The 5 Types of Storytellers, According to Communication Expert Carmine Gallo

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In his forthcoming book, The Storyteller’s Secret, Carmine Gallo reveals why some ideas catch on and others don’t. He explains how top storytellers from Richard Branson to Malala Yousafzai do what they do best: build brands, inspire change and spark movements. Gallo has studied the greatest TED speakers, business legends and entrepreneurs and has identified five different types of storytellers, each with unique strengths that help them spread their ideas and inspire audiences to act.

Take a look at Carmine’s prezi below to learn more about the five different types of storytellers, or continue reading. What type of storyteller are you?

1. Storytellers who ignite our inner fire.

These are the people who inspire us to dream bigger by teaching us to reframe our internal narrative. Steve Jobs, one of the world’s greatest business storytellers of all time, once asked, “What makes your heart sing?” The answer to that question is the foundation upon which all great stories are built—you cannot inspire others until you feel inspired yourself.

Storytellers who inspire us to dream bigger have almost always faced struggle and adversity. Their stories of tension and triumph ignite our inner fire because struggle is a part of nature. If you’ve overcome adversity in your life, in your career, in your business, it’s important to share that story because we are hardwired to love rags-to-riches stories. And we love to hear them because we need to hear them. Embrace your history, because it’s the stuff from which legends are made and legacies are left.

2. Storytellers who educate.

These are the men and women who offer a new way of looking at the world. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, identified three components of persuasion: Pathos (persuading through emotion and stories), Logos (appealing to reason through facts and data), and Ethos (establishing the credibility of the speaker).

Successful educators use a combination of all three, but lean more heavily on Pathos. For example, human rights attorney Bryan Stevenson received TED’s longest standing ovation. Personal stories made up 65 percent of Stevenson’s now famous TED talk. Twenty-five percent fell under logos—data. And the remaining 10 percent fell into the category of ethos. Effective educators use data to support their ideas, but they rely on stories to move people to action.

3. Storytellers who simplify.

These are often entrepreneurs, who rely heavily on their ability to explain complex ideas simply, clearly, and concisely in order to woo investors, employees, and customers. Richard Branson is a great example of a storyteller who simplifies; he once said, “If your pitch can’t fit on the back of an envelope, it’s rubbish.”

Tesla Founder Elon Musk is another example. In one presentation, Musk introduced a home battery that stores sunlight and converts it to energy. The entire presentation lasted less than 20 minutes, and Musk used short, simple words to describe the problem and his solution. He also introduced the language of narrative with a villain and a hero. For example, on one slide, he showed a smokestack and said the  problem is that most of the world’s energy is created with fossil fuels. The next slide showed a picture of the sun, and he said, “This is the solution. It’s called the sun. It shows up every day and just works.” Simple, effective, irresistible.

4. Storytellers who motivate.

These are inspiring individuals, of course, and they’re also leaders who built massive brands like Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Starbucks, or Wynn Resorts. “Storytelling has changed my business and my life,” says Las Vegas hotel mogul Steve Wynn. Wynn believes that storytelling taps into the strongest force in the universe—self esteem. At the beginning of every shift at Wynn hotels, a supervisor asks, “Does anyone have a story about a great customer experience they’d like to share?” The stories serve to educate the rest of the team on model behaviors. More importantly, these stories motivate employees, because customer service heroes are recognized by their peers. Pretty soon employees compete for better stories. Public recognition is a powerful motivator.

KPMG, the fastest growing of the Big Four accounting firms, conducted an internal study of thousands of managers and employees and found that “A workforce motivated by a strong sense of higher purpose is essential to engagement.” And how were managers taught to create this higher purpose? Through storytelling. After creating a storytelling culture at KPMG, turnover plummeted, morale skyrocketed, and profits soared. Great stories build great culture.

5. Storytellers who launch movements.

Behind every movement, there’s a great storyteller. Whether it’s Martin Luther King fighting for civil rights, Sheryl Sandberg encouraging women in the workplace to “lean in,” or Malala Yousafzai advocating for girls’ education, one person can trigger a movement.

Remarkably, storytellers who change the world are often inspired themselves by the storytellers who came before them. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, grew up in a storytelling family. Malala’s grandfather was famous for his sermons and Malala recalls that people would come from far and wide to hear her father tell stories. Malala entered public speaking competitions where she learned to deliver her message from the heart rather than from a sheet of paper, she once said. A bullet nearly ended Malala’s life, but the art of storytelling has become her most powerful weapon in the war of ideas.

Walt Disney once said, “Storytellers instill hope again and again and again.” A story can change the world. Isn’t it time you shared yours?

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