December 6, 2018

Talk Like TED – 10 Things You Need to Know to Give a TED Talk

One day in 2009, I was sitting in my office, checking email, and there was one from from my friend Sarah Michel. She asked me if I’d seen a TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor called My Stroke of Insight. In her email, she asked if I’d coached Jill on her talk, because Jill seemed to be using my Story Theater techniques. I had not coached, or even heard of, Jill, but that intrigued me to watch her TED talk.

When I watched Jill’s talk, I was blown away. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist – a neuroanatomist – not a professional speaker. Her TED talk was about experiencing a massive stroke at 37, and how she observed the effects of the stroke, from a brain scientists’ perspective, while she was having the stroke.

Jill’s TED talk was absolutely fascinating, and it quickly went viral. Wikipedia says it was the first TED talk that ever went viral.  It became the second most viewed TED talk at that time, and still ranks today as number 7 “of all time”. Due to the success of her TED talk, Jill’s book sales skyrocketed, she hit the road speaking for huge fees, and was even a guest on Oprah’s show.

What happened to Jill Bolte Taylor is the stuff dreams are made of. Her TED talk changed her life. It’s the kind of thing professional speakers fantasize about: a NY Times bestselling book; higher speaking fees; going on Oprah. Who doesn’t want all that, right?

Over the next few years, the idea of giving a TED talk kept coming up in conversations with other speakers. I’d get emails from people urging me to watch their TED talks to increase the number of views. I applied to give a talk at my local TEDx, on my subject of storytelling, but was never chosen.

I decided to go to a TEDx event in Denver to see what it was all about. I knew there was something I wasn’t understanding about TED talks, because I kept seeing that people who weren’t professional speakers kept getting chosen. And some of the subjects that they were talking about seemed obscure and technical.

As the lights went down on this wonderful auditorium on the University of Denver, I was ready to be blown away. After eight speakers had spoken, I was appalled. They were all terrible. It seemed that they had no idea what they were doing and had very remedial speaking skills.

I was confused and angry. TED talks had become a big deal. Many TED speakers had become celebrities and yet, the speakers I had watched in Denver were terrible. I didn’t get it. Why would these ordinary people be chosen?  And, I had to ask: Why wasn’t I chosen?

In 2014, I moved to Tucson and got connected with TEDx Tucson. I volunteered to be their speaker coach. I also wanted to learn, from the inside of a TEDx community, what was going on. And, most importantly, I wanted to help the speakers give the best speech of their lives.

What I discovered was very surprising and eye-opening. TED has bylaws and guiding principles that govern how TEDx speakers are chosen and how events are to be produced. One of the most surprising guidelines is that TED is specifically NOT a showcase for professional speakers or coaches. TED does not want their speakers to be promoting their businesses as speakers, life coaches, business coaches, etc. 

TED and TEDx is all about your Idea Worth Spreading. That’s the main criteria. Now I understood why the speakers in Denver were so bad. They had a worthy Idea Worth Spreading, but they just didn’t know how to tell it in a compelling way.

Having used what I’d learned about what it takes to be chosen for a TED talk, and how local TEDx groups work, I submitted a topic and was chosen to speak at the TEDx San Antonio event this past November 3rd. I was given a ten-minute time slot, as were the other 9 speakers. Five hundred people showed up to be part of this community event. It was awesome. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

I’m pleased to tell you that all the speakers at TEDx San Antonio were excellent.  Each of us were assigned a coach and received extensive coaching before the event.  I believe it is the coaching that made all the difference.

Are you interested in giving a TED talk? Do you have an Idea Worth Spreading?

Jill Bolte Taylor not only got rich from her TED talk, but she also positively affected the lives of millions of people. I think she gets paid in the vicinity of $40,000 per speech. If you gave a successful TED talk, what would that be worth? If your TED video got a couple hundred thousand views, what would that do for you and your business? How could you leverage that?

Because there is so much confusion about TED and TEDx and how it all works, I’ve decided to host a webinar in February 2019, titled: 10 Things You Need to Know to Give a TED Talk. This webinar will happen at two times, to accommodate people all over the world.  It will not be recorded for later viewing.

Here’s what you’ll learn in the 10 Things You Need to Know to Give a TED Talk Live Webinar:

  • The difference between TED and TEDx
  • What it takes to be chosen for a TED or TEDx event
  • How to audition locally, or virtually
  • Five common mistakes that will keep you from being chosen

If you are reading this article later than February 2019, contact our office for information about TED coaching and future webinars on this topic. 


Doug Stevenson, CSP, has been giving keynotes and providing training courses on strategic storytelling for over 20 years. His clients include Microsoft, Google, Oracle, SAP, Caterpillar, Pfizer, Genentech, Mead Johnson, Sanofi-Aventis, Wells Fargo, US Bank, State Farm, USAA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Verizon, Coca Cola, Nurses At Home, NBC, Red Bull, Lockheed Martin, and many more. Whether Doug is presenting an entertaining and informative keynote or conducting a one-day storytelling seminar, his presentations are high-energy, highly-interactive, and fun-filled experiences.


June 12, 2018

The Peanut Butter Principle

She was my first dog. A rescue. I got her when she was just six weeks old – a cute little black Labrador Retriever puppy.  I named her Jaya and we went everywhere together.

The year was 1981. I was trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood and it wasn’t going well. The only constant in my life was the unconditional love and companionship of my best buddy, Jaya.

One day, when she was about two years old, she didn’t want to eat her dinner. I knew something was wrong because she’d been lethargic all day. So, I took her to the vet to see what was wrong.

The vet examined her and told me that she had a little “doggy cold,” and handed me a bottle of pills. “Give her one of these pills at breakfast and one at dinner.” She gave me a short tutorial on giving a dog a pill and sent me on my way.

That night at dinner I called Jaya over and proceeded to give her the pill. I opened her mouth and shoved the pill way down in the back of her throat, like I had been instructed to do. Then I held her mouth closed and waited for her to swallow the pill.

She just sat there staring at me with those big brown eyes. I waited for some indication that she’d swallowed the pill, but I couldn’t tell. After about a minute, I assumed that she’d swallowed it and I let go of her mouth. To my surprise, she spit the pill out like it was some foul-tasting kale!

She started wagging her tail, apparently relieved that I’d let go of her mouth.  I, on the other hand, had dog saliva and a gooey pill in my hands. I made two more failed attempts to give her the pill, using the same process, and then decided I needed a new approach.

I called my friend John who had a dog. “John, Jaya is sick and I can’t get her to swallow her pill. I’ve tried sticking it in the back of her throat, but she keeps spitting it out. What should I do?”

“Get some peanut butter and hide the pill in the peanut butter.” He told me that Jaya would be so interested in the peanut butter, that she’d swallow the pill along with it. So that’s what I did. I spooned out some peanut butter into my hand, stuck the pill in the middle of the peanut butter, and called Jaya.

I knelt and held my hand out to her. And sure enough, she ate the peanut butter and the pill. Problem solved. Lesson learned. Hide the pill in the peanut butter.

Fast forward twenty years. I’d left Hollywood and was living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’d made the transition from acting, to professional speaking and teaching storytelling to business professionals. I’d written a book on the subject and had become a go-to expert on how to use a story to make a point, engage an audience and sell a product or service. My clients ran the gamut from high-tech, healthcare and pharma to food, finance and telecommunications.

One day, I was on the phone with Marina, a a VP of sales from a large pharmaceutical company.

“Doug, we know we need to become better storytellers because we’re too dependent on the science and data that backs up our drug. We’re shoving our content down people’s throats and it’s just not working. We want to be more patient-centric with the doctors and nurses we talk to, but there is a certain amount of data we need to share, by law. Can you help us?”

Now get this – that very morning I’d given my third dog, a sweet black lab named Beulah, a pill. Of course, I hid the pill in the peanut butter, because I’d learned that that’s what worked.

When I heard this executive say that they were shoving their content down people’s throats, something clicked. I described to the executive how I’d learned to give my dog a pill by hiding it in the peanut butter, and that that’s what they needed to do. The “pill” is good medicine – good information – but it’s often hard to swallow if it’s presented with too much data, facts and science. The peanut butter is the story. It’s what makes the pill easy to swallow – and it sticks!

As we continued the conversation, I explained to Marina that there was a way to strategically embed the most important data inside a story, in a way that accomplished their objective. It wasn’t a question of data OR story, but rather data INSIDE story.

That was the moment The Peanut Butter Principle was born. The principle is simply this: Stories create context for content. They are the peanut butter that makes the pill easier to swallow.

Over the years, I’ve had the same conversation with many of my clients. They want to connect with their customers, stakeholders, and employees.  I helped them move from talking only about facts, data, features and benefits, to telling stories.  People relate to stories about other people who share their problems and concerns. With the right story, crafted strategically to achieve a business objective, everybody wins.

Content-heavy presentations that rely on data, facts, and pie-charts, delivered with an endless barrage of bullet points, fail to connect with most listeners. They tend to put people into a content coma. It’s not that the content isn’t important or valuable, it just hard to process when presented that way. If your presentations are all pill, and no peanut butter, your presentations will fail. But if you tell a strategically chosen and crafted story that gives meaning and context to the data, you’ll connect emotionally with the listeners and open the door to a more in-depth conversation.

Learn to implement The Peanut Butter Principle in your business presentations, and you will be more persuasive, influential, and profitable. 


Doug Stevenson, CSP, has been teaching people how to tell their stories more effectively for over 20 years. His clients include Microsoft, Google, Oracle, SAP, Caterpillar, Genentech, Mead Johnson, Sanofi-Aventis, Wells Fargo, US Bank, State Farm, USAA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Verizon, Coca Cola, Nurses At Home, Lockheed Martin, and many more. Whether Doug is presenting an entertaining and informative keynote or conducting a one-day storytelling seminar, his presentations are high-energy, highly-interactive, and fun-filled experiences.

Follow Doug on Twitter @DougStoryCoach; Facebook: Storytelling Mastery Fanpage; You Tube: Doug Stevenson; LinkedIn Group: Storytelling for Business

Partial list of Doug’s Corporate and Association Bookings:

  • Amgen Biotech – storytelling training for marketing
  • Microsoft – general session keynote on storytelling
  • US Bank – branch manager leadership training
  • Allergan Facial Aesthetics – Sell it with a Story
  • YPO–Manhattan – luncheon keynote for young executives
  • Caterpillar – opening keynote – global human resources conference
  • Con Agra Foods – storytelling for managers and directors
  • USAA Insurance – storytelling for leaders
  • Deloitte – Storytelling for Impactful Results workshops
  • Coca-Cola Latin America – storytelling for managers and leaders
  • Genentech Pharmaceuticals – future leader workshop
  • HCA-NY, Home Health Care Association – annual conference keynote
  • Wells Fargo Bank – storytelling training for media managers

Hire Doug for a keynote or training for your organization. Contact Deborah Merriman at       719-310-8586, or email her at

To learn more about Doug’s keynotes, corporate training, webinars, video eLearning and executive coaching, email: or visit our website at:

To study this method with Doug, consider booking private coaching with Doug. For more information, contact or call 719-310-8586.

All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.

May 25, 2018

Develop Your Story with the Nine Steps of Story Structure

Develop Your Story with the Nine Steps of Story Structure
by Doug Stevenson

Great storytellers don’t just hope to get lucky. They spend significant time choosing the right story and crafting it for maximum impact. Many speakers and presenters spend far more time building boring PowerPoint slide decks than they do crafting their stories. But crafting your story with good structure is imperative. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to storytelling structure. Classical story structure has been around for thousands of years, and it still works!

Here is my Story Theater Method version of classical story structure. I call this The Nine Steps of Story Structure. Use these steps as the architectural framework for your story, and your story will have a logical sequence, as well as solid dramatic tension. It will also contain a clear, concise, and actionable lesson.

  1. Set the Scene – when and where?
  2. Introduce the Characters – who else was there?
  3. Begin the Journey – what was the task or goal?
  4. Encounter the Obstacle – what goes wrong or impedes progress?
  5. Overcome the Obstacle – how was the problem dealt with?
  6. Resolve the Story – how did things work out in the end?
  7. Make the Point – what is the one thing, above all else, that you learned?
  8. Ask the Question – transfer the lesson to the listener: “how about you?”
  9. Restate the Point – restate the lesson of the story as a call to action.

Use Your Personal Stories

The best stories are about something that happened to you. You are the main character. However, even when the story is about something that happened to someone else, you still were the observer, or it affected you in some way. The story is still about what YOU learned from the situation. No one else has had your exact life experiences, therefore no one else has your stories. Your stories make you unique and relatable and they build trust and credibility.

Using Step 5 to Teach the Lesson

Step 5 is the “how-to” step in the Nine Steps of Story Structure. It is the most critical step because it teaches the lesson on a subliminal level. How you overcame the obstacle or challenge, or what you learned by succumbing to the challenge, teaches the lesson of the story: the new way to think or behave that you want to share with your audience.

Here are two ways Step 5 of the story can teach the lesson:

  • A: You overcame the obstacle correctly, thereby teaching the correct behavior.
  • B: You overcame the obstacle incorrectly – made mistakes. You can show people through your thoughts and behavior what you don’t want them to do. Then, use the story as a spring board to discuss the correct or desired behavior.

Each Story Makes One Point Each Time You Tell It

Just about every story you have has the potential to make several points or teach a variety of lessons. Pick one point, and only one, each time you tell it. Keep it simple. If you add more than one point at the end of your story, all the points are watered down, and the lesson of the story is less powerful.

They’ll Remember Your Phrase That Pays

Make the point of your story a call to action. I call it a “Phrase That Pays.” Keep it short and start with a verb. Here are some examples of verb-oriented, call-to-action phrases:

  • Lean Into the Mountain
  • Take One Step at a Time
  • Run Your Own Race
  • Inspect What You Inspect
  • Ask For What You Want
  • Stand in Your Power
  • Pick Up the Phone
  • Look for the Limo

Crafting your story using The Nine Steps of Story Structure will give you the foundational architecture of a great story. Your audience will be better able to follow the sequence of your story, and they’ll remember your profound message! With the Nine Steps as your “bones”, you can now flesh out your story with details, acting and comedic techniques to make it amazing.

For a more detailed explanation of the Nine Steps of Story Structure, get my book: Doug Stevenson’s Story Theater Method on Amazon, Kindle or Nook, or get the Story Theater Audio Six Pack CDs or mp3 download on

Contact me for keynotes, training, and private coaching. I’d love to help you find, craft and deliver your amazing stories to make your message memorable and effective.

by Doug Stevenson

“Doug Stevenson gave an informative and entertaining keynote on storytelling for sales at our Global Sales Kick-Off. We know storytelling will help us close more sales and Doug’s methodology is just what we needed. Doug was a big hit.” – Patrick Stuver, Co-Founder, Everbridge

“We brought Doug Stevenson in to teach his Story Theater Method to both our senior trainers and our senior management. He was a huge success. I’ve also hired him three more times to work with other groups. His workshop is both inspirational and very practical. I highly recommend him.” – Elizabeth Wiseman, VP, Oracle University

“Doug, it’s safe to say you knocked it out of the park. Here’s some feedback from your storytelling workshop: “This was the best training I’ve ever had at USAA.” “Doug makes the material so compelling.” I hope we can work together again soon.” – Darrin Wylie, Director, USAA Insurance


Mark Your Calendar for Oct. 12 in New Orleans
Join Doug in New Orleans at ATD Core4

  • October 12, 2018: New Orleans, LA: Doug will present a general session keynote at the ATD Core4 Conference: The Power to Persuade – The Magic of Story, on Friday, October 12, 2018, 8:30 – 9:30 am. More details available at:

“Doug, I did a presentation last week to a corporation, and though I have always used stories, with your Story Theater Method, I felt like I could re-live them. I felt empowered that I was presenting in a style that really engaged the people in front of me! The audience was right there with me. Thank you.” – Kathryn Hay, Gold Coast, Australia



Connect with Doug!
Join the conversation with Doug:

  • Storytelling for Business Group on LinkedIn
  • Storytelling Mastery Fan Page on FaceBook
  • Doug’s YouTube channel click here
  • @DougStoryCoach on Twitter

Doug’s Next Level Storytelling Video eLearning Series:

Learn to choose, craft and deliver your stories for greater emotional connection, impact and memorability. This series is like studying with Doug in the comfort of your own home or office. You’ll learn skills you can implement the very next time you speak!

  • Over 40 short video tutorials
  • Five story examples
  • PDF summaries for each video
  • Suggested exercises for each lesson
  • Self-paced; online; at your convenience
  • Unlimited access

“Doug’s e-learning course works on my schedule and my pace. Plus the beauty of online classes is you can download the videos and exercises and revisit them when you need to. Doug gets business, he’s worked with professionals from the corporate world and emerging entrepreneurs. Whether you are in sales, human resources, business development or in the executive leadership, Doug’s methods produce results.” – Karen Post, Entrepreneur,