Carmine Gallo is a public speaking and communication expert who has coached some of the world’s most respected brands, including Apple, Disney, Wal-Mart, and many more. A popular keynote speaker and the bestselling author of Talk Like TED and The Storyteller’s Secret, Carmine teaches CEOs and leaders to deliver dynamic presentations and share inspiring stories that sell products, grow brands, and inspire change.
In this episode, Carmine shares insights from his newest book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great. Listen in to hear the key components of great communication, why storytelling is so important to get your message across, and tips for figuring out your own story to help you better engage audiences.
Learn the key components of great communication with @carminegallo, author of FIVE STARS and TALK LIKE TED. #communication #speaking #publicspeaking Click To Tweet
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On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:
- Why stories are so important when it comes to being an effective communicator.
- What the greatest speeches in history have in common.
- The ideal amount of time to deliver substantive information without putting your audience to sleep.
- How to make long presentations more engaging.
- What makes the TED Talk format so compelling.
- Why the TED organization doesn’t allow bullet points on slides.
- How people can make themselves indispensable as jobs become more automated.
- Why NASA prioritizes communication skills in their selection process.
- How Wal-Mart made their onboarding process more engaging.
- What persuasion research tells us we must have in order to connect with people.
- Advice for finding your story.
Key Resources for Carmine Gallo:
- Connect with Carmine Gallo: Website | Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook
- Amazon: Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great
- Kindle: Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great
- Audible: Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great
- Amazon: Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
- Amazon: Enlightenment Now
- Amazon: Thank You for Being Late
- Deirdre McCloskey
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to Brainfluence Podcast with Roger Dooley. Author, speaker, and educator on neural marketing and the psychology of persuasion. Every week we talk with thought leaders that will help you improve your influence with factual evidence and concrete research. Introducing your host, Roger Dooley.
Roger Dooley: Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast. I’m Roger Dooley. Our guest this week is a public speaking communication expert, Carmine Gallo. He’s coached some of the world’s most respected brands, including Accenture, Apple, Disney, Intel, Walmart, and many, many more. He’s the author of nine books, including The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and Talk Like TED. Carmine’s newest book is Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great. Welcome to the show, Carmine.
Carmine Gallo: Well, thank you, Roger. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to speak to your audience. I think it’s a very good audience for this type of content.
Roger Dooley: Definitely. I know that I’ve been reading your stuff for a while and keep saying, gee, it’d be great to get you on the show. And I’m glad we finally made it happen. A good chunk of Five Stars is devoted to how important stories are and being an effective communicator, Carmine. You have a story that will help our listeners know sort of where you’re coming from?
Carmine Gallo: Oh my gosh, yes. I have a million stories, but I’ll give you a couple just to give you a little bit of sense of my background. I was a journalist for about 15 years. So I worked at CNN. I worked for CNN Business, CBS. I’ve worked for different media outlets as a broadcast journalist. And when I was at CNN in New York, I was interviewing a lot of financial types, a lot of economists and stock traders and analysts.
And I began to notice that at CNN they always went back to the trough. They went back to the same Rolodex, and back then we actually did have Rolodexes, but we always went back to the same Rolodex of experts. They were not necessarily … And these are some of the same faces, Roger, that you see on CNBC today or on different financial programs. They had the credentials, but they weren’t necessarily the most senior experts in a particular area. But they had credentials in that area.
So credentials came first, but I noticed that the people we invited back over and over again every week were the same cast of characters, and it’s because they were able to communicate complexity in a way that was understandable and simple. And that is how I began making a transition to working with executives to help them tell their stories, their narratives more effectively.
Roger Dooley: Yeah, and that’s so important because when you start getting into business reporting, financial reporting, and so on, it’s so easy to get off in the wonky details and rattle on for five minutes about something where you lost everybody at 30 seconds in. So, yeah, that’s critical. So I guess other sort of end of the spectrum, Carmine, are TED Talks. They tend to be very punchy and understandable. They generate millions and millions of views. Some of our past guests on this show have individually received millions of views. So what has been so compelling about the TED Talk format? You’ve written at least a couple books that relate to that topic.
Carmine Gallo: Yeah. I’ve written … I wrote a book called Talk Like TED, which was not about how to get on the TED stage, but it was focused on what we can learn from some of the world’s greatest public speakers. I’ve also been somewhat involved with a TED organization. I know them pretty well. And I’ve worked with a number of people who have given TED Talks all over the world. TED Talks I think, Roger, are a great model to look at for the best way of transferring ideas to one another because everything about the way a TED presentation is structured really is more natural, frankly, than the way we’ve become accustomed to using PowerPoint. And some TED Talks use PowerPoint. Some use pressies. Some use Apple Keynote.
But the point is it’s visual, and that is actually much more effective in terms of persuasion. We are visual beings. Visuals trump text in a lot of areas. It’s easier to process and recall information when it’s presented in visual form than it is in bullet points and text on the slide, which is one reason why the TED organization doesn’t allow bullet points on sides. So, again, there are a number of things, Roger, that even if you’re not giving a TED Talk, there are a lot of things that we all can learn about being better and more persuasive presenters from the TED style.
So I like the visuals. I like the fact that they are only 18 minutes in length. There is a lot of neuroscience and a lot of research. And I know your audience of marketers and entrepreneurs like the science behind things. There’s a lot of research that shows we lose our attention after about 10 minutes, anywhere from about 10 to 15 minutes. TED Talks have found that 18 minutes, a little longer, seems to be the ideal amount of time to deliver information that is substantive without putting your audience to sleep.
Again, what a great rule of thumb. I would prefer 10 minutes. They prefer 18. No problem. I think we can agree on that. But I think between 10 and 18 minutes is the Goldilocks zone of getting your information across. And if you can do it visually like the TED Talks instruct you to do, there’s so much we can learn from TED Talks. And, yeah, that’s why I am always learning about TED and even including them in my new books because there’s always a new TED Talk that went viral, and there’s a reason why it may have gone viral. And that’s what I try to explore.
Roger Dooley: Okay, Carmine, so if the science shows that TED Talk length or shorter is best, I know you do in a lot of keynotes, I do keynotes, basically they are always 45, 50, 60 minutes or so. How do you scale to that length without losing your audience?
Carmine Gallo: You’re absolutely right. And the two are not incompatible with each other. What we mean by 10 minutes, and there’s a lot of science to back this up, this goes back to John Medina and Brain Rules, University of Washington.
Roger Dooley: Right, a past guest on the show.
Carmine Gallo: Yep. John Medina is fantastic, by the way. He’s my hero. So we both like him. He and I have talked about this 10-minute rule, and it hasn’t changed. It hasn’t changed despite the proliferation of mobile devices and shorter attention spans and all that. The human brain doesn’t change as quickly as pop culture thinks it does. We’ve evolved it over millions of years, and the way the brain processes information today is not that much different than it was millions of years ago.
The 10-minute rule simply means that we have this innate on/off switch in our brain that says after about 10 minutes, we get bored and we start seeking alternative stimulus, as John Medina says, an alternative stimulus. So I’m looking at my watch, or I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch today. And so I get naturally bored. The brain gets bored easily. After 10 minutes, well, you have to-
Roger Dooley: That’s what smartphones are for, Carmine.
Carmine Gallo: That’s exactly it. That’s why. And they’re very good at keeping us hooked, aren’t they? The point is that after 10 minutes, you need to re-engage. So there is so many persuasive devices that you can use to reengage your audience. That’s why I like stories. Stories are one way of … Storytelling is one way of reengaging your audience. Going to a demo or introducing what I call a second character into the narrative, this is what Apple does all the time. If they have a 90-minute presentation that has a number of different products or services that they are offering or that they want to introduce, they’ll have 10, 11, 12 speakers, and they’re changing it up constantly so it doesn’t give your brain enough time to get bored.
But if one person, no matter who that is, whether it’s a great speaker or a really compelling narrative, if that same speaker is speaking for more than 10, 15, 20 minutes, and there’s no way of breaking up that content, then anyone is going to get bored, no matter who you are. And, look, there is a reason why some of the greatest speeches of the 20th century were under 20 minutes. We can go back to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, which was scripted for 15 minutes. Martin Luther King was 18 minutes.
Some of the greatest speeches … And the Gettysburg Address was, what, 280 words, something like that. The greatest speeches in history are under about 20 minutes because the brain gets bored easily no matter who you are. We are not as good of a speaker as someone like Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy. And they knew to keep their speeches short. So a presentation gives us a lot of different options, though, Roger. We could have a lot of fun with it. We can introduce videos.
I have a ton of multimedia in my keynotes for exactly that reason. So I can say, “I had a conversation with Richard Branson about storytelling and communication. He told me something really interesting. Let’s take a look.” And all of a sudden Richard Branson began speaking through my presentation. I’ve just introduced a new character, a compelling character.
Roger Dooley: And that wakes everybody up.
Carmine Gallo: And it wakes everybody up. But you got to keep it going. You got to keep that pace moving. What happens in business presentations is that the CEO or the leader takes the lead. They don’t think about creating a performance. A performance on a stage has visuals, and props, and characters, and different voices, and narration, and heroes, and villains, and struggles. That’s what people like Steve Jobs were wonderful. They were magnificent and doing that type of thing.
And that’s what all marketers know this who are listening. We know this intuitively. We know this instinctively. So now we need to adopt it and adapt our presentations to do what we already know how to do instinctively.
Roger Dooley: Yeah, I can confirm what you’re saying, Carmine. I a few years ago attended a lengthy keynote by an individual who is one of the top view-getters with his TED Talk, and it was probably 90 minutes, 120 minutes. I don’t know. It seemed longer. But the first 20 minutes TED style were engaging, but it just didn’t scale to that length. It was sort of like just more of the same. And pretty soon you could just see the audience starting to shift around, and checking their watches, and phones, and whatnot.
Carmine Gallo: Roger, that is perfect. You just described cognitive load. You just described the science of cognitive load. Some scientists call it cognitive backlog. Like weights, when you give people too much information that is delivered exactly the same or whether it’s monotonous, there’s no breaking it up and reengaging, when you give people too much information, they drop the whole thing, so that there is this thing in presentations where if you’re speaking for 10 minutes, almost anybody can make it pretty engaging as long as there’s some kind of interesting structure to it.
But after about 10 minutes, you’d better keep me interested because not only does the brain get bored, now you’re piling on too much information, more and more information. I can love you for the first 10 minutes. If you’re still speaking 60 minutes later, now I’m beginning to dislike you. It’s very interesting.
Roger Dooley: That’s definitely the case there. Carmine, I want to get on to your new book, Five Stars. It focuses in the beginning on why communication skills are especially important when so many jobs are potentially threatened by automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and so on. And obviously there’s a lot of debate about how quickly that’s going to happen, but I think everybody agrees that it is coming.
A few episodes back, we had Tom Peters on the show, and he looked at the growth of these technologies and had advice that I think had something in common with yours. His advice was geared to businesses, in other words the leaders of businesses, managers and businesses and so on as opposed to individuals like yours. But he advised them to double down on people and culture, and his thesis was that companies that simply keep cutting staff and automating are eventually going to alienate their customers and their employees.
Now, you focus on a problem more from an individual perspective: How do you as an individual make yourself more marketable and more indispensable when the jobs around you are getting eliminated or automated at least? You say the key skill is being great at communications. Why is that?
Carmine Gallo: Well, here’s something interesting: I’m a history buff, so I talk to historians and economists, and they’re the ones who turn me on to this topic. There is one economist historian in particular at The University of Illinois, Chicago. Her name is Deirdre McCloskey. She writes these 800-pages dense economic books. But we were talking, and she had something-
Roger Dooley: Cognitive load.
Carmine Gallo: Oh my gosh, really, and it’s kind of like the Steven Pinker books, if your audience have read those. Enlightenment Now, it’s like 500 pages of great data. Bill Gates loves it. It’s his favorite book. But it takes a while to get through. So, anyway, going back to persuasion, she had this fascinating research. 25% to 30% of America’s total economy is now based on persuasion, one person convincing another person to change their mind or to take action.
Now, that’s total economy. That includes everyone from plumbers to marketers. But if you look at individual categories like marketing sales, then it’s 75% to 100% of your day-to-day activity involves persuasion. Okay. Stick with that, 30%. That’s changed. That actually, that number keeps going up because as was explained to me by two different historians, or two or three, and you know, probably know this easily, but in the agrarian age you could plow a field faster than the farmer next door, you wouldn’t see a big increase in your wealth.
In the Industrial Age, you could assemble a widget faster than the person working next to you on the factory floor. The only people who got rich were the factory owners. But today for really the first time in history, anyone with an idea can amplify that idea around the world. In the age of globalization, automation, artificial intelligence, the ability to share your ideas persuasively is the single greatest skill that will set you apart because our value is now not in our hands–less than 2% of the American economy now is agriculture–it’s in the ideas that are locked in our heads. If I cannot unleash those ideas and persuade you to take action on my idea, it doesn’t matter. Then I’m going to be left behind.
That is how I started writing the book, because I started, I spoke to economists and historians about this topic, and that’s what I found fascinating, that as we get into a more digital age where we don’t know how our future is going to evolve, with artificial intelligence and automation really replacing a lot of the manual tasks, what’s left is those characteristics and those attributes that make us uniquely human, kind of getting back to what Tom Peters said, which is collaboration, communication, persuasion, igniting your imagination, fueling ideas. That is how the world is being built–ideas upon ideas.
And this gets back to people like Steven Pinker and a lot of the books on progress: The reason why we’re living in the greatest time ever in human history is because of this unleashing of ideas and ideas built upon ideas. Well, if you cannot communicate your ideas persuasively, you not only get left behind, but you’ll never really get a chance to convince others to act on those ideas.
It’s a pretty powerful concept, which is why I had to divide the book, the Five Stars book into three parts. And the first part was exploring this whole idea of why communicators are irreplaceable today. And only in the third part do I get into the specifics and actionable tips of how to do it.
Roger Dooley: Yeah. So you have a lot of examples in that first part. And one that kind of surprise me was in NASA. Now, I’ve always thought of astronauts as being either pilots, really skilled pilots who might be capable of coping with in-flight emergencies or technical specialists, the scientists that do experiments and so on. So I was surprised that NASA prioritizes communication skills in their selection process. Talk about that a little bit.
Carmine Gallo: I am so glad that you brought that up because I wasn’t sure how many people would be interested in that area. But it’s a perfect example of our theme, that communication skills will set you apart. Remember my subtitle, right, going from good to great, using communication skills to go from good to great. What I found in a lot of different areas of our economy today, a lot of different occupations is that there are a lot of competent people who perform well, but the difference between average and very good and then truly superior often comes down to their ability to community ideas more persuasively.
So NASA is actually a perfect example. I did a lot of exploring into this, and I spoke to recruiters at NASA in Houston. NASA gets something like 18,000 applications a year for about 12 spots, about 12 astronauts, which makes it–and I looked up the statistic; it was really interesting because it seems so big–100 times harder than getting into Harvard, is to become a NASA astronaut. Well, that’s interesting, but obviously, like you said, right, Roger, you need to be a test pilot. You need to be a PhD, a biologist, whatever you have. And you probably have to pass a lot of physical tests.
Well, all of that is true, but in the very last part of the weeding out process, they get down to about 100 finalists for those 12 spots. Then they get down to about 100. Roger, do you know what they do with those 100 people? They invite them to Houston. And they invite them out to dinners. And they them collaborate and talk. The purpose is not to just give them a good time. The purpose is to evaluate them: How well can you communicate cross culture? How well can you get along on teams? And this is critical: NASA does not advertise, as you probably know. NASA is all about marketing itself.
The people they choose, those 12 people, need to be competent, need to be scientists, need to have the credentials, need to be the test pilots. They need to have the experience. After all is said and done, if you cannot tell the NASA story to a wide range of audiences, both PhDs and fifth grade, fourth grade school children, you cannot be a NASA astronaut because those 12 people are the face of the organization. That’s why a lot of these astronauts are wonderful speakers. I’ll give you one, like Chris Hadfield. He is the … Remember the singing astronaut? He actually sang a Bowie song on this … station avenue.
Roger Dooley: Okay. Right. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Carmine Gallo: He gave a wonderful TED Talk that was marvelous. He’s done a master class, and I talked to him about this, and he said, “Yeah, as an astronaut …” He was with a Canadian space agency, but it was very similar. They still had to be trained at NASA. And he said that’s absolutely correct about communication. You can have all the credentials, but they need to make sure that you’re a great speak too. So, again, you can have these credentials. Indra Nooyi said this at PepsiCo too. Indra Nooyi said, “You got to have the credentials first.” This is what she looks for in leaders: You got to have the credentials. You got to have the courage and the confidence to speak out about your ideas.
But thirdly, and just as importantly as the other two, is communication. You can’t tell people what to do, you have to be able to rally people to your cause. So I think we see this in whether it’s science, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s academia, so many different categories and technology especially, you can be competent, but competent only gets you so far these days. Thomas Friedman, the great global-
Roger Dooley: Yep, great author.
Carmine Gallo: Yeah, great author, globalization expert. His latest book is Thank You For Being Late–that was the title of his most newest book. And in it he talks about how average is over. You need to have some core experiences or something a little extra. I think he calls it “What is your extra?” And “extra” can be someone in management who also knows coding. That could be your extra. But he said above all everyone’s extra has to be superior communication skills.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative), well, I think that sort of goes with the changing structure of organizations. If you go back a few decades, it was pretty much a command and control structure, where orders flow down from the top and were executed at various steps on the way down, and you did not necessarily have the imperative to be able to inspire people. I mean, that was a plus, and certainly there is some great stories going back in business history of where a leader pulled a company back from the brink by being really inspiring. But by and large, that was not an essential skill. And many managers were not great communicators. But I think in today’s environment, that just won’t cut it.
Carmine Gallo: That remembers me of the conversation I had with Deirdre McCloskey, the historian and economist. She said exactly the same thing. So 100 years ago, the command and control, that was fine. That’s what worked: You gave an order, and people had to take it and throughout most of the Industrial Age as well. Not anymore. Now you have to actually convince people. You have to … Oh, she calls it sweet-talking. And once I figured out sweet-talking simply means persuasion. She used the word sweet-talk, which I kind of like, but you have to sweet-talk people into backing you, into investing in your company and buying into your ideas, into giving you a promotion, into hiring you for a position.
So it’s the communicators who really are irreplaceable and irresistible. And those are the type of people who I really focused on. Even young people, I’ve got a lot of stories here, true stories that were sent to me from people on LinkedIn or people who I met along the way who got certain positions or jobs even though they didn’t have as much experience as somebody else. And I lost count of those stories. That happens all the time where people will now get positions because they are seen as more competent leaders even though on paper maybe they don’t have as much experience as other folks.
And there have been some surveys, surveys I have in the book. One survey in particular, 94% of recruiters say that they place a higher value on someone with stronger verbal skills and less experience than the person with more experience but weaker verbal skills.
Roger Dooley: That really brings up an interesting point, Carmine, because there are some management experts who will say that the in-person interview is the worst way to select a candidate for most jobs except maybe a sales position or something where it’s almost a work simulation, and that the hiring decisions made based on interviews often are worse than hiring decisions made based on other criteria, such as some combination of looking at credentials and experience and references and so on, and that that’s because there’s a bias. Somebody comes in, and they present themselves well, which is of course what you’re suggesting people do. And I would certainly not argue with that being a good idea. But that can influence the process and end up with at least from the businesses standpoint, the organization’s standpoint, a less effective hire because it’s so biased toward verbal skills and appearance.
Carmine Gallo: You know, Roger, I’ve seen that, and I don’t have an answer for it. I think that’s why you have to have a balance because machines and algorithms cannot identify exceptional. They’re really good at identifying average. And again, this is how it was explained to me by AI scientists and people at companies. So the exceptional person has to stand out, and the exceptional person is typically the type of person who has the ability to inspire, to ignite your imagination, to get other people to buy into a particular product. And so you kind of, you have to be careful. You have to have both. You’ve got to have both the data to reinforce your decision, but you also have to understand that two people have to connect with each other on a deep emotional level in order for anything to happen.
Look, I’ll give you a great example. This just happened. It’s not in my book. 35-ish-year-old man has contacted me over the last few months. He works for a major technology company that all of your listeners would probably recognize. And he did not look good on paper. He was a salesperson. I don’t think he has a college degree, so he was a sales engineer. But he had like an engineering certificate, started at kind of a low level in the company, but he kind of worked his way up to sales engineer.
And he said, “But, Carmine, I really wanted to be an evangelist. And evangelist gets paid a lot more money, they travel the world, and they are the ones who really sell the products, is the evangelist, but,” he said, “on paper my resume just didn’t look good. I didn’t have the credentials. I didn’t have the degrees.” So, Roger, what would have happened if only a machine was looking at that, I don’t know.
So what he, this person ended up doing, his name was Steve, was for about a year he really worked on his presentation skills. He read my books. He read other books. He watched TED Talks. He took every opportunity to give better presentations. And fast-forward about a year and a half later, he is not only an evangelist, he’s been recruited from other companies, but this particular company keeps upping his salary because they want to keep him. And the CEO recognized him with an award in front of something like 800 salespeople, recognized about three or four for special awards. And he said, “We need 12 other people like Steve,” because, you know why, Roger? Because he was the only person or one of the few who could take this complicated technology and make it so understandable that customers in the audience said, “Where do we sign up?”
Roger Dooley: Right, and I think the way to resolve that tension between not being biased by an in-person interview is the nature of the job. If you’re expecting somebody to inspire people, let’s say a leadership role in a business or to persuade people if it’s maybe a sales role of some kind, then that in-person interview is really important because that’s a key part of the job criteria. If you got someone who’s going to be adding up numbers in a back room or coding for the entire day, that’s where you can go wrong, where the coding skills are not going to be evident in that interview necessarily.
But of course those are the kind of jobs that are going away too, potentially, not immediately. But those sort of back-room jobs that don’t require the sorts of skills that we’re talking about here, those are the ones that are going to be automated.
Carmine Gallo: I agree with you, and that’s why you have to analyze, look at yourself, and determine what is it that I want out of my career? One of the stories that I have in my book, I was at Intel, the headquarters of Intel, the big microprocessor company in Santa Clara. And a vice present was showing me around. I was working with some of the executives. And he stopped, looked inside a room. There was a little window inside a conference room. A bunch of people were meeting. And he said, “You see that guy. His name is Sam. Smartest guy in the room. Hasn’t been promoted in years. Smartest guy in the room. Hasn’t been promoted in years. He’s pretty much stuck there.”
I said, “Why? What’s the problem? Isn’t Intel all about engineering and data and evidence?” He goes, “Oh, yeah, but he can’t get people to buy into his ideas. He’s a terrible presenter.” That was it, and then we just kept walking. I said, “Oh. Wait a minute. Back up here. That’s interesting. So here’s a guy you acknowledge is the smartest guy in the room. But when he stands up in front of a group, he’s boring, he’s not compelling, he’s not inspiring. You’re telling me that in order to elevate to a leadership position, that is a skill you’re looking for.” So that’s not a criteria that’s on paper, but I know it through the back rooms. I know it through speaking to these executives at many of these large companies.
You can be competent. You can have the credentials. You could be the smartest person in the room. If you cannot inspire people through the way you talk about what you do in your technology in the company, then you’re not exactly the person they want to elevate to leader.
Roger Dooley: Right, and of course some companies even establish sort of technical growth paths for people like that that are superb at what they do but simply are not going to be good managers. And rather than push somebody into a position where you’re going to take somebody who’s really effective at what they’re doing and put them someplace where they won’t be at all effective, then give them a chance to continue to get promotions and increases and so on. So I want to-
Carmine Gallo: Roger, you’re talking about advanced companies, okay?
Roger Dooley: Right.
Carmine Gallo: You’re talking about the very few that actually think through this type of training. A lot of people, many of us will never hear from other people in the company why we’re not being promoted, why we’re not being advanced. And sometimes they don’t even know. Sometimes the senior people don’t even realize why you’re not the … they don’t see you as leadership potential. But you’re absolutely right. There are much more advanced companies that are working on-
Roger Dooley: Right, also uncommon. And also I think you’ll find, too, that sometimes the people who are on that track don’t want to be on that track. They feel like they should be managers even though maybe their bossed don’t. I want to jump over to stories for a minute. A good chunk of the book is devoted to the importance of stories and how to create them and so on.
And one anecdote really I found sort of interesting, Walmart does not seem like a warm and fuzzy inspirational sort of company. You think of them as sort of this beat them up, puts mom and pops out of business. And maybe it doesn’t treat its workers all too well and so on. Describe the story of their onboarding process or that was part of their onboarding process. I thought that was very impressive.
Carmine Gallo: Thank you for bringing that up. Yeah, the storytelling was not going to be a major part of this book, but I can’t just make it up. Everybody I was speaking to, Roger, about this content, including people like Richard Branson and others, they were the ones bringing up storytelling. They were the ones who use that term. And so I decided, “Well, it’s got to be a bigger part of the book then I originally intended.”
Walmart is a perfect example. I was working with an executive from Walmart, senior vice president of design. And she wanted to make the onboarding process more engaging. I guess they got a lot of reviews that with the new recruits and the new employees who started every month that there wasn’t a lot of inspiration coming out of the initial meetings, their first conferences that they had to attend.
It was all very data-driven, “Here’s everything you need to know.” It didn’t inspire them. And so I was working with one of the executives, and I had forgotten how many people they hire every month. I mean, it’s some exorbitant number, much bigger than any other company you’ve heard of. So they hire a lot of new people every month, as you would imagine, Roger. And so these people have to be inspired to work for the company.
I was working with the executive who was very data-driven. Everything she was presenting for an hour to new employees was all charts, tables, information about the company, all financial data. And I said, “Oh, I see the problem. They’re not finding you engaging because you’re not a storyteller. You’re not connecting with them on any type of emotional level.” And we know through persuasion research that in order to connect with people, you need to have data, evidence, a logical structure for your argument, but you also need to have emotion. And a lot of people don’t deliver emotion in business presentations today.
So I said, “Where can we find emotion?” And we were talking. We were brainstorming. And finally she said, “You know our motto: Save Money. Live Better,” that’s their little tagline: Walmart: Save money. Live better, “you know that really means something.” And I said, “Okay, other than, save money, what does it mean?” And she told me this incredible story. I’ll make it real short. Can I make it short, Roger?
Roger Dooley: Yep, by all means.
Carmine Gallo: She told me this story before she worked at Walmart her bother-in-law came down with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her and her sister started being the caretakers for her brother-in-law. And they were spending a lot of money. So she said, “Why don’t we just go to Walmart? Let’s go see if we could save money.” They ended up saving $300 per month for the exact same things that they needed that otherwise they were buying in different places. They saved $300 a month.
She said, “Carmine, with that $300 a month, we got a wheelchair-accessible van. And with that wheelchair-accessible van, he was able to get around, and he want to my nephew’s graduation,” and all that. And by the time she finished this story, which was much more emotional than I just told it, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. And I asked her, “Have you ever told that story?” She said, “No. No one’s asked me for that story.” I said, “Well, okay. You’re going to start telling stories. Before you get into the data and the charts, forget that. We’re getting rid of all those PowerPoints. Let’s start with the stories of why people are here, that their not here just for a position or a job. This company actually means something to everyday Americans.”
And she said, “Okay. Fine. Let’s give it a try.” So I had her tell the story. She showed images, pictures of her brother-in-law at his nephew’s graduation or at his son’s graduation. And she said, “Oh my gosh, Carmine, I didn’t expect this. People were crying in the front row. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.”
Then she said, “At the end of that presentation, people came up to me and said, or came up to the executive and said, ‘I’ve never been so inspired to work for a company. I never even thought I would be this inspired to work for Walmart.'” And she said, and then months later, Roger, true story, months later she said, “Carmine, there was only one big problem? I’ve been doing this every month. There’s only one problem.” I said, “What is it?” She said, “I have too many requests to meet with me, and to take me to lunch, and to talk with me. I can’t handle it, but I don’t want to say no.” I said, “Well, I guess that’s a good problem to have.”
Roger Dooley: Right. If you got to have a problem, that’s the one. Well, I-
Carmine Gallo: See, Roger, that had never happened to her. In all of her years at Walmart, that had never happened. So what switch did we turn on? Making that emotional connection.
Roger Dooley: Right, an emotional story. That’ll work every time. I’m going to try and extract one last thing from you, here, Carmine, to follow up on that. I’m sure you’ve … Well, I know you’ve coached many, many different people at all different levels, and I would guess that often or at least occasionally you’d talk about stories, and people say, “Well, I don’t have a story. I had a pretty normal life growing up. I wasn’t in poverty. I didn’t overcome a near-death experience. As far as a business story, the business never was at the brink of bankruptcy and then came back through some heroic effort. I just couldn’t think of a story.” What-
Carmine Gallo: You’re right: That would make a good story, wouldn’t it?
Roger Dooley: Yeah, but no, people don’t typically have those, so what do you say to somebody when they say, “Gee, I can’t really think of a story either about me personally or about the business?”
Carmine Gallo: There’s different type of stories. So when we talk about storytelling, yes, you can talk about personal experiences if they relate to your brand or your theme. Often they don’t, and that’s okay. Real customers, stories of real customers or clients and how they have been transformed by a service, or a company, or a product are equally as inspiring. We call them case studies, but usually people put these case studies on their website, and it’s a dry like white paper. I’m saying bring those customer stories to life in your presentations, and find those stories that are relevant to that particular listener or that particular audience.
A lot of people don’t think about that. So bring in, again, those outside voices. We’re seeing this a lot now. I shouldn’t say a lot of people don’t think about it. I think more and more marketers are getting into this now. I just spoke to the chief marketing officer at SAP, and she’s very much into stories, but not personal stories, it’s the stories of the real humans behind the SAP software, because she said, “Carmine, before I came in, SAP was a big … It’s a big B2B software company, and all of our marketing is focused on the software and the features. It’s very engineering-focused.” There were not stories. It wasn’t a storytelling culture. And that’s why she was brought in. Her name is Alicia Tillman, and she’s very, very visible on social media. But she said, “This is the transformation we made.”
So if you go to the SAP website today, and it’s a big global software company, on the very front page of the website, you’ll start seeing SAP stories. Again, those are not personal stories, they’re the stories of real people whose lives have been impacted by that product or service. So when we talk about storytelling, that doesn’t mean, “Here’s a personal story that impacted me.” That’s just one of many types of stories that you can tell.
Roger Dooley: Right, and I think you’re hitting a point. I’ve talked about this in the past, that if you’re going to use a case study, you’ve got to humanize it. I mean, it’s great to know that your product saved the other company 10% of manufacturing cost or whatever you accomplish, but it’s much better to express that in human terms if you can. How did that impact the people involved? Because then that resonates as opposed just, “Oh, …” I mean, obviously having a case study where you save somebody else a bunch of money is a good thing. But it’ll be much more impactful if you can humanize it.
Carmine Gallo: Oh, absolutely. That’s why you got to have, remember, we just talked about it: You got to have the emotion, but you also have to have the data, which is the saving the 10%. So if you can have a combination in all of your conversations of the data and the emotion, that gets back to the theme of my book. Those are the people who are irresistible and irreplaceable.
Roger Dooley: Great. Well, let me remind our listeners that we are speaking with Carmine Gallo, author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great. Carmine, how can people find you and your ideas online?
Carmine Gallo: Well, if you can remember my name, which is a good Italian name, Carmine Gallo, then you can go directly to my website, carminegallo.com. Gallo is spelled G-A-L-L-O. And the book is called Five Stars. It has its own landing page, but you can get to it from my site as well. But if you can remember thefivestarsbook.com, you can get to that as well. And I’m really proud that the book is actually in hard cover. It’s on Kindle, but it’s also on Audio Book, and it’s selling, it sells very, very well on Audible. And I narrated it myself. A lot of people seem to enjoy listening to it. So that’s another option for people.
Roger Dooley: Great, well, they can just continue listening to you right there on the audible version of the book. And we will link to that, all the versions of the book to the places you just mentioned and also to any other resources we talked about on the show notes page at rogerdooley.com/podcast. And we’ll have a text version of our conversation there too. Thanks so much for being on the show, Carmine.
Carmine Gallo: Well, thank you. Thanks for inviting me, Roger.
Roger Dooley: Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Brainfluence Podcast. To continue the discussion and to find your own path to brainy success, please visit us at rogerdooley.com.
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