Bob starts his session by telling an embarrassing story about ripping his trousers during a presentation. The ice is broken and across the room, groups at each table begin to discuss their most embarrassing moments. After only 2 minutes, participants are asked to share. One man was tricked into wearing his wife’s girdle, one locked his pantsless self out of his hotel room, and an ingenious idea to use a pillowcase as a slip under a dress went awry – with property of the U.S. Army plastered across a female soldier’s rear-end.
Bob explains to us, that the best and most effective stories have a point. The point of his trouser mishap was to show his creativity, ability to think on his feet and adapt to less than favorable circumstances.
We all have a turn now. Bob mentions that he has heard many times, “I don’t have a story.” Luckily, he has provided 2 pages of prompts and assigns participants a 2 minute time slot to fill stories in. A large room full of executives begin discussing their most embarrassing moments, introducing themselves to one another, and are to return to their seats within 3 minutes. Chaos ensues!
Bob isn’t messing around. Storytelling is a powerful form of communication that serves purposes such as:
- Remind – “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – George Santayana
Storytime: Bob Pike asks the group to imagine themselves as a 24 year old who is surprisingly promoted to Vice President. He overcomes the feelings of intimidation and fear at being the new manager of his former bosses and begins the first team meeting with enthusiasm. The company president steps into the room, and in front of the 24 year old’s team sternly tells him, “You leave this office, you leave this building, and you don’t come back until you are dressed like a professional.”
The groups are asked to imagine themselves in various stages of this scenario and to describe what they would be feeling if it were them. Around the room, answers range from “elated” at being promoted, to “betrayed” at the embarassment of being sent home by the president.
Once again, the groups are asked to complete a task – “Tips for Successful Storytelling.” Bob has included a full page of tips, that range from common communication techniques to more unique ideas such as “Consider becoming a character” and “Make it universal: me too!”
Bob says the hard one is “Don’t forget eye contact.” We often say what to do, but don’t say how to do it. With a visual demonstration of appropriate and awkward ways of looking someone in the eye, Bob shares 3 Tips for Eye Contact:
- Look at one eye only. It gives greater intensity.
- 3-5 seconds duration. Shorter than 3, they’re not sure that you’re really looking. Longer than 5 seconds and it starts to become uncomfortable.
- Make it random. You are not a camera in a grocery store!
The teams evaluate the storytelling tips that Bob included in the telling of the story, and discuss the ease and difficulties involved in incorporating new techniques into presenting and telling stories.
Wrapping up, we are told that perhaps the most important tip of all is to “tell the rest of the story.” Bob now lets us in on the secret that the story about the 24 year old did actually happen to him.
By 8am, each of the 8 managers came in individually, closed the door, and said, “Bob, what he did to you was wrong.” He says he learned an important lesson that day – that he will never treat anyone that way.
Through audience participation, brainstorming, and clear examples, Bob Pike has demonstrated his expertise and experience in storytelling: that the most effective stories have a point.