U.S. It was effective for several reasons:
1). It makes clever use of white space. The ad shows the actual size of a diaper created for premature babies. By placing the ad in the middle of the page and leaving most of the rest blank, it focuses your eyes on the impossibly small image (the asterisk clarifies that it really is the actual size of a diaper).
2). There is very little text. A short paragraph at the bottom explains why the diaper was created and why the ad is running on November 17th, World Prematurity Day.
3). By positioning the page in newspapers like the New York Times which are heavy in text, the ad stands out even more.
Less clutter draws more attention to your product or idea.
Professional designers are not afraid of white space. In fact, they embrace it and use it creatively to catch your attention. Business professionals might want to take a lesson from the Pampers ad the next time they create a PowerPoint, write an email, or suggest design ideas. Reduce the ‘noise’ and grab more attention.
A high-school English teacher recognized that Tony Robbins had a skill the student didn’t recognize in himself. Robbins had the gift of moving people with his words. The teacher encouraged Robbins to joins the high school debate team and Robbins’ life—and the lives of millions of his fans—was completely transformed.
Robbins, the world-famous life coach and speaker, recently told me, “I realized public-speaking was a skill and a gift, and that the skill and the gift combined could do some beautiful things. I’ve now been practicing it for 39 years.”
Robbins is quick to point out that gifts must be nurtured, refined and developed, and that’s exactly what he did with his public-speaking skills. At the age of 17, Robbins went to work for personal development coach and speaker, Jim Rohn. Robbins met a another speaker who was clearly resting on his laurels, a person who gave three speeches a month. “If he does three a month, I’ll find a way to book myself for three speeches a day. I’ll talk to the groups nobody wants to talk to” Robbins committed to himself. “People are rewarded in public for what they’ve practiced in private obsessively, intensely, and relentlessly.
According to Tony Robbins, public-speaking skills can be mastered if you’re willing to put in the time and energy.
“You can either drag it out forever and never get good at it, or are you can compress time and concentrate your power,” says Robbins.
Today Tony Robbins is a recognized authority on leadership psychology. He is on the road 200 days a year, speaking to more than 200,000 people and coaching the likes of Bill Clinton, Serena Williams, Marc Benioff and Leonardo DiCaprio, among many other notable leaders in business and entertainment. And while it’s a rare individual who will achieve Robbins’ level of influence, all leaders can learn an important lesson from his life. It’s a theme I’ve reinforced time and again: Leaders cannot inspire unless they’re inspired themselves. Robbins is convinced he’s put on earth to help others live their best lives. He’s a great communicator because he’s on a mission and he’s put in the work to make himself great.
Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker, communication advisor and bestselling author. Tony Robbins is one of the entrepreneurs and leaders who Carmine features in his new book, “The Storyteller’s Secret.”
On Sundays pastor Joel Osteen does something that would give most people a severe case of anxiety. He speaks to 40,000 people who attend services at Lakewood Church in Houston and to millions of others viewing on television in more than 100 countries.
Osteen is the rare individual who sells out stadiums, and he does so without The Rolling Stones or Taylor Swift sharing the stage.
Most observers might assume Osteen was always comfortable with public-speaking. The truth is quite the opposite. In fact, Osteen spent 17 years behind the scenes, working the camera for his father, the late preacher John Osteen. Joel did not see himself as a speaker, he did not feel as though he had the gift to captivate audiences, and he was very nervous about taking the stage. Osteen once told me he got nervous simply reading the church announcements!
“Carmine, when I began preaching I was nervous and intimidated. I’m naturally quiet and reserved. I was bombarded by negative thoughts,” he said.
Osteen made the transformation from shy cameraman to electrifying speaker when he reframed his internal narrative. Osteen admits that his negative self-talk got the better of him. He would repeat these phrases to himself:
You can’t do this, Joel.
You’re too young.
You don’t have the experience.
Nobody is going to come.
It took Osteen at least a year to build up his confidence. How? Joel Osteen hit the ‘delete button’ on negative self-talk, replacing words of defeat with words of victory.
“If I had let those negative thoughts play over and over in my mind, they would have contaminated my confidence, contaminated my self-esteem, and contaminated by future,” Osteen writes in his new bestselling book, Think Better Live Better.
Nearly every inspiring leader I’ve met has dealt with periods of doubt. They’ve faced doubt about their leadership qualifications, doubt about their public-speaking ability, doubt about their ability to make an impact. Osteen did the right thing. He reframed his internal narrative, changing the dialogue in his head. Words are like seeds, says Osteen. Whatever you say will take root. Make sure the roots you’re planting are strong, empowering, and inspiring.
Joel Osteen is one of the leaders Carmine Gallo features in his new bestselling book, The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers To Business Legends Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t (St. Martin’s Press, 2016).
“Johnny Cash and Steve Jobs were master storytellers,” Cameron Craig told me during a visit to Polycom’s headquarters in San Jose, California. Craig should know. He’s worked for both men in black and today transfers the lessons he learned to his role as director of global communications for the video conferencing company.
Craig was a tour publicist for country legend Johnny Cash and also worked for Steve Jobs beginning in 1997, watching and learning for the next ten years as Jobs led one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in history. Both Cash and Jobs were performers and gifted communicators in their respective fields. Craig credits both bosses for influencing his communication skills and teaching him to master the art of story.
Johnny Cash and Steve Jobs were master storytellers
As storytellers, Cash and Jobs featured heroes and characters in their narratives. “For Johnny Cash, the hero of his songs was the underdog, the prisoner in San Quentin, the misunderstood youth, the Native-American. He gave the underdog a voice. Steve Jobs did the same thing for another underdog, the ‘mere mortal,’ the person who just wanted to get something done, but the technology was too complicated.”
Craig’s reference to ‘mere mortal’ refers to a line Steve Jobs often repeated. Jobs once told a reporter for The New York Times, “As technology becomes more complex, Apple’s core strength of knowing how to make very sophisticated technology comprehensible to mere mortals is in ever greater demand.” In the Apple narrative complexity was the villain and mere mortals were the underdogs.
Watching his former bosses connect through narrative gave Craig an understanding for the power of storytelling to establish a deep and loyal connection with an audience (music fans or product customers). “You’ve got to tell great, authentic and compelling stories to draw people in,” Craig says.
Steve Jobs and Johnny Cash paid obsessive attention to storytelling to make heartfelt connections with their audiences.
In this second week at Polycom, Craig saw Jeff Rodman, the company’s co-founder, speaking to a group of children at a ‘bring your kids to work’ day. “He had them captivated and I wondered, what is he saying to those kids that’s so interesting?” Rodman told the kids a story about the day he found a 95-cent book at RadioShack, tinkered with an idea for a compact audio speaker, and turned the idea into a $2 billion company with more than 400,000 customers.
The kids—and Craig—were glued to every word. “You have to tell that story a broader audience than eight-year-olds,” Craig suggested. They shared the story publicly and it was picked up by the Harvard Business Review with the title, How I Built a $2B Company by Thinking Small.
According to Craig, “If you search deep enough, we all have these stories inside us.” Craig believes in looking for the hook, the backstory behind a business, service, or invention. Once you discover it, you’ll likely find an audience that wants to hear it.
Carmine Gallo is a keynote speaker and author of The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers To Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t.
I was thrilled to receive an unexpected gift at my doorstep. A mutual friend had given Dwight Clark, the legendary 49ers football player, a copy of my book, The Storyteller’s Secret. Mr. Clark generously sent me a personalized, signed football.
The signature itself tells the story of one of the most memorable plays in NFL football history.
On January 10, 1982, the 49ers faced Dallas in the NFC conference championship. Quarterback Joe Montana had led a last minute drive to the Dallas sixth-yard line. Only 58 seconds remained in the game. Dallas had the lead. The winner would go on to the Super Bowl.
In a play that now has its own Wikipedia entry, Montana took the snap and Dallas’ fearsome defensive players were about to tackle him. Montana managed to throw a high pass to the back of the end zone. It looked too long. Dwight Clark made a leaping catch that was captured in a photo for the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The 49ers won the game and went on to win four Super Bowls in the 1980s.
Clark’s signature tells the story. He sketches the actual diagram of the play, writes the date and gives the story a title, “The Catch.”
I often say that “everyone has a story.” Now I can know that signatures can have a story, too!
Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker and bestselling author of eight books including: Talk Like TED and The Storyteller’s Secret, From TED Speakers To Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t. Sign up for Carmine’s newsletter at carminegallo.com
Google organized the world’s information and gave people access to it in a few simple clicks. Today, in the same world it transformed, Google has a challenge. If data is freely available, how does a company stand apart from its competitors?
Meet Avinash Kaushik. His official title is Digital Marketing Evangelist, but internally he’s known as Google’s ‘Chief Storyteller.’ He’s THE most passionate executive I’ve ever met on the topic of storytelling and how it can make massive changes in a company’s business.
“My job is to change the way Googlers tell stories,” Kaushik said during my visit to his Google office in Mountain View, California. Along with a team of 75 people, Kaushik holds “Storytelling Rocks” workshops to spread the gospel of storytelling to 4,000 account leads, sales and marketing professionals who are responsible for billions of dollars in annual revenue.
“Avinash, when people think of Google, they think of search. They think of data. What role does storytelling play?” I asked.
“Storytelling is a powerful way to get our clients to think differently,” says Kaushik.
Kaushik points out that Google provides an immense amount of data to clients who can use the information to make transformative changes in their business. But a data dump will fail to help customers if they can’t make sense of it. That’s where Kaushik and his storytellers step in. “The size and the scope of the change we drive is so big, that I think it is best done with stories,” says Kaushik.
The Google Storytelling Framework
Kaushik has developed a storytelling framework called: Care-Do-Impact. Like everything at Google, it is carefully measured for its effectiveness. Presenters are even given letter grades on how well they perform each step of the framework.
Step 1: Care. Kaushik recommends that a Google sales or marketing professional spend the first 20% of a presentation explaining the amazing “out-of-sight” that could transform the client’s business. An “insight” is a small piece of information that the client might already know; an “out-of-sight” is knowledge that is exclusive to the company making the presentation, information that can radically change a client’s business.
Step 2: Do. Kaushik suggests that a full 50% of the presentation be spent on helping the client or customer understand what they should do with the information. This step requires account leads to understand the clients’ business in a remarkably deep way. “We’re creating a competitive advantage for Google because we will know more about your business than anyone else who comes to see you,” says Kaushik.
Step 3: Impact. The remaining 20% of the presentation is spent explaining the impact of Google’s ‘out-of-sight’ on the customer’s future success. Kaushik leaves room in the presentation (10% of time) for the speaker to be interrupted with questions.
According to Kaushik, this framework represents a fundamental shift in presenting data. Where many companies overwhelm customers and prospects with mountains of data, a Google pitch must give equal weight to the data and how it will impact the company’s business.
“There is a massive amount of interest among our sales team for storytelling,” says Kaushik. And the way we’re going to accomplish a shift in culture at Google is to make everyone a storyteller. It’s very exciting. How often in your life do you get a chance to change people’s minds? I tell stories that fundamentally change the way you think about something, and that’s exciting.”
Google has recognized the power of storytelling to propel its business forward in the 21st century. It’s an important lesson all of us should learn if we hope to stand out in an ultra-competitive global marketplace.
Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker and bestselling author. His new book is “The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers To Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t.”