The Storyteller’s Secret: A book Review by Bob Morris

Storyteller's SecretThe Storyteller’s Secret: From Ted Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch on and Others Don’t
Carmine Gallo
St. Martin’s Press (2016)

How and why “storytelling is not something we do. Storytelling is who we are.” Carmine Gallo

Carmine Gallo is uniquely well qualified to explain why some ideas catch on and others don’t. Being able to communicate effectively in a one-on-one informal conversation can be at least as important as making a formal presentation to a large audience. I agree with Gallo: ”Storytelling is the act of framing an idea as a narrative to inform, illuminate, and inspire.” He then explains that The Storyteller’s Secret “is about the stories you tell to advance your career, build a company, pitch an idea, and to take your dreams from imagination to reality…In these pages I will introduce you to some of the greatest brand storytellers of our time: Richard Branson, Howard Schultz, Sheryl Sandberg, Joel Osteen, Herb Kelleher, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Burnett, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Steve Wynn, and Steve Jobs…Many of the people in this book have given TED talks that have gone viral, not because of the data they presented, but because of the stories they told. Ideas that catch on are wrapped in story…Storytelling is not something we do. Storytelling is who we are.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Gallo’s coverage in Parts I and II:

o The Amygdala: A Storyteller’s Best Friend (Pages 5-6)
o We’re All Storytellers (6-7)
o The Story You Choose to Tell Yourself (28-29)
o The Gift of Your Past Creates a Vision for Your Future (32-34)
o The Dramatic Arc (37-39)
o Authentic Stories Connect People in a Deep, Meaningful Way (49-50)
o Mission as a Competitive Edge (53-54)
o Analogy: The storyteller’s secret weapon (77-78)
o Personal Stories Grab Attention (78-82)
o SAP Unleashes the Power of 65,000 Storytellers (90-91)
o The Serious Reasons to Use Humor (96-97)
o Know Your Stuff, but Be True to Your Brand (100-102)
o The Mind Is Wired for Stories, Not Abstractions (106-107)

This book’s title refers to one “secret” but in fact Gallo identifies 21 from dozens of storytellers and concludes each of the 37 chapters with a secret to accompany the “Storyteller’s Tools” on which he focuses in the chapter. Think of the material as the contents of an operations manual in which Gallo provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that will help each reader to master storytelling skills and then apply them effectively in ways and to an extent appropriate to the given situation.

More specifically, Gallo explains HOW you can

o Become inspired and share your passion
o Reframe the story you tell yourself before telling your story to others
o Introduce a reliable “hero” or “heroine” who overcomes hardship and learns a valuable lesson
o Build story in three steps (Please see pages 56-59)
o See and articulate the Big Picture before providing details
o Stick to the Rule of Three (Aristotle’s three keys of persuasion: pathos, logos, and ethos)
o Use video, “a storyteller’s best friend”
o Use pictures to trump words
o Make your story not only readable but compelling and memorable
o Share stories that can strengthen a culture
o Use words that have longer lasting impact
o Use analogies and metaphors that “work like magic”

This book should be required reading for school, college, and university students who need to improve their communication skills, especially those preparing for a career in business. It will also be invaluable to those entrusted with the privilege of teaching them. Few will ever give a TED Talk and fewer yet will ever make what Steve Jobs once characterized as an “insanely great presentation.” That is not why Carmine Gallo wrote this book. He remains determined (obsessed?) to help as many people as he can to communicate as well as they can.

The Storyteller’s Secret should also be “must reading” for all executives, especially those who are leaders or aspire to become leaders. Without communication in any organization, there can be no cooperation and certainly no collaboration. There is no better way to explain, describe, or convince than by telling a story. For me, that is the single most important “secret” in this brilliant book.

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