91: The Art of Strategic Storytelling for Leaders with Ryan Williams

ep91 The Art of Strategic Storytelling for Leaders with Ryan Williams on TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

Storytelling isn’t just for marketers or creative types. It’s a dynamic tool that can be leveraged by leaders and professionals across the career spectrum. In this episode of The TalentGrow Show, author and international speaker Ryan Williams joins me to talk about why leaders should learn to become storytellers and how you can start crafting and cultivating your stories today. Discover why strategic storytelling can make you a more effective leader and communicator, the three “anchor stories” you should have under your belt, and the best tips and techniques for improving your ability to captivate and influence others in conversation. Ryan also shares a gamut of interesting personal stories throughout the podcast so you can learn by example as well! Listen and don’t forget to share with current and aspiring leaders in your network.

ABOUT RYAN WILLIAMS:

Ryan Williams is a marketing strategist, author of The Influencer Economy: How to Launch Your Idea, Share It with the World, and Thrive in the Digital Age, and an international speaker. Ryan has presented and lectured at at SXSW, VidCon, TiECon Canada, and Google HQ. His relatable presentation style is complete with actions and lessons for the audience to learn from. His authentic storytelling framework helps brands, leaders, and companies anchor their brand stories, grow their influence, and thrive in the digital age.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • Why leaders should care about storytelling (6:03)
  • The story of how Ryan discovered the value of storytelling for the pivotal moments in your career (6:53)
  • How do you tell people that you got laid off? (8:43)
  • Why empathy is so important (9:45)
  • How a screenwriter successfully pitched his work to producers (10:25)
  • Ryan shares a great insight from the book Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers (11:26)
  • Halelly talks about the value of being strategic and thoughtful about your stories (11:50)
  • Ryan talks about the three “anchor stories” that everyone should have (12:48)
  • Halelly and Ryan summarize the purpose of the “tear-jerker story” (14:24)
  • What Ryan learned about storytelling and the outsider-perspective as an early employee at then-startup Machinima (15:47)
  • A quick formula and some tips for crafting your first anchor story (17:48)
  • Why it’s important not to undervalue our stories (19:50)
  • “The best stories are the ones that people can share on your behalf.” (20:49)
  • Crafting headlines for your stories (21:12)
  • Ryan’s recommendations for overcoming your barriers to writing or recording your stories (22:42)
  • Why Ryan absolutely hates elevator pitches (23:18)
  • The importance of having a twenty-minute conversational pitch (23:49)
  • Ryan explains what he means by a collaborative story (24:24)
  • “When you go to a job interview, you should ask all the questions.” (25:06)
  • A brief synopsis of the second two anchor stories: the authority story, and the fixer story (26:02)
  • “Show, don’t tell.” (28:07)
  • One big storytelling-mistake that Ryan sees people make all the time (29:12)
  • “The best storytellers are the ones that undersell and overdeliver.” (30:05)
  • What’s new and exciting on Ryan’s horizon (31:02)
  • One specific action that listeners can take to ratchet up their effectiveness from the perspective of storytelling (31:41)

RESOURCES:

Transcript:

Episode 91 Ryan Williams

TEASER CLIP:

Ryan: I look at storytelling like you’re a musician. If I go see the Rolling Stones, I want to hear Satisfaction. If I go see Jay-Z, I want to hear Hard Knock Life. If I go see the Beach Boys, I want to hear their greatest hits. I don’t want to hear their new acoustic album, and that’s how these things get passed along, because the best stories are ones that people can share on your behalf.

[MUSIC] Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey, hey, welcome back TalentGrowers to another episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, and I’m looking forward to introducing you to my friend Ryan Williams today. We’re going to talk about storytelling, or leaders, and why you as a leader and really as a professional, should think about having some key stories under your belt, in your toolkit, to pull out for a variety of situations. And Ryan gives lots of very interesting examples that come from his very interesting background, so I can’t wait to introduce you to him and his story. Without further ado, here we go.

And we’re back, with Ryan Williams. He is a marketing strategist, international speaker and early team member at DigiSend, which was acquired by Disney and Machinima.com, which was acquired by Warner Brothers. He has given talks and taught at South by Southwest, Vanderbilt University, City University of London, UCS and Loyola Marymount. His podcast and his writings have been featured at Ink Magazine, Huffington Post, Success magazine, Business Insider with lots more. And for the last three years, Ryan has interviewed over 100 influencers who have built ideas online, like Seth Godin, Derek Sivers, and lots of others and he teaches others how to find their big ideas, embrace their personality edge and deliver an authentic message to collaborate their way to a winning product launch, and also he teaches storytelling. This is the subject for today’s episode. Actually, I met Ryan when he was interviewing my former guest, Dorie Clark. He interviewed her live here in L.A. When I heard this was going on, I dropped everything and showed up. I got to meet Ryan, plus see Dorie. She was on episode 63 of the podcast, if you want to go and be reminded of that great episode, and after that, Ryan and I have become friends, have collaborated, conversations, talking shop, and I was lucky enough to see him give a storytelling workshop, which gave me the idea of bringing him here on the show to talk to you about that. Ryan, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.

Ryan: Thank you. So pumped to be on TalentGrow and I’m really happy that you talked about all of our collaborations. I actually used your episode with Dorie Clark as research before I interviewed her for my live podcast, so definitely people listening need to check out that episode.

Halelly: Cool, thank you! Before we get into the nitty-gritty of storytelling and all that you’re going to share with listeners and also we’re going to talk about why they should care about it, I always ask my guests to describe their professional journey in a very brief way. How did you get started and how did you end up where you are today?

Ryan: My life is a series of disparate, isolated, separated skills and talents that I’ve acquired throughout the years that suddenly make sense to where I am. I’m a former stand-up comedian and I was clinically depressed when I was a stand-up and I struggled to get out of my bed. Linens on the floor, beer cans on my desk with comedy notecards and really struggled to breathe. Then through my comedy I put myself out there in a way that I was allowed to fail, which I did, like most comedians, and I pivoted my career into marketing and realized I was much better at putting on comedy shows than being the star on stage. You bring it full circle, I’m a writer and marketer. I help people tell their stories professionally, and it’s interesting, because without that comedy experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today. In between comedy and now, I’ve worked at companies which have been acquired by large corporations and I feel like a lot of people who give talks and webinars and even podcast hosts, as you know, are often into the sales pitch for what’s in it for themselves. Because everyone wants to hustle and work so hard and I’ve worked so many different types of jobs and I’ve had very different career paths as to many people, so I love what I do now and my journey really has come full circle. I help others tell their stories and really make sense of their stories and backgrounds to help build their authority, to be a badass in their life or career.

Halelly: Cool. I definitely don’t think we’ve had a stand-up comedian on the show before. At least not that they’ve told me. Oh, the other thing that we share in common are that we are both transplants from the D.C. area to L.A., so that’s another thing we have in common.

Ryan: Totally. I did stand-up at the D.C. improve, as you know.

Halelly: I didn’t know you then. I wish I would have, to see you and cheer you up! All right.

Ryan: You couldn’t have helped.

Halelly: I think you’re right – everything that happens in your story serves a purpose, and gives you experiences and insights and learning opportunities that build you into the next phase of your life. You’re pulling a lot of value out of those probably painful experiences you would have preferred to have avoided.

Ryan: 100 percent.

Halelly: Okay, so our listeners are sitting at their job or maybe they’re commuting to work, or maybe they’re running on the treadmill or whatever they’re doing, they’re thinking – storytelling and marketing? That’s really good for the people over in the marketing department. Maybe they are ones. But what do I need that for? I’m just trying to do my job, trying to lead people. But I know that storytelling is a big buzzword, even in the business community, and I know that there’s so much value from using stories. Like you just exemplified storytelling in the way that you gave your intro. You didn’t list a list of bullets on your resume or just sort of dry facts, but you weaved it into an interesting, though short, story. So thank you for that example. What are some other ways that you think that leaders can weave stories into their work that can help them become even more effective?

Ryan: I’m a firm believer in the true power of story is collaborating with others. When you are in a job, you’re a professional, like I’ll give an example again. I was at Disney and I had read Seth Godin’s book The Dip, and it talks about how when you’re involved in a pursuit that you need to either quit it if you’re not going to be the best in the world, or you need to stick with it. He calls these inflection points the dip, to figure out if you quit or stick. I ended up reading the book. I hadn’t gotten a raise in over a year and a half a Disney. They have a lot of money. I went in and I did something where I called for my own performance review, and was feeling very confident at the time. Did not get the raise I was looking for a title change or even any recognition to the millions of dollars I was spending on online advertising and marketing the movie, Pixar’s Up, if you’ve seen that movie.

Halelly: I love that movie!

Ryan: I did the You Tube marketing on it with a lot of great content with these influential You Tubers and it was remarkable, because two months afterwards, in February, after I called that review, I was laid off. Crying in my car, with a stack of my work belongings in the backseat in a box, driving to meet a friend for a margarita who had equally been laid off. The struggle really was, what do I do next? I’m ashamed to call my wife, and what do we do? So we went to Palm Springs – live in California – and that weekend I ended up getting another job interview and I got a new job two weeks later because of my network. I reached out to people that I knew who could help. Then I got a raise, I got better stock. That was Machinima, YouTube network that you mentioned at the beginning, and we got acquired by Warner Brothers after that. All these great things happened, because I got laid off. When you think about your story, how do you tell people that you got laid off? Making it meaningful. Because so often, when you go to job interviews, or a question they ask is, “What’s a weakness that’s a strength?” Or whatever. They ask you these dumb questions like, “What is your biggest weakness?” So many of us edit our stories too early, and we don’t think about how we can display our confidence through some failures or bumps in the road or things that all of us can empathize with. I think a lot of us have lost that ability to understand that we don’t want to hear just how much of an amazing human being, humanitarian, rich billionaire you are. Really, the journey, like that first question you asked about what’s the professional journey, that matters. It’s also disingenuous to just talk about your bullet points. All of our bios are awesome, and we write them to be awesome. But really it’s those stories which can help people. You want to bring them in emotionally as well, in addition to hopefully taking away something that they’re impressed with when you talk.

Halelly: Because it helps them connect to you an on emotional level, which of course creates a stronger bond, and it also sometimes, I guess, helps them relate to you or feel like you would understand their struggles, too, if you share yours.

Ryan: Absolutely. The empathy word is also being bantered around as a buzzword, and empathy is so important. You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and understand what is the problem that you’re solving with your story. I interviewed someone for my next book – which by the way you’ll be in the acknowledgments of my new book – you came to my talk and we collaborated and you gave me some great feedback.

Halelly: Oh, thank you!

Ryan: After my storytelling workshop. When I interviewed this guy Billy Ray, who is a screenwriter. He wrote a bunch of movies like Shattered Glass, Hunger Games which he was nominated for an Oscar for, and he wrote a movie called Breach where I was a production assistant on when I met him. I also worked in film in between all these stories that I’ve been telling. Billy told me when he pitches in Hollywood, I asked him, “How do you reach the producers?” He said you have to pitch them thinking what’s in it for them? Get in their shoes and figure out the problems you can solve. And he says that he talks about how if he directs a movie, he’s going to bring it in under budget, he’s going to work with the actors really well, the talent, as best as possible, and he’s also going to help to tell an amazing story, because that’s why you’re hiring him. Ultimately when you have what I translate as empathy – understanding what the other person wants – then truly powerful stories can be told and not to your point about listening bullet points. It’s metaphors, it’s visualization. There’s a really good book called Made to Stick, by the Heath brothers. They talk about you need to get down to the core of your story, and I believe that you need to be very decisive with your word choice. Ultimately you get to the core and you have a mission behind what you’re trying to share with others that really helps you not to just have great stories, but to have even better conversations.

Halelly: Yeah. And so I like that you bring that up, your word choice, and I think that what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to teach people to be strategic and thoughtful about their stories. I think that some people think themselves as great storytellers, but they tend to either have no purpose or point to their story. That’s okay for when you’re sitting around drinking beers and have nothing to do. But if you’re trying to achieve some kind of an outcome, then you should start with a goal in mind, and then you need to choose carefully what you include because you can’t take forever. You’re going to lose people. I think you help people with that, and I know that you like to help people come up with three anchor stories, you call them, that can help them in a lot of different situations. I think that earlier you were describing what you call the tearjerker story, right? Like where it’s not just everything is hunky dory, but there’s some kind of a story where you did struggle or there was a failure or a hardship, and how you emerged from that can help connect with people, but also made you look real. Am I getting that one right?

Ryan: Yeah, 100 percent. I call these three stories, whether you call them anchor stories, I’ve heard them called authentic stories, and can I say the word badass?

Halelly: I don’t know. I usually tag my podcasts as clean, because I want to try and think about people driving with their kids in the car, but people say that now all the time. So we shall find out, huh?

Ryan: We’ll find out. I won’t use it again. Apologies to grandpa with the grandchildren taking a road trip to I don’t know where – Disney? But yeah, three stories are, first of all, people remember things in three. It’s scientifically proven that journalists always talk in three – they came, they saw, they conquered. Friends, Romans, countrymen. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last. All these different things are memorable because they’re in three, and I found that when you want to think about yourself, there’s three stories everyone needs in their back pocket at all times. There’s what I call your underdog/tearjerker story, which is really your outsider story that you can bring someone in emotionally by saying that you’re an outsider, and this is how you became an insider, and you’re successful. I often talk about that, and I mentioned my stand-up comedy and depression. If I came in on your podcast and said I was this depressed, pathetic, stand-up comedian in Washington, D.C., and ended it there, you would have waited for the end of the story. Because that’s not a story, that’s just a moment in my life. It allows people to get more cozy with the other person they’re speaking to if they can reach that emotional connection.

Halelly: Let me interrupt – the tearjerker story, or the purpose of where people would use it, would be just initially when they’re connecting with someone, trying to create that early bond?

Ryan: You have to pick and choose. If you notice a lot of Ted talks, they speak about the tearjerker, and they said, “I am an introvert, and this is what it was like growing up as an introvert.” Then they tell you about why the power of introversion matters because they’re now a Harvard professor, or the joke I always say is the ultimate Ted talk is I’m five-foot-two. This is what it’s like being five-foot-two, but I’m going to tell you about the power of being five-foot-two.

Halelly: I am five-foot-two.

Ryan: Are you really? Good, so you know that.

Halelly: I gave that Ted talk. No.

Ryan: I saw that one a million times! The tearjerker, it’s an underdog/outsider story. A lot of people could call it an origin story, and so people can get really in depth or it can be something where in the business world, you were a new employee or at a hungry company and you generated a bunch of new opportunities. That’s a simple underdog story. Like if you started a company, for example Machinima - I was one of the first marketing people there, and we were gaining network, getting four billion video views a month, which is massive, and we played Minecraft, which I think we talked about before. We helped launch the game Minecraft and it was acquired for $2.5 billion by Microsoft. I was a very small part of that company, but I ran our marketing for Minecraft on this live stream that we did, and the game’s creator came in the studio. Very sophisticated way to market a game, and it changed the game, really, when we look back at it. It was one of the inspirations for my book. But when you think about storytelling, startups that get acquired, like you’re always raging against the status quo. When you think about advertising, you always need a rival of some sort, so think about your business, when you’re an outsider – who is your competition? Who is the glamorous person? I always make fun of Kim Kardashian or I often do in my talks, and Ryan Secrest. No offense if you’re friends with these people, because you do live in L.A.

Halelly: I think Kim is my neighbor in some way, but I don’t know her for real.

Ryan: You do live up by her, that’s right! And you shop together.

Halelly: No, no.

Ryan: Celebrities don’t move the needle on social media, and so I’ve done a lot of data and research around that, to show that truly influential people that move the needle don’t have a lot of followers, but they have that influence. And so I always make fun of celebrities when I’m giving my business presentations because sometimes that enemy is a great way to show why they’re the insider. They’re the famous celebrity, but I’m saying, “Don’t worry about them when you build a launch for your company or your brand or your product. Think about these undervalued people.” That’s where the outsider perspective can really help you not just in telling some emotional, “I went through this terrible, tragic moment in my life,” but something that’s more germane to actually what can help you to do well at work.

Halelly: So is there a quick formula? Obviously people need to learn from you and when your book is out they’ll buy it or they’ll go on your website – I think you have other ways they can learn more details about how to do storytelling, right? But for now, is there a quick, memorable way, a formula, for the underdog story, for the tearjerker?

Ryan: Absolutely. I love giving some quick knowledge, some quick wins, some take-home value, if you will?

Halelly: What must it contain? We’ve got the outsider.

Ryan: The first thing you should do is always think about your stories as having a beginning, middle and end. Think about how screen writing has evolved, and how there’s a first act, a second act and a third act. And when you have these structures, like the worst thing you can think of is when someone tells a story at the dinner table and they don’t finish it and you’re waiting for it, and they don’t have an ending. You think to yourself, “That’s a terrible story.” Always close out your story and think about it in the three structures of one act, two act, three act. From that structure, I always recommend people, if you’re building out stories professionally, to use a mind map, which is something where you have a central topic which would be your underdog or your tearjerker and you write that out, and then you would make connected branches where people could make subtopics. For example, my tearjerker, you could easily say, being clinically depressed is one, or struggling as a stand-up comedian, going up 50 times and bombing a lot. That’s a struggle, right? Another one is I got laid off.

From there, you just brainstorm these moments and you let yourself go. You don’t judge. And you think about the good, the bad, the ugly. That’s when you can actually go back and start recounting things. What you realize is, the more you dig into this structure that I'm talking about with mind maps, the more your stories come to you. You start talking to other people professionally, personally, your significant other, and you’ll remember things about your past and you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, I undervalue that.” That exercise really helps us, because as you know, as a podcast host, you get so many people with manufactured stories where they oversell at the beginning and they’re super dramatic and they under deliver, but they know how to tell a story even though they’re full of it. They’re full of BS. I feel like so many of us under-value our stories. So we should always think about things in a mind map where you can actually contextualize the feelings you had while these things were happening. You can even say, “You know what? I don’t want to tell this story. It’s not relevant.” Or you can combine stories, like I did, where I took my depression story – which is very emotional, too much, in a lot of senses – with my comedy, which is a lot more interesting. Then the two of them become a combination.

You can pick and choose, and I feel like a lot of us, like I look at storytelling like you’re a musician. If I go see the Rolling Stones, I want to hear Satisfaction. If I go see Jay-Z, I want to hear Hard Knock Life. If I go see the Beach Boys, I want to hear their greatest hits. I don’t want to hear their new acoustic album, and that’s how these things get passed along, because the best stories are ones that people can share on your behalf.

Halelly: Okay. And so it sounds like do some mind mapping, think about it and maybe even ask some people you know, how does it sound? What do you think about this one? Kind of get some feedback before you try it with people that don’t know you?

Ryan: Absolutely. Another recommendation is, on that feedback stage, once you start thinking about you have five different stories that fit under that umbrella, what are headlines you can make to tell that story very quickly and easily? How can you think about the headlines as pitches that then you can run by people? So you don’t have to put pressure on yourselves. Nothing worse than thinking, “Oh my gosh, I have to write for an hour,” or, “I have to hear myself speak.” I don’t know about you, but I sometimes cringe when I hear my podcast. Not because I don’t think it’s good, but because it’s very hard for us to hear ourselves, and you want to take the pressure off of judging yourself. If you make headlines, it’s much more forgiving on yourself rather than trying to write out these massive stories. Also, you realize maybe your headlines don’t work, and a takeaway for someone listening right now is you could actually go practice these headlines on people in your network, your friends, your trusted advisors – the core part of your group – and then think, “Now I can think about the headline like a blogger. I can write that post.” And then support it and then finally a quick way to take some steps is free write for 20 minutes on those headlines. There are studies that show from the University of Texas that when you’re frustrated by something, actually Eric Barker told me this – who I know you had on your podcast – that when you free write, when something is bothering you, for 20 minutes, you actually move on from it. You can put closer on it. I always recommend if you have these stories to tell, write for 20 minutes, hire an editor to look at them or ask a friend to look at them, or do speech-to-text and record them on your iPhone and pay someone to transcribe them, or do a video talking about this for 10-20 minutes. Because then you want to free yourself up and not all of us think of ourselves as writers. They’re not like you where you published a book, so they use other mediums, audio, video, then that makes the barrier to entry being low.

Halelly: Is there a good, target length for a story that you think, in a business setting, where it adds value but it’s not too long?

Ryan: Rule of thumb is two minutes. There’s two phases. One is your two-minute story, which isn’t a pitch. I absolutely hate elevator pitches. Nothing worse than the pressure of having to pitch someone and then have them say no. Because thinking about influential people, you don’t want them to say no because you want to collaborate with them and work together. So when you have that two-minute story, it’s also conversational. You’re saying the fundamentals of the story. It has a beginning, middle and end, and then another way I articulate this is in Hollywood, producers say you need a 20-minute conversational pitch when you’re going in for your second meeting on a script or a screenplay or any sort of show. 20 minutes conversational is the next step, and I think my research has shown that applies to business as well with startup founders and advertising executives and people that pitch. 20 minutes is a great way for you to have a collaborative story, and so the two-minute mark and the 20-minute mark, those are the two that everyone needs to be able to articulate.

Halelly: What do you mean by collaborative story? If it’s your story, how can the other person collaborate with you? I’m not sure.

Ryan: That sounds like jumbo shrimp. An oxymoron? That was a great question. The collaborative story is really in conversation. All of us want to tell our stories, but –

Halelly: You don’t want to give a monologue for 20 minutes, right? Because the other person will leave.

Ryan: It’s boring, and it’s disrespectful.

Halelly: I’m glad we clarified that.

Ryan: I think a lot of us think that we’re more important than we are. My dad’s advice to me when I was younger and applying for jobs first out of college, he said when you go to the job interview, you ask all the questions. Do not let the person keep asking you questions, because you need to get to know them. His psychology was, if I ask someone a lot of questions, I’m going to walk away thinking, “Wow, that person is great. They just validated me for 20 minutes,” and maybe they’ll be more likely to hire you or refer you or support you. So you get this as a podcast host. People get flattered when you ask them questions. So if you can think about storytelling as more of a collaboration, less of a one-way street, then you’re going to be a lot more successful.

Halelly: Got it. All right, well, we’re going to run out of time probably before we can give the full description of the other two stories, but let’s just describe them briefly so that we don’t leave people hanging with the end of the story.

Ryan: I’ll give them a quick synopsis in the interest of time, only, because we could talk about this for hours. We have, actually.

Halelly: Maybe we can just bring you back.

Ryan: †he second story is your authority story. There’s nothing worse than when you meet someone who tells you how much money they make. Money, I hate to break it to people, but money is not authority. It’s part of your authority in some ways, but it’s not the defining characteristic. An authority story is something where you can teach another person something about what you do and they can tell others about it and spread your word of mouth. So there’s a teaching element here that really matters, where I can articulate what I’m doing either professionally or personally and say, “I actually can teach you this skill or this information very quickly,” and you can learn it and spread the word. That’s a true word of mouth.

The last story of the three is what I call your fixer story. It’s how you solve problems for others. I’ll tell you a quick 30-second story. I went to a dinner with a lot of business people, business owners, executives, and sat next to this guy and asked him what he’s up to. We’re talking and he says, “I make six figures.” I said, “Oh.” This is the most repelling conversation you can have with someone. I said, “How do you do that?” I don’t even want to ask him but I’m like, “How do you do that?” “Oh, I help people making six figures make seven figures.” You know these people, right? You’re aware of these people. You’ve met them. It’s such a turnoff. The fixer story is the opposite. It’s, “This is how I help others. These are the problems I solve.” If you format your stories in a way where you present yourself, answering the question of how do you fix people’s problems, that’s a much more efficient and effective and memorable way than dropping about the six figures guy story.

Halelly: What I think is important, the idea of the story, it’s like you drive factual information about the same topic, but it wouldn’t really help people connect to it as well as if you weaved that as something that they would learn about you from a story. So the story actually exemplifies the point rather than you just saying the point. You’re telling them the outcome or are you showing them how it came?

Ryan: Right. I used to take improve classes when I did comedy and it’s show, don’t tell. People get very much uncomfortable if you tell them things. But if you show them examples through metaphors of visualizations and really bigger examples, like you’re constantly asking questions on this podcast about what’s an example of this or a real practical application. That’s so important, versus just telling people the story.

Halelly: So we’ve got the three stories. And we understand more about how to come up with them, with a mind map and free writing, gave lots of great insights. What’s one mistake you’re seeing people make all the time, other than telling people, “I make six figures,” in the way that they tell stories that you think is one of the biggest mistakes people make?

Ryan: That’s actually one of the reasons why I wrote this framework and created it and workshop it because I found that on my podcast, and maybe you can identify with this, I had these people coming on that were telling me stories and they were full of it! These people were absolutely full of it, but they were great storytellers and they were making a lot of money. For example, you’d always have some guy on who gave a story, “I was laid off from my job, I was couch surfing, my girlfriend broke up with me and I was homeless, but then I figured out how to make money on LinkedIn.” You get these people that oversell the problem, or they oversell the tearjerker or the underdog. They do it in such a way that it’s a turnoff so they sell it so much that whatever they’re going to tell you next is not real.

Halelly: And it feels manipulative.

Ryan: It’s like the sales copy you see all the time in people’s emails. It’s manipulative, it’s opportunistic in a way that’s conniving, and they’re making you feel like you’re a part of it, but they’re overselling it. I’ve studied hundreds of thousands of comedy shows because I used to work as a comedian and was a doorman, actually, at the D.C. improv, and when I was there I saw the best storytellers are the ones that undersell and over deliver. I think that’s a sales strategy that a lot of us have, but the more you can let people make the decision at the end, the better off you’ll be without trying to work too hard for it.

Halelly: Okay, good. So, we’re going to share one actionable tip, but what’s new and exciting on your horizon?

Ryan: The newest thing and exciting on my horizon is my father-in-law is in town, which is maybe not new or exciting. I won’t get into that, but with my professional life, I’m doing a lot more public speaking, since I’ve seen you, and I’m talking a lot about radical collaboration. How collaboration truly grows your influence, and story is at the center of that. I’m really pumped about sharing a lot of my research and work with more people.

Halelly: Cool. I know you did a Google talk. You have lots of videos on your website. We’ll link to it in the show notes. Awesome. Before we wrap up, what’s one specific action that listeners can take today, this afternoon, this week, that can help them ratchet up their own effectiveness, especially from the perspective of storytelling?

Ryan: The one actionable item I would say is when you write your stories out, script them. You don’t have to write the whole story, but I used to do stand-up comedy and a little trick as I mentioned before and I did in D.C., and every comedian is up there with a drink in their hand, whether it’s water or fake gin and tonic or a beer – they have their set list written on their cocktail napkin. It’s a way for you to kind of look back and say, “Hey, I’m lost right now. Where am I going?” And you don’t want to forget any jokes. I recommend when you tell your stories, and the actions we talked about with the mind mapping and headlines and practicing and free writing, once you get your script down, stick to it. Don’t improvise, stay on your set list, because the worst thing you can do is start freelancing and going in a direction. The best storytellers are truly disciplined. Discipline isn’t something you’re born with. You have to work at it and exercise the muscle around that to not oversell it, not over explain it and not divert from what the core of the story is.

Halelly: Awesome. You make it look like you just came up with it, but you’ve actually really thought about it and practiced it and honed it.

Ryan: I call it being authentically rehearsed. As long as you’re in the moment, you’re being real, but your content is the same or very similar to what you said before.

Halelly: Yeah. Totally true and I’ve seen this in action and it really is amazing when well delivered of course. That is a skill we can all build through practice and getting feedback. Ryan, I really wish we did have more time and I appreciate the time you’ve given us thus far. Where is a great place to have people get in touch with you and learn more from you and about you?

Ryan: There’s my website, InfluencerEconomy.com, and if they want to go to InfluencerEconomy.com/TalentGrow, I can give them a free gift of my storytelling framework. It’s a document, handbook, for people. I’ll give it, customize that for the audience of all your C Suite Radio Network people. My book is on Amazon as well, InfleuncerEconomy.com, and those are probably the best places to find everything out there about me.

Halelly: Super. Definitely check out Ryan’s podcast as well, it’s called Stories from the Influencer Economy, is that right? He’s interviewed amazing people. Check that out and we’ll link to everything in the show notes, and Ryan, thank you again.

Ryan: Thank you. This flew by. Love talking to you.

Halelly: I enjoyed it as well!

What did I tell you TalentGrowers? Ryan is an interesting guy, has lots of interesting stories to tell, but I know that you also have very interesting stories with important messages. I hope that you will take this to heart and hone some of those key stories that can help you reach more people and be more influential, rather than just sticking to dry facts and figures and things like that. I’d love to hear how it goes. I’d love to hear your story, I’d love for you to practice on me, and just in general for you to tell me what you thought about this and give me feedback. You know I’m always open to your feedback because this show is for you. You can leave me a voicemail on my website, using any device. There’s a little black tab on the right-hand side and you can record a voice message or of course you can email me, Halelly@TalentGrow.com, or use the comment section on the show notes page, which is over at TalentGrow.com. Anywhere that you’d like to reach out to me and give some feedback would be excellent. Of course I’d love to reach out to you so that you never miss an episode so if you just download that free tool I have on the website, called The 10 mistakes that leaders make and how to a voice them, that will help us also stay in touch because then I’ll start sending you every Tuesday morning what’s the latest episode, plus an actionable tip in a very informal and fun-to-read and very short email newsletter. I hope that you’ll do that over there. In the meantime, thank you for listening to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, hoping that until the next time, you’ll make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.


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