Home » Transcript: Carmine Gallo Discusses Three Secrets All Inspiring Messages Share at Stanford

Transcript: Carmine Gallo Discusses Three Secrets All Inspiring Messages Share at Stanford

Carmine Gallo

Carmine Gallo, the author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, discusses Three Secrets All Inspiring Messages Share as a part of his address at Stanford GSB’s Mastery in Communication Initiative’s Expert Speaker Series. Here is the full transcript.

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And I was getting a broadcast degree, and I recall coming back from an assignment. JD would appreciate this. Nice Italian professor of mine, very nice. When you have a name like Carmine, you get along with Italian professors really well. But JD, I came back and I didn’t have a story because there was no story. At least that’s what I told the prof, and he yelled at me and he just got into me and grilled me. There is always a story, Gallo! There is always a story.

That advice served me really well in my career as a journalist at CNN, in my books, in my writing, and certainly in my career today as a communications consultant. There is always a story.

So, all of you have a story to tell. Some of you are better than others at telling your story, but you all have the ability to tell a better story, to share your ideas, to inspire people with those stories. And so I think as future business leaders, you need to think about how am I going to inspire people? How do I inspire my team? How do I inspire investors to back my products? How do I inspire people to really rally around my ideas and my initiatives?

How do you do that? I believe that there are three components to inspiration. An inspiring message has to be understandable, memorable, and emotional. You have to have all three. Once all three elements take place, that’s where inspiration occurs. You need to reach someone’s head and their heart.

Now how do you do that? How do you do that through a business pitch? How do you do that in a simple PowerPoint presentation or a conversation with a professor or an investor? How do you truly inspire people?

What I’d like to do today is spend the next 30 minutes or so revealing some very specific techniques that you can use today, right after this workshop, to inspire your classmates, your professors, your stakeholders, your team members, anybody in which you need to persuade them to take some sort of action.

So today is all about inspiration. Presentation skills, communication, that’s how we get there, but it’s all about inspiration, how do you inspire the people in your life. Because that’s the definition of leadership. True leaders inspire people to a bigger vision. How do you do that? That’s what we’ll talk about today.

Before I reveal the techniques that I think all of you can apply, I do need to talk about the foundation of all great communications. The one technique, per se, that — I can’t teach. You can listen to the rest of this workshop, you can listen to all of the methods that I’m going to teach you and really apply them.

But if you don’t have passion for your topic, it’s not going to make any difference. Passion is everything. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself. Bryce mentioned I wrote the Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. One of the most astonishing things about Steve Jobs as a great corporate communicator was that he wasn’t necessarily passionate about computers. He was passionate about creating tools to help you unleash your personal creativity. He was passionate about building tools that would change the world, and he wore that passion on his sleeve.

Passion is contagious. I learned a lot about passion from this man, Howard Schultz. I learned a lot about passion and communications. I interviewed Howard Schultz for a book I wrote several years ago. And I recall having about an hour conversation with him and rarely did he mention the word coffee, because he wasn’t selling coffee. He was selling a workplace that treats people with dignity and respect. He was selling customer service. He was selling employee engagement. That’s what he was passionate about. It wasn’t about the coffee.

Watch this clip from CNBC. Listen to how a great communicator and a successful leader like Howard Schultz communicates the vision behind his brand. And also, watch for the reaction of the TV host because he had the exact same reaction I did when I interviewed Howard Schultz.

[Video Clip Starts:

Howard Schultz: Starbucks in a sense has become the quintessential experience brand, and the experience comes to life by our people. We’ve been able to, I think, create a system of attracting, retaining great people, building a training system that replicates what we do. And I think the only competitive advantage, and this is, you know, an anathema compared to a tech company, is we have no patent. We have no secret sauce whatsoever. The only competitive advantage we have is the relationship we’ve built with our people, and the relationship they have built with the customer. So when we go to.

Interviewer: You mentioned competitive advantage. You haven’t mentioned the word coffee.

Howard Schultz: Not yet.

Interviewer: Your competitive advantage is not your coffee.

Howard Schultz: Well, well I’ll get to —

Interviewer: You just said your competitive advantage, I agree with you, is the —

Howard Schultz: Yeah.

Interviewer: Relationship with your people and the people with their customers.

Howard Schultz: And in fact, if you ask me what business we’re in, we’re in the people business. We’re not in the coffee business.

Interviewer: Mm-hm.

Howard Schultz: Of course, we are as a product, but we’re in the people business. 135,000 people, hiring 300 people a day, serving 40 million customers a week, it’s all human connection. It’s a sense of humanity and the sense of community that we’ve built in our stores. So, at the end of the day what we’ve been able to do is crack the code on being able to create an environment where people are treated well, they’re respected, they’re valued Customers come in and they recognize this is a different kind of environment, almost an oasis.

Video Clip Ends]


Almost an oasis. What is he talking about? What is he really selling? You need to ask yourself what is it that I’m passionate about, and you need to dig deep to find that. I love at the end of one of Steve Jobs’ great presentations, one of his last presentations, he said it’s the intersection of technology and liberal arts that makes our hearts sing.

And so now I ask clients that question. I don’t even ask them: what are you passionate about? Now it’s what makes your heart sing? The answer to that question is a lot different than the answer to, what do you make? What do you do? How is it different? That’s a much more inspiring answer. So you need to dig deep and identify what am I passionate about and what really makes my heart sing. And don’t be afraid to express your emotion about it.

Passion is contagious. I’m not going to go into the studies, but there are now numerous studies which show people who are passionate and enthusiastic and excited, guess what, it does rub off on people.

Be passionate, that’s number one. But now let me reveal several techniques that you can use today to make your everyday messages, your messages your PowerPoints, your pitches, a little more inspiring.

So let’s talk about the role that you’re going to play as a communicator and as a leader. I’m going to break this up into three acts.

Act one, how do we make it understandable? How do we make our message clear, easy to get, understandable? There are a number of techniques. We could talk about it all day, but there is one in particular I do want to mention. I did talk about this two years ago when I talked to the graduate students here at Stanford. It’s as relevant today as it was two years ago, creating Twitter friendly headlines. I love Twitter as an exercise.

Twitter, how many of you are on Twitter right now? Okay. Okay many, more of you. Every time I ask that question of students, like, every year, more and more and more. My Twitter handle is just my name, if you’d like to follow me it’s @carminegallo. So go ahead and follow me. I’d love to have a conversation with you on Twitter.

Okay. So how many characters does Twitter allow? You know, 140. Not very much. One sentence. If you can’t describe what you do in one sentence of 140 characters, do me a favor. Go back to the drawing board. Let’s try again. You need to give people the big picture. The brain craves meaning before detail. This is one of those big revelations I learned in communications theory. And I learned it from John Medina at the University of Washington, who said, “Carmine, when primitive man ran into a tiger, he did not ask how many teeth does the tiger have? He asked, will it eat me? Should I run? Big picture before details”. Big picture.

What do you do in 140 characters or less? When Wendy Kopp started Teach for America in 1989, she told me that she had a one sentence vision to reduce educational inequities. And that was the vision statement that she presented to investors and stakeholders. It served her very well. More than 20 years later, that’s still the vision, to reduce educational inequities. Today more than 30,000 students have gone through her program teaching underprivileged kids around the country.

Now some of you would know better than I, but I believe, unless I’m wrong, I believe that Teach for America is the number one college recruiter. Is it not? One of the top college recruiters. Yeah, I mean very successful.

But again, how do you describe something to investors? She had to go out and get investors. This was a Princeton project. Okay, it was a dissertation. She had to go out and get investors excited about her idea, but they needed to see the big picture first. What was she trying to accomplish?

Here in the Bay area when Sergey Brin and Larry Page walked into Sequoia Capital, they had one sentence. One sentence and the investor said they got it immediately. Google provides access to the world’s information in one click. An investor from Sequoia Capital told me that in one sentence, we got it. Big picture before details, and that was about 10 words. Before Twitter, an investor told me that he wants a ten-word summary of what you do. He said, if you can’t describe what you do in ten words, I’m not interested in investing. That was before Twitter.

Now, I think it’s more relevant to keep it to about 140 characters. You should probably get to know this guy. He’s changed all of your lives. His name is Eli Harari. That’s me and Eli when we were on a conference room working on some messaging. Harari is the pioneer of Flash. He created Flash memory, so the memory that enables all of your iPads to work, your MP3s to work now and your laptops. You guys use digital cameras? All of you have him to thank for those digital cameras because he invented the Flash memory cards that go inside those digital cameras.

I bring this up because people at the highest levels of corporate business today, people who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, are constantly thinking about how do I communicate the vision behind my company more effectively. Getting back to Twitter friendly headlines, this was a workshop. We were working on it. He had to give a huge conference in front of all, the analysts. It’s called the Analyst Days. So every year public companies give one day where they talk to all the analysts. And we were going around the room, and I asked everyone for a Twitter friendly headline. And, of course, some of the engineers were pushing back. You know, they said now we’ve got way too much, way too much information. We can’t just distill it into 140 characters.

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And Eli said no, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The analysts in the room that day don’t realize that Flash will be bigger than they think. This was 2009 before the iPad came out. Now Flash is in the iPad. He was absolutely right. The stock has gone straight up over the last few years. Eli was right, but the analysts in the room didn’t quite appreciate that at the time. So that was his Twitter friendly headline. In the coming decade Flash will be bigger than you think.

Guess what happened? Within three hours, as the rest of the analysts conference was going on, there were actually analysts tweeting. They were tweeting this. Flash will be bigger than you think. What was the headline on a lot of the blogs? Flash will be bigger than you think.

What did we do? We controlled the message. We reframed the message, but you can’t control the message if it’s confusing and convoluted.

So how do you make it clear? How do you make it understandable? Big picture before details.

Apple and Steve Jobs, they do this all the time. And I still like to talk about Apple because I believe that as far as the corporations are concerned, they get communications. They understand creating compelling messages.

What was the iPod in 2001? It was an ultra-portable MP3 music player that put a thousand songs in your pocket. In one sentence I got it immediately. 2007, Apple reinvented the phone. In 2008 Apple introduced MacBook Air. In a sentence, the world’s thinnest Notebook. The worlds thinnest notebook, what a great headline! It was consistent on all of their press releases, on the in-store signage. Steve Jobs said this during a presentation. That’s all you need to know. It’s the world’s thinnest notebook. If you want to learn more, go to the website, but in one sentence, you get it immediately.

Every time you, you introduce an initiative, an idea, a product, what’s the one sentence description for it? What’s the big picture before the details?

Last year for Forbes, I had this really fun opportunity to interview Richard Branson. And we talked about communications, and he said, Carmine, when I get pitched. And, you know, I guess I didn’t fully appreciate that Virgin Group is made up of, like, 300 companies. He gets pitched all the time. He said when someone pitches me, it better be clear and concise and easy to grasp. And then he gave me the sentence that became the headline for my article. He said, Carmine, if it can’t fit on the back of an envelope, it’s rubbish.

If your message can’t fit on the back of an envelope, it’s rubbish. So don’t be rubbish. Create that headline. Ask yourself, how do I explain my idea in 140 characters or less. Takes a lot of discipline to do that. A lot of discipline. But think about how would my audience actually tweet it? So that’s one method to make your message understandable.

After that though you need to flush it out, don’t you? You need to sell the benefit. You need to actually be specific and tell me, why should I care? Now this is another question that I learned to answer in journalism school. The one question that your audience is going to have, why should I care? How is it going to improve my life? Steve Jobs was brilliant at this, and that’s what initially gave me the idea to start writing about Steve Jobs. Nobody did it better than Steve Jobs, and the beauty is that a lot of his presentations are still on YouTube so we can learn from him to this day.

2007, introduces the iPhone. In two minutes, in two minutes, he reveals the problem that most people had, a problem that people didn’t even realize they had. That was the genius of Steve Jobs. That was his vision. He actually could convince you that you had a problem you didn’t even know you had. Not a lot of people can do that, that’s why he’s hard to replace.

But, watch this clip, in 2 minutes, he introduces a problem, then offers a solution. And it makes some very specific benefits behind that solution. So, here’s why you should care. About a new phone from Apple.

[Video Clip Starts:

“Why do we revolutionary user interface? I mean. Here is four smartphones. Right, the Moto Q, Blackberry, Palm Treo, Nokia E62. The usual suspects. And, what’s wrong with their user interface? Well, the problem with them is really sort of in the bottom 40 there. It’s this stuff right here. They all have these keyboards, they’re there whether or not you need them to be there. And they all have these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application. Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped.

So, what do you do? It doesn’t work because the buttons and the controls can’t change. They can’t change for each application, and they can’t change down the road if you think of another great idea you want to add to this product.

Well, how do you solve this? Hmm, it turns out, we have solved it. We solved it in computers 20 years ago. We saw that with a Bitmap screen they could display anything we want. Put any user interface up. And a pointing device. We solved it with the mouse. We solved this problem, so how are we going to take this to a mobile device? What we’re going to do is get rid of all these buttons and just make a giant screen. A giant screen. Now, how are we going to communicate with this? We don’t want to carry it around a mouse, right? So what are we going to do? A stylus, right? We’re going to use a stylus. No. Who wants a stylus? You have to get ’em and put ’em away, and you lose them, yuck! Nobody wants a stylus, so let’s not use a stylus.

We’re going to use the best pointing device in the world, we’re going to use the pointing device that we’re all born with, we’re born with ten of them, we’re going to use our fingers. We’re going to touch this with our fingers. And, we have invented a new technology called multi-touch which is phenomenal, it works like magic. You don’t need a stylus. It’s far more accurate than any touch display that’s ever been shipped. It ignores unintended touches, it’s super smart, you can do multi finger gestures on it. And boy, have we patented it!”Steve Jobs at the introduction of iPhone (2007)

[Video Clip Ends]


You know, I’m glad everybody is laughing. Because he makes it funny. When was the last time you actually had fun delivering a PowerPoint? Yeah, he uses Apple Keynote, but you get the idea. When is the last time you actually had fun delivering a presentation? Not too often. You see what I mean by passion, enthusiasm comes across? But this is hard to do, that simplicity of communication is very difficult to do.

Everything I’m talking to you about today. You can’t just turn this in a few minutes. You really have to think through, what’s my story? How do I make it understandable? What’s my Twitter-friendly headline?

Twitter-friendly headlines, sometimes, can take hours to develop. I’ve worked with a group of executives, over some very, very complex technology and information. You could do it. No matter how complex your idea is, you can actually create a one-sentence description for it. But that could take hours.

Then you have to ask yourself: Why should my audience care? Why should they care? So, these two things will help you make your presentation, and your conversation more understandable, which is the first element of inspiration. How do — do I get it? You get your audience to start nodding in agreement. Okay, I see the category in which he is placing this new product, I understand the benefits, I understand it. Tell me more. Help me remember it. Stamp it on my memory.

Bring Numbers to Life

How are we going to do that? There’s a number of techniques that I could talk about, but because you’re MBA students, you deal a lot with finance and data and analysis and numbers. Bring numbers to life. This is one excellent method that you can use today. Bring numbers to life. Put every statistic that you deliver into a context that is relevant to the audience.

So in 2001 when Apple introduced the iPod for the first time. They said it contained five gigabytes of storage. Five gigs means nothing to anybody, it’s just a big number. Well not today, but back then it was a big number. 5 gigs. No, 5 gigs is the equivalent of 1000 songs. Oh, and now that’s more interesting. OK, 1000 songs. Now I get it. 1000 songs in your pocket, which was the brilliance of Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs would always take it one step further. Most people would just deliver 5 gigs. Smart communicators would say that’s the equivalent of 1000 songs, genius communicators go one step above that. Apple continues to do this to this day which is why Apple is so brilliant at communicating information and messages behind their products. There’s a whole team of people back there and they work really long and hard to communicate interesting and engaging messages.

So last year when Phil Schiller introduced the new iPad Mini, I forgot how thin it was. I’m going to show you a clip and it’ll remind me. It was thin. It was some kind of number. Really thin. I don’t remember the number. I remember it was thin as a pencil. I do remember it was as light as a pad of paper.

What’s more memorable to you? The data, or what the data actually show? And the metaphor and the analogy that the data create? This takes work, but listen and watch how it turns out.

[Video Clip Starts:

Phil Schiller of Apple: So, this iPad Mini is just 7.2 millimeters thin. That’s about a quarter thinner than the fourth generation iPad. To put it in context, it’s as thin as a pencil. Yeah, it’s thin. It weighs just 0.68 pounds. That’s over 50% lighter than the previous iPad fourth generation. So in context, what can compare that to? It’s as light as a pad of paper. We were going to say a book, but books are much heavier. So, we came up with a pad of paper.

[Video Clip Ends]

You tell me. Isn’t that far more interesting than just introducing a number. That’s memorable. That’s the iconic photograph, from that particular presentation as well. So ask yourself, what numbers can I bring to life?

Now we’re going to focus on one other technique, that I think is one of the most powerful techniques in communications, to make your message truly memorable and easy for your audience to grasp. That’s the Rule of Three.

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three simply means that in short term memory, working memory, I’m only going to be able to carry about, three or four points of information. So why overwhelm me with 12? Don’t give me 12 or 15 reasons why I should back your idea. Give me three. Much easier to grasp.

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I wrote about this for Forbes, and one of my readers actually sent me an infographic. His name is [Felipe Packu]. He created this infographic. It’s on the Rule of Three. I know it’s hard to read, but it just shows you how the Rule of Three pervades all aspects of our society. Even religion, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Slogans. Nike, just do it. Obama, yes we can.

The colors of the flags. I hadn’t realized most flags have three colors. Language, science, certainly literature. Three little pigs, three musketeers. I’m a big fan of Thomas Jefferson’s writing. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. I had forgotten how many companies have three letters in their logo. UPS, SAP, IBM, CNN, the Rule of Three. Okay, it’s only because this is the way our mind works naturally. It likes to see groups of three.

So use it in your next presentation or pitch. Apple does this all the time. All the time. When iPad 2 was released, I’ll never forget, I got an e-mail. The subject line was, iPad 2: Thinner, Lighter, Faster. That’s it. Thinner, lighter, faster. That’s all you need to know about it.

In fact, this pervades design at Apple as well, because, again, design is simple at Apple. Not the process to get there but the end result. There’s only three models of iPads you can choose from. There’s different configurations. But they introduced three models, three models of the iPhone. Everything is in three. Three is very powerful.

A Message Map

So now I’m going to show you how to incorporate the Rule of Three, Twitter-Friendly headlines, and selling the benefit, into what I call a Message Map.

A Message Map is something that you can use today for your very next pitch, no matter how complex your idea. This is going to help you a lot. By creating a Message Map, you create a visual display of information, the visual display of your story on one page. This works remarkably well. Because I’ve used it for some — a lot of products. Products that actually you use in your everyday life. Started — we sold it with a Message Map. Message Map is not necessarily meant for consumers. It’s meant for you, to help you articulate and visualize what the story is behind your particular product initiative or idea.

Would you like me to show you how to create a Message Map? Okay, let’s do that.

I’m going to make it. I could make this complicated. I’m going to make it very simple though. I’m going to go to the other extreme. I’m going to show you, that you can make this for anything, even soap. How many of you have been to a store called Lush? It’s a soap store. Okay, good, good number of you, there’s a few here in the Bay Area, there’s two in San Francisco. It’s a UK-based soap store, and it has about 150 locations in the U.S. and Canada. It’s very nice, nice soap store.

But what’s the story behind it? I have one of the Lush soaps here, this particular bar is $11.34. It’s $37 a pound. That’s an expensive soap. 37 bucks a pound. So, how many of you would pay more than $10 for this small bar of soap? Oh come on, not one? Oh, you, because you’ve been to Lush. Well, you don’t count. But that’s okay, because you already know how good this is.

So, you don’t know — most of you don’t know the story behind it. it’s packaged in a nice white paper. Does that convince you? No? Not at all? Smell here. Go ahead and smell this. Does it smell good? Smells nice. Yeah, very nice. It’s called Karma. So it’ll give you good karma. $38 a pound. You interested? Still not interested.

Okay, I’ll give it to the lady here who wanted it to begin with. Go ahead.

Okay. Just because we don’t know the story behind it. I do have another bar. Let’s create a Message Map.

So yes and I have absolutely no connection to this store whatsoever, but I do — I like their soap now. Okay, let’s create a Message Map. You need a sheet of paper, you need an iPad, you need a PowerPoint slide, just anything, that’s empty. This is all you need to create or a whiteboard. I love a whiteboard. So that’s all you need to create a Message Map.

You start with a Twitter-friendly headline. What’s the one thing you want people to know about your product? The one thing, the most important consistent thing, based on my understanding of the Lush brand. I did interview the CEO. Last year, I wrote a story about them. That’s where my connection ends, but I know their messaging really well.

Here’s what I think their Twitter-friendly headline is. Lush crafts, handmade, soaps and cosmetics. Handmade. That’s their key phrase, their keyword. It’s on the paper bags that you take home. The in-store signage, the advertising, the marketing, the website. Handmade soaps and cosmetics. So, in one sentence, it helps you categorize it. Carolina, earlier said, it’s fancy soap. So, okay, fancy soap. Maybe that could be a headline, too. But this whole handmade fancy soap allows me to categorize it into another category. Now I know it’s probably a little different than the soap that I would get at the grocery store.

But I need more evidence. Give me three reasons why I should consider Lush soap? Okay, why don’t we start with fresh and organic? Everything all of the ingredients here are fresh, natural. They’re made one day, shipped the next. Everything is a non-toxic ingredient, so it’s very, very good for your skin. It’s fresh and organic. It’s environmentally friendly. That’s why it’s not wrapped in plastic. That’s why it’s recyclable paper. So that there’s no plastic that goes into landfills. Nothing that’s — none of the ingredients or chemicals are tested on animals. So everything’s environmentally friendly and, part of the proceeds go to support ethical campaigns. Campaigns in the community, and also campaigns on a global scale.

There’s your Message Map. So you can see how this works. I could hand this message map to a brand new employee who has only been there for a couple of days. Somebody walks into Lush, looks around, says, oh, this is interesting. Tell me more about this store. Well, at Lush, we craft handmade soaps and cosmetics. Everything you see here in the store is fresh, and it’s natural, with real natural ingredients, that are good for your skin.

Everything is environmentally friendly. That’s why you’ll find everything wrapped in recyclable paper, so we don’t fill landfills with trash and plastic. And, part of the benefits go to support some really cool ethical campaigns that, help people here in our own community, I’d love to tell you about. But listen, why don’t you go around and look around? I think you’ll like what you see.

All of a sudden it becomes, oh that’s interesting, there’s a real story behind it. Some of their ethical campaigns I don’t necessarily agree with. I fall on the other side of some of their campaigns, just, you know, from a philosophical perspective. But guess what? It’s interesting. There’s a story. There’s a real story behind it. And there’s engaged people as well. That’s a message map. It’s very, very simple to create. Since — you can have that one since you like the smell. Now you’ll be giving off good karma, too.

So that’s a message map, but it doesn’t work without the Rule of Three. You see how you got to have all of the other things we just talked about? If you don’t understand the big picture, you don’t understand the Rule of Three and selling the benefit, then nothing else matters. Then you can’t create a message map without all of those other components, okay? This works really, really well.

I have created a message map for big companies, very complex information and a few weeks later, the executives come back to me and they say we just want to view a multi-million dollar account. I don’t take full credit, but if they want to credit the message map, terrific. The reason they credit the message map is because for the first time they have clarity in their message. And if they’re clear on it, it’s clear to the audience as well. You can’t confuse people.

How do we make a presentation emotional?

And finally, we have to make our messages emotional. Emotion is very important. [Shahid] here at Stanford, John Hyde at the University of Virginia, they’ve all been using this metaphor, which is brilliant. Most of you have probably heard about it, the rider and the elephant. If you think about the way the brain processes information, the left brain wants the data, the analysis, logic. That’s the rider, the person steering the elephant. The right brain, or the emotional part of the brain, it’s the elephant. The rider thinks he’s in control, left brain thinks it’s in control, but where the rider wants to go that’s where inspiration ultimately occurs.

John Medina at the University of Washington made it even simpler for me. He said, “Carmine, the brain does not pay attention to boring things”. He said the brain is not programmed to grasp abstract concepts.

Okay, so how do we get past that? How do we make a presentation emotional? Tell stories. Nobody in corporate America tells stories anymore. Stories are undervalued, they’re under appreciated, they’re under utilized, tell stories. Marissa Mayer the new CEO of Yahoo, former VP of Google, guess what she does in presentations? She tells stories, and she’s considered very charismatic. Somebody I know, at a very large company, saw an internal presentation given by Marissa Meyer. And he came up to me a few weeks later, and he said, “Carmine, it was amazing. She spoke like 45 minutes, and she only used 10 slides”.

And I asked him, “How did she do that?”

“Well, let’s see, oh, she told stories!” No kidding, stories. Tell stories. You can tell stories about your product, how it came to be. You can tell personal stories, you can tell stories about customers. A case study is a story. And when you — we’re going to get to this in a minute, when you tell stories, like Marissa Mayer when she tells stories, she uses visual slides to complement her stories. The slides are not the story. The slides simply complement the story.

Stories are powerful. I spoke to this gentleman last year, his name is Bryan Stevenson. Bryan Stevenson gave a TED lecture. At the end of that lecture, he inspired the audience to donate $1 million to his non-profit, The Equal Justice Initiative. He is passionate about social justice. He argues cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he won a landmark case last year. It is now unconstitutional to impose a mandatory life sentence on a juvenile, on someone convicted as a juvenile. Thanks to Mr. Stevenson. We had a conversation about communications. Guess what he said? “Carmine, I don’t know what to tell you. You say I’m charismatic. That’s great, I’m flattered. I don’t know, I just get up there and tell stories”. No kidding, that’s why! You’re making an emotional connection with people. You tell stories.

In this lecture, I’m going to show you a clip. He started with a story about his grandmother. He tied it into the theme, the power of identity. He says a lot of poor, underprivileged kids in a lot of communities across America don’t have identity. So how do you connect that with your audience? Let me tell a story about it. So he tells the story of his grandmother, who when he was 11 years old, I believe, pulled him aside and said, “Brian, I think you’re special”. And then she asked him to make a promise. The promise was never to drink alcohol. He said, hey, I was 11 years old, I didn’t have anything to lose. Sure, why not? “I’ll never drink alcohol, Grandma”.

Here’s how he picks up the story.

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[Video Clip Starts:

I grew up in the country, in the rural south, and I have a brother a year older than me, and a sister a year younger. And when I was about 14 or 15, one day my brother came home and he had this six pack of beer. I don’t know where he got it. And he grabbed me and my sister and we went out in the woods. We were kind of just out there doing the stuff we crazily did. And he had a sip of this beer and he gave some to my sister. And she had some, and they offered it to me. I said no, no, no, no that’s okay. Ya’ll go ahead, I’m not going to have any beer. My brother said, come on we’re doing this today! You always do what we do. I had some, your sister had some. Have some beer. I said, no I don’t feel right that, ya’ll go ahead, ya’ll go ahead. And then my brother started staring at me. He said, what’s wrong with you? Have some beer. Then he looked at me real hard, he said, oh I hope you’re not still hung up on that conversation mama had with you. I said, well, what are you talking about? He says, well mama tells all the grandkids that they’re special. I was devastated. And I’m going to admit something to you. I’m going to tell you something that I probably shouldn’t. I know this might be broadcast broadly, but I’m 52 years old, and I’m going to admit to you that I have never had a drop of alcohol. I don’t say that because I think that’s virtuous. I say that because there is power in identity.

– Video Clip Ends]

Not going to talk about body language today, but look at that body language. That’s strength. There’s power in identity. So he’s reinforcing his Twitter headline, his key theme with body language as well, and he’s tying stories into it. See with communication, folks, I don’t just make this stuff up. I’m trying to learn from the best. And if someone can successfully argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, and when I asked him, what’s your secret? And he goes, I don’t know, I tell stories. What else am I supposed to expect? Stories. Story telling.

Great communicators tell stories. Just like Marissa Mayer. You can use stories in a presentation, or you can tell personal stories. Stories are what are called emotionally charged events. When the brain detects an emotionally charged event it releases dopamine into the system which acts as a mental Post-it note saying, remember this.

Stories connect with people. What stories can I tell? And the only other technique that I want to leave with you today, this is very important for all of you giving presentations. How many of you give like PowerPoint presentations, day to day or frequently? Okay, so most of you, right? When you tell those stories, make sure that you’re thinking visually, because the one thing that’s going to ruin the impact of those stories, is putting up a slide like this. Okay, that’ll be it. That’s the end of your story. That’s a real PowerPoint slide, by the way.

So they mentioned I wrote this book Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. This came out several years ago. I taught a lot about the visual display of information. Steve Jobs didn’t create it, but he happened to use it very, very well. And a lot of — I’ve been really gratified, because ever since then a lot of business people, some very well-known that have touched your life every day that you know very well, have called me or they sent me emails. Or they send me their slides ahead of time. And they’re showing me how they’re incorporating visual design.

So whether you read my stuff, or Nancy Duarte who spoke here, Garr Reynolds, there’s so many different resources out there, but the point is start learning how to think visually. This is called Picture Superiority. Picture Superiority simply means that, when I deliver information verbally you remember about 10% of it. If I can add a picture though, retention goes up to 65%. The average PowerPoint slide is 40 words. That doesn’t surprise me. When I first heard I thought that’s too much. Actually no, it’s not; it’s very close to reality.

Great communicators, it’s hard to find 40 words in like ten slides of their presentations. When Tim Cook at Apple has a number, when he wants to just introduce a big statistic or a number, that’s all you got to have on the slide is the number, 5 million. If he wants to talk about a product, it’s the product. You don’t need to clutter slides with bullets and texts and bullets and texts. Especially when you tell stories.

Let me give you one example that I actually delivered here a couple of years ago. Remember I told you about the MacBook Air, the world’s thinnest notebook? Well if I’m going to tell you it’s the world’s thinnest notebook, boy, that’s clear. Why would I clutter a slide and make it look as ugly as this? This is what I think most people would’ve done when they introduced a new product like the MacBook Air. Let me put all the specs on one slide. And, by the way, I heard Carmine mentioned something about visual design, so why don’t I add some clip art, clip art of a battery up there? And there you have it. That’s a pretty ugly slide.

Steve Jobs and Apple they thought about it. They thought creatively. Well if it’s that thin, it kind of fits inside one of those envelopes that you see around the office. Well why don’t we just show that? Oh, isn’t that so much more powerful than this? That’s memorable. That’s emotional. It makes a connection with you. But that takes work.

Thinking visually takes work. And it also takes collaboration as well, so but that’s okay. Collaborate with people who might be better at something than you are. There are many people who are better designers than I am, so I collaborate with them. I’m very good at telling them the story. They collaborate, we came up with some pretty interesting slides, or images for certain events. But think visually.

And finally, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most people don’t care about your idea or your product. They care about themselves. I don’t think most of you would disagree with that. They care about themselves. Their hopes, their dreams, their goals, their ambitions. If you can sell dreams, and not products, that’s how you’ll win them over. If you can convince people, persuade them, that by joining you on your journey and your vision that they’re going to be taken to another place, that’s how you’re going to win people over.

And today especially there’s a real lack of inspirational leadership. People crave inspiration. They’re hungry for it. They are looking for someone to believe in. Make them believe in you. Make sure you articulate and communicate your message and your idea, in a way that truly inspires me. That lifts my spirits. That takes me to another place. That makes me feel better about my place in the world. Once you do that, you’ll win me over, and you’ll have achieved a significant step toward, reaching your dreams as well.

Okay, thank you very much for inviting me for your your lunch break.

Appreciate it.

Thanks everyone.

I understand we do have a few minutes for questions if anyone has anything specific. Yes sir?

Question-and-answer session

Audience: You talk about — seem to target business to consumer interactions, and I’m curious to know how effective is what you’re saying in business to business interactions when you’re dealing with potentially more self-controlled [inaudible]?

Carmine Gallo: Sure. The question was a lot of what I’m talking about was applied to business to consumer interactions. All of these techniques apply to the most complex idea. In fact, the more complex your idea, the harder it is for people to grasp, the more you need to understand — really this is just the theory of communication. Last year, and I’ll be very careful with what I say. But last year, I actually worked with nuclear scientists at a very large nuclear lab in a desert somewhere. And true story, nothing, nothing that you do in your career will be as complicated as developing nuclear weapons. It is really complicated stuff. But guess what? They loved all this. They loved it. There was a lot of push-back. It was one of the roughest half day workshops that I ever had to give. All of these scientists were just pushing back, and pushing back on everything I was saying. They wouldn’t even let me get one word out, before they started disagreeing with everything. It was, it was tough, it was a really tough workshop. I mean, I was just drenched, by the end. I was exhausted by the end of it.

Two weeks later, scientists are calling me back and sending me emails saying, wow, that worked! We used it for a pitch in front of Congress, we’ve used it internally. It works. It works because, when you’re talking to people who don’t understand your story as well as you do, and most people don’t, you need to go through the process. How do I connect with them? How do I make this story, which could be incredibly complex, how do I make it understandable, memorable, so if that they have to take it up to a stakeholder they can do that? And how do I connect with them emotionally, so by the end of that presentation they like me? They want to work with me. They don’t even know why. They’re not even sure why they’re connecting with you emotionally. They just know that they like you. And these are some of the things that we do.

Yes sir?

Audience: An example of how do you go into a deep dive to pull out the three things to make the message map?

Carmine Gallo: A deep dive from the message map.

Audience: It seems like – but how do you extract those three main things?

Carmine Gallo: You can do that. What I showed you was the outline of the message map. So you’ve got your Twitter friendly headline, and you’ve got your Rule of Three. I can send you this, too. What we’ve done is we actually create a message map where it’s still on one page, but underneath each one of these boxes, you have rhetorical devices that make your message even stronger. A story, an example, a statistic. So, we’re still breaking things up into three. This is — this can be the foundation of a 30 minute pitch, a 30 minute presentation. It can be the foundation for 30 second elevator pitch. That’s the beauty of it.

So the deep dive you actually have underneath each category. So under fresh and organic, I could have a whole list of examples or statistics that I can offer if the person wants to know more about this. But if that’s all they want to know, then I can stay up here, at that level. So yeah, there is — you absolutely do need to flesh this out. And I guess I should have been specific. When we do a four hour workshop on message maps, it’s not just this. It’s filling out the rest of the story as well.