Review: Carmine Gallo’s The Storyteller’s Secret – Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don’t

TEDThis review first ran in the April 11th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Storyteller’s Secret: Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don’t

By Carmine Gallo

St. Martin’s Press


The good news is you’ve decided not to inflict death by PowerPoint.

The bad news is you’re giving your own version of a TED Talk. And you’re just going to wing it.

You’ve watched the videos so you know the drill.

Skip the lectern and stand instead in the middle of the stage.

Don’t read from a script or use speaking notes.

Tell a personal story.

Be self-deprecating.

Throw a few photos and words up on the screen.

Blow people’s minds with a counter-intuitive big idea.

Wrap things up in under 18 minutes.

Be gracious when the audience gives you a standing ovation.

Sounds simple enough, right?


Someone needs to do a TED Talk about how hard it is to do a TED Talk. Show us the weeks and months of preparation, the search for the perfect story, the rounds of rewrites and the rehearsals with coaches who perfect every word, pause, inflection, expression and hand gesture. TED Talks look spontaneous and unscripted but don’t be fooled into thinking you can do the same without logging serious hours of prep time.

It’s not enough to just get up and tell us a story.

Yes, we’re hardwired for storytelling. We’ve been telling stories since the dawn of time.

But there’s an important caveat. We don’t like boring stories badly told.

The Neanderthals who grunted out lousy stories around the campfire were likely banished to the back of the cave or clubbed to death with a bison bone.

Your audience will think the same thing if you’ve overestimated your storytelling abilities. Despite your best intentions, you may leave us longing for your supersized PowerPoint decks.

The harsh truth is that not all of us know how to spot and then tell a story.

To help us do better, Carmine Gallo introduce us to more than 50 leaders who know how to stand and deliver. Gallo profiles master storytellers who’ve given some of the most viewed and highly rated TED Talks.

“A good story can help explain an idea,” says Gallo, communications coach and author of The Storyteller’s Secret. “A great story educates, entertains, inspires and ultimately fires up our collective imagination. Tell great ones.”

Great stories are the coin of the realm, whether you’re an entrepreneur pitching to investors or a leader drumming up employee support for a new project. “The ability to sell our ideas in the form of story is more important than ever. Your ability to package your ideas with emotion, context and relevancy is the one skill that will make you more valuable in the next decade.”

Sir Richard Branson is one of the storytellers profiled Gallo.  A select group of entrepreneurs are invited to Branson’s home in the British Virgin Islands for the Extreme Tech Challenge. They each have10 minutes to pitch their idea or product.

“They must grab Branson’s attention, convince him that the idea has the potential to positively impact the world, and inspire him to make a substantial financial commitment to the company,” says Gallo, who’s coached some of the entrepreneurs who’ve pitched Branson.

Many initially plan to talk exclusively about financials, numbers and data. “They are only partly right. These entrepreneurs are neglecting the core findings of neuroscience: emotion trumps logic. You cannot reach a person’s head without first touching their heart.”

Branson is a big believer in the art of storytelling to drive change. “Telling a story is one of the best ways we have of coming up with new ideas, and also of learning about each other and the world,” says Branson.

Along with the storyteller profiles, Gallo opens the toolbox used by leaders to educate, simplify, motivate and launch movements.

Raid the toolbox before you ditch the PowerPoint decks and invite investors and employees to gather around the campfire. Learn how to tell a great story and they won’t be overcome with the urge to beat you with a bison bone.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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