Kevin Spacey taught me to tell better stories. He taught me to act. And he taught me how to improvise when I was speaking to an audience. He showed me how to make sure that certain lines connect with your audience, and he taught me how to speak with authority.

He did all this without realising because I have been watching and listening to him for some time. I have watched him keynote for Content Marketing Institute and IBM and I have listened to him teaching students about the craft of acting. More than any other person, Kevin has inspired me to tell better stories over the years, and through his Masterclass he can now do the same for you.

(*This is a personal recommendation, not an affiliate link*)

 

Of all the things I have learned from Kevin over the years, there is one piece of advice that has always stuck with me, which he told me almost two years ago.

“No matter what your job title, your only job is to tell better stories. But we mustn’t forget that the audience is the most important part of those stories. And we must learn to tell them as fast and as compellingly as possible”.

I have no real interest in acting (beyond being fascinated by what differentiates a good actor from a great one), but doing workshops with Kevin’s Masterclass has helped to give me more confidence when presenting to an audience. I highly recommend you check it out and consider doing the course yourself. I think it’s $80 well spent, but it’s not easy and you do need a fair amount of discipline to complete it.

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I have been using House of Cards quotes in some of my presentations for the last couple of years, not just because they are great lines relevant for marketing audiences, but because business has become more political than ever. And as we know, politics is all about who tells the best stories. Just think about brands like Uber, highly disruptive and building businesses faster than ever before. Their entire business model has litigation built into it, because they know that they are going to face legal challenges in every city that they go into. Needing to win the hearts and minds of legal professionals, the media and the public, Uber has used storytelling to get their point across so well, that they have barely lost a legal battle yet.

Travis Kalanick (CEO of Uber) having a fireside chat with Salesforce’s Marc Benioff about storytelling in a disruptive world.

 

I often joke that despite working for a technology company, the biggest challenges I find are people problems, not technology problems – but when I speak to the most senior business leaders, the #1 challenge always revolves around customer loyalty.

  • How can we understand the needs of our customers better?
  • How do we keep our customers coming back?
  • How do we attract and retain the best talent?
  • How do we love our customers more so that we don’t need to keep advertising for new ones?

Many of these questions can be answered not just by building better business models, new org structures or integrating new technologies, but by telling better stories. Good communication builds a strong culture faster than anything else ~ and you need good communication skills to be able to do that. Especially in the corporate work where everyone has their own agenda.

“Whoever tells the best stories goes home with the most marbles”.

So I encourage you to examine the way that you pitch, present, tell stories and work with different teams. Because adding a little drama, being able to entertain and educate your audience (no matter how small that audience is), and being able to deliver your point in seconds not minutes, is could be the difference between your message being remembered forever, or instantly forgotten.

Evangelist @IBM • IBM Watson • Travel Around Talking about AI, Big Data and the Future of Marketing • Lover of Old Business Books and Good Bourbon • Based in London, UK.

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