This week Dr. Misner describes a unique experience: a meeting about storytelling. Academy Award-winning movie producer Peter Guber invited about 16 people, including Dr. Misner and individuals such as Warren Bennis, one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership; Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone; and Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, as well as many other “storytellers” from various businesses, backgrounds and areas of expertise.
One lesson particularly appropriate to BNI is that “What if?” is more powerful in a story than “How to.” Make your messages personal and concrete. Think about this next time you give a presentation at a BNI meeting.
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Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 065 -
Hello everyone. Welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast brought to you by networkingnow.com, the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I’m Priscilla Rice and I’m coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California. I’m joined on the phone today by the founder and the chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan, how are you doing?
I’m doing great, Priscilla. I went to a meeting just recently, that I’m going to be talking about in this podcast. It was one of the most unusual meetings I’ve ever been to. This being said by the founder of an organization that meets every week and has 5000 groups around the world. That says a lot — to go to a meeting that’s one of the most unique I’ve ever been to.
What was so unique about it?
It was a meeting about story telling. When I got invited, I wrote back and I said, “Tell me a little more about what this is.” I was invited by Peter Guber who is the CEO of Mandalay Entertainment. He’s the past CEO of Sony Corporation and he hosted this event. Peter is an Academy Award winning producer of movies including Rain Man, The Color Purple, and Bat Man. He wanted to put together a day about story telling and how story telling makes an impact not only in peoples personal life through movies, but also in peoples professional lives through business. The person who was facilitating the process is a good friend of mine, Keith Ferrazzi. Keith wrote the book, Never Eat Alone, who I talk about in my latest book, 29 Percent Solution, which is going to come out in a couple of months. Keith was facilitating it and he recommended to Peter that I come to this. So I attended this meeting recently, which was amazing.
Peter Guber is clearly passionate about the power of story telling and considers it the ‘secret sauce’ that has enabled him to achieve his success in life. He decided to create this opportunity for a diverse group of experts to come together to exchange ideas, and be inspired and enlightened. He invited about 16 people including yours truly, myself, along with people like Warren Bennis. Warren is one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership. When we get towards the end, I would love to talk some more about Warren, an amazing man who I haven’t seen in a long time. A great guy. If you pick up any book on leadership, any major book on leadership, and look in the index, you will see his name in it. He’s an amazing guy. Of course Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, and Mark Victor Hansen who was a co-author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, as well as more than a dozen other story tellers from various businesses, backgrounds and areas of expertise.
Basically, this group found that, or talked about the fact that, effective story telling is an important part of one’s emotional intelligence– emotional intelligence. I’ve always believed in using stories to make a point, but I’ve never really given a lot of thought, of some of the how’s and why’s of their effectiveness. There were a number of take aways for me from this meeting that I want to share with BNI members around the world. Here are a couple. Storytelling is about tapping into a passion about some topic. It’s about taking the listener to a place that is visceral, visual, concrete, emotional and possibly unexpected. Now this is important for members to understand when they’re doing their 60 second presentations, and when they’re doing their 10 minute presentations. If they can make those presentations more visceral, visual, concrete, emotional and unexpected, they’re going to be a lot more effective.
One of the participants, a gentleman who I’m getting to know really well, a great guy, Dr. Mark Goulston, said that a story is a portable storage unit for one’s dreams, fears, hopes, humor and sorrows that people visit or visits people from time to time, for them to stay in contact with their humanity. The group loved that definition and I really love it too. A story is a portable storage unit for one’s dreams, fears, hopes, humor and sorrows that people visit or visits people from time to time, for them to stay in contact with their humanity.
Mark Victor Hansen, who’s one of the co-authors for Chicken Soup Of The Soul, said that when the authors were working on the Chicken Soup series, they were looking for stories that gave people God-bumps or goose-bumps. I love that– God-bumps or goose-bumps, happy tears, a change in perception, weakness in the knees, or a change in your life. I think one of the best comments of the day came from Peter Guber who said, ” ‘What if ‘ is more powerful than ‘how to’ in a story”. Now that is really appropriate to BNI. ‘ What if ‘ is more powerful than ‘how to’. If BNI members can talk about ‘what if ‘ rather than ‘how to’ they’re really going to connect with other members more effectively. I think that’s very true indeed.
Can you give us an example of that?
Well, it’s really an example of benefits versus features. I once was talking to an attorney in a chapter. We were having a little brainstorming session, and the attorney said, “I don’t know what to talk about. I’m an attorney. I’m a divorce lawyer. What can I talk about? I help people get divorced.” One of the members said, “You know what? You helped me sleep better at night. I knew that my life was going to be OK because of you.” That’s a ‘what if ‘ rather than a ‘how to’. He could talk about the specifics of what he does, but to talk about how he can help people get through difficult times, through the services he provided, was much more powerful than talking about the details of the process. Just off the top of my head, that ‘s one that jumps out at me, ‘what if’ rather than ‘how to’. There are so many examples. Anybody who sits down and thinks about what’s the benefit of what I do rather than the features of what I do. I think you can come up with a great example of what I’m talking about.
After we spent an entire day talking about what it takes to make a good story, I think I verified the fact, that it’s really difficult to describe to someone how to tell a good story. But, when you hear a good story, you sure know it. The more you can build into your presentation examples that are, as they talk about, visceral and concrete and personal, the more powerful your message is. I urge members to make their messages personal and to tell good stories when they’re doing their presentation.
I think that’s great advice. Maybe you could do a whole podcast on story telling in itself, like how you put together a good story.
Yes, we should probably do that. I mentioned Warren Bennis earlier. Let me give just one last thing to talk about before we wrap up. Professor Bennis was actually on my doctoral committee when I was a doctoral student at the University of Southern California. It was awesome to see Professor Bennis again. What was really amazing, I have to tell you, it felt really good to see him in a completely different context. Because, when I was a doctoral student, I have to tell you, he was tough. Here’s a bit of advice for anyone whoever goes on to do a graduate degree. If you’re going to do a graduate degree, and one of your areas of specialty, (one of my areas of specialty was leadership), never put one of the world’s leading experts in the field on the doctoral committee. No matter what you say, you’ll never be anywhere near as good as they were. Professor Bennis was tough on me when I was a student. It was really incredible to go back to this event, meet him again more as peer than a student. What a wonderful human being this guy is. He’s very giving, very interesting and absolutely one of the world’s experts on leadership. It was a pleasure to see him again and to talk to him in a different context.
Great. Well, Dr. Misner, we may have come to the end of this podcast. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Just that, BNI members, think about how you can address some of these concepts that I gave here today in making your stories interesting. I truly believe that it’s not about the ‘how to” in your business, I really think it’s the ‘what if ‘. It’s what you have to offer and the stories that carry along, particularly case studies that you might be able to give about how you can help other people. I think that’s what makes anything powerful. For any of the listeners who have heard me do a presentation, I always integrate stories into my talk. That’s what really carries the message to other people. Think about that as you do your presentations, because it will make a huge difference.
Okay great. I just want to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by networkingnow.com, the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thanks so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of the Official BNI Podcast.