June 12, 2018
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 deborah@DougStevenson.com
To learn more about Doug’s keynotes, corporate training, webinars, video eLearning and executive coaching, email: deborah@DougStevenson.com or visit our website at: www.storytelling-in-business.com.
To study this method with Doug, consider booking private coaching with Doug. For more information, contact Deborah@DougStevenson.com 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 16, 2017
What is Story Theater?
Story Theater is the science of the art of storytelling and humor for business presentations.
In This Issue:
- “Storytelling and Brain Science: This is Your Brain on Story“ by Doug Stevenson
- Client List: Book Doug for The Power to Persuade – The Magic of Story or for Aikido Selling -Sell it With a Story keynotes or training.
- Watch Doug’s GoogleTalk Video
1. “Storytelling and Brain Science: This is Your Brain on Story” by Doug Stevenson
Why do you think Malcolm Gladwell is so successful? All three of his books, The Tipping Point, Blink and most recently Outliers – The Story of Success, are best sellers. The answer lies in the subtitle of his most recent book, The Story of Success.
Malcolm is a synthesizer, a pattern recognizer. After he’s done his research and compiled lots of examples to illustrate the points he wants to make, he writes his books by telling stories. He’s a good storyteller.
Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, states, “Story represents a pathway to understanding that doesn’t run through the left side of the brain.” It is his belief that people who can recognize patterns and make meaning from seemingly non-related events and information will succeed while the purely logical left brain thinker will struggle. In his view, the future belongs to the big picture thinkers – the storytellers.
From my experience of speaking in front of hundreds of audiences, I have learned that stories are memorable because of the images and emotions contained in the story. The lesson of the story sticks because it’s embedded in an image. The image isn’t a still picture; it’s a motion picture, a movie. While you’re listening to a story, you’re simultaneously watching the story on the movie screen in your mind, in your imagination. Furthermore, a motion picture – a movie – works better than a still picture image.
Let’s test my theory. Take a moment now to think about a movie that you first saw over ten years ago. Have you identified your movie? Now, what do you remember when you think about this movie?
I bet that the first thing that came to your mind was an image or a scene. If I asked you to describe the scene, you could do it in great detail. You remember the actors, their clothes, the location, the situation, and the emotions. You can see these images as easily now as you did when you were watching the movie.
What you remember next is dialogue. But compared to how vividly you remember the images, you probably don’t remember much of the dialogue. Maybe you remember a line that has become famous by repetition, like “make my day” or “life is like a box of chocolates.” Your brain remembers pictures first. It then remembers the emotional context, and finally, it remembers language.
In his new book, Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina explains this phenomenon. “When the brain detects an emotionally charged event, the Amygdala releases dopamine into the system. Because dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing, you could say it creates a ‘Post It’ note that reads, ‘Remember this.’”
That explains why audience members who saw me tell a story in a keynote over ten years ago approach me like I’m a long lost friend and say, “I still remember your airport story.” But it’s what they say next that proves the effectiveness of my Story Theater Method as an essential leadership skill. With a smile on their face, they say, “I’m still looking for the limo.”
“Look for the Limo” is the branded point of the story. I call it a Phrase That Pays – mental Velcro that makes the point of your story stick. Because they remember the story, they remember the point. When they remember the point, it becomes actionable. What’s the point of developing a presentation filled with great content if no one remembers anything, takes action, or changes his or her behavior?
My Story Theater Method is a synthesis of storytelling form and structure, subtle acting and comedy skills, and message branding. The structure makes the story easy to follow; the acting moments draw the audience into the experience and stimulate emotional responses; and the branded message gives them a call to action they can apply in their lives.
Most people who have ever given a speech, run a business meeting or tried to sell a product or service will tell you that stories are more memorable than facts and data. Yet I still run into business professionals who remain skeptical. “Stories are a waste of time,” they tell me. “I have too much content to cover to waste time telling a story.” In my experience, the story is essential if you want them to remember any of the content. It’s more likely that content without imagery and emotion is a waste of time.
Marco Iacoboni is a neuroscientist, someone who studies the workings of the brain. In his book, Mirroring People, he asks, “Why do we give ourselves over to emotion during the carefully crafted, heartrending scenes in certain movies? Because mirror neurons in our brains re-create for us the distress we see on the screen. We have empathy for the fictional characters – we know how they’re feeling – because we literally experience the same feelings ourselves.”
Aha! Eureka! At last I’ve found a scientific explanation to explain what I’ve been teaching my students for the last 15 years – mirror neurons. We don’t just listen to stories; we see images and feel emotions. We actually experience the story as if it’s happening to us.
“One important area of research,” says John Medina, “is the effect of emotion on learning. Emotionally arousing events tend to be better remembered than neutral events. They persist much longer in our memories and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral events.”
By its very nature, story is an emotionally arousing event that engages listeners and holds their attention. With the advent of Blackberry’s and I-phones, competing for your audience members’ mindshare is the first challenge a speaker or leader faces. Good storytelling solves that problem. Then, using storytelling craft, we can attach meaning to the story with a well-chosen point.
In his book, Things That Make Us Smart, Don Norman says, “Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.” Stories capture the big picture.
Now is the time for leaders to become wisdom sharers – synthesizers – storytellers. Simply “getting through the content” is not only ineffective; it wastes everyone’s time. However, simply telling a story will not make you a better leader. It has to be the right story, crafted strategically to make the right point, delivered at the right time, and in a compelling way.
I’ll let author Daniel Pink make my closing argument on the need for leaders to become storytellers. “Stories are easier to remember because stories are how we remember. When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”
The Story of Success! Increase your success by choosing, crafting and delivering your stories with the Story Theater Method. Contact me about my inspiring and entertaining keynotes, interactive trainings and Story Theater Retreats designed to help you become a more successful and inspiring presenter and leader.
Until next time, your storytelling-in-business coach, Doug Stevenson
2. Client List: Book Doug for The Power to Persuade – The Magic of Story or for Sell It with a Story keynotes or training
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 — Aikido Selling — 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
Other clients include Oracle, Bayer, Lockheed Martin, Cisco, Verizon, Time Warner, Abbott Labs, Mortgage Bankers Association, TD Industries, National Education Association, Institute of Real Estate Management, American Medical Association and many more…
Book Doug for a keynote or training for your organization. Contact Deborah Merriman at 719-310-8586, or email her at deborah@DougStevenson.com
“I’ve had emails, calls, hugs and hallway howdys from just about everybody who attended your storytelling program, and to a soul they are all feeling energized and excited. You breathed new life into us and validated our skills and deep experience as storytellers; exactly what we needed to go forth, listen and tell. We thank you – Your friends at Wells Fargo.”
– Patty Perkins, Team Leader, Internal Communications Solutions Team
3. Watch Doug’s GoogleTalk Video
Watch Doug’s GoogleTalk Video on The Power to Persuade – The Magic of Story: How to Monetize Your Stories. http://youtu.be/sKUiE9DBkKc. Please pass the video link on to your friends and colleagues, and post it on your social network pages.
“Doug is truly a master in teaching the art and science of public speaking and storytelling. I took Doug’s Story Theater Retreat in February 2009, and saw tremendous results immediately. Over 15 months later, I found myself teaching Doug’s method to the CEO of Qwiki, a San Francisco-based technology startup, the night before a major startup contest. Doug’s system transformed the CEO’s speech dramatically and we WON the contest. Winning increased Qwiki’s profile (NY Times, etc.) significantly and, as a result, we accelerated our fundraising process and raised $8 million in Series A financing. Doug’s Story Theater Method had a direct, measureable, and substantial impact on our company.”
– Navin Thukkaram, Managing Director, NT Capital Partners, COO, Qwiki Inc.
If you are receiving this issue as a forward, and would like to get more great articles from Doug, subscribe online at: https://www.storytelling-in-business.com/newsletter/.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org; Or contact Deborah Merriman, the VP of Everything, at email@example.com; 719-310-8586.