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.

Review: Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED – The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds

Talk like TED

This review first ran in the Sept. 29 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds

By Carmine Gallo

St. Martin’s Press


When giving a presentation or a speech, what you leave out is as important as what you keep in.

Resist the urge to talk for an hour and walk us through 1,600 words on 40 PowerPoint slides.  We can only absorb so much. Tell us everything and we’ll remember nothing.

Author and communications coach Carmine Gallo tells CEOs and business professionals to stick to the Goldilocks zone when they stand and deliver. Don’t talk for too long or too short.  A talk of 18 minutes is just right to inform, inspire and persuade your audience.

That’s the magic number for TED Talks, the technology, entertainment and design presentations made by the world’s leading innovators and thinkers and watched more than a billion times online.

“Long, convoluted, and meandering presentations are dull; a sure-fire way to lose your audience,” warns Gallo. “The 18-minute rule isn’t simply a good exercise to learn discipline. It’s critical to avoid overloading your audience. Constrained presentations require more creativity.”

Consider that President Kennedy’s inaugural speech clocked in at 1,355 words and 15 minutes while his “go to the moon” speech was just shy of 18 minutes.

In studying more than 500 TED Talks and talking with all-star presenters, neuroscientists, psychologists and communications experts, Gallo has identified eight other public-speaking secrets:

Unleash the master within.  “Dig deep to identify your unique and meaningful connection to your presentation style. Passion leads to mastery and your presentation is nothing without it.”

Master the art of storytelling. Don’t bury us in facts, stats and charts that no one can read. “Tell stories to reach people’s hearts and minds. You simply cannot persuade through logic alone.”

Have a conversation. Practice your content until you can deliver it as though you’re having a conversation with a friend. “If your voice, gestures and body language are incongruent with your words, your listeners will distrust your message. It’s the equivalent of having a Ferrari (a magnificent story) without knowing how to drive (delivery).”

Teach us something new. Our brains crave novelty. “An unfamiliar, unusual or unexpected element in a presentation intrigues the audience, jolts them out of their preconceived notions and quickly gives them a new way of looking at the world.”

Deliver jaw-dropping moments. Do or say something unexpected and emotionally charged that’ll leave us talking about your talk.

Lighten up. Just like we crave novelty, our brains love humour. Give us something to smile about. But please skip the badly delivered, unfunny and off-colour jokes. You’re not a stand-up comedian.

Paint a mental picture with multisensory experiences. “Deliver presentations with components that touch more than one of the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.” And if you’re using PowerPoint, put one word or an image on a handful of slides.

Stay in your lane. Never try to be something or someone you’re not. Most of us can spot a phoney and you’ll lose our trust.  Leave your own mark and you’ll make a lasting impression.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to 20 people in a boardroom or 1,000 people in an auditorium. Know that most of us have watched at least one TED Talk and we’re measuring you against speakers whose presentations have been watched millions of times.

So skip these secrets at your peril. “The next time you deliver a presentation, you’ll be compared to TED speakers,” says Gallo. “Your audience will be aware that there’s a fresh, bold style of delivering information; a style that lifts their spirits, fills their souls, and inspires them to think differently about their world and their roles in it.”