Welcome to the Telling of Story podcast. I’m your host storyteller Jewels, and along with my guests, it’s my endeavor to explore the art and science of storytelling, to attract, engage, and retain a business audience, and to unpack why it works for some and not for the many that try. In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking with Brianna Blacet.
[00:00:25] Jewels: Listen in as she talks about what not to be afraid of when telling stories.
[00:00:33] Brianna: Don’t be afraid to tell stories of your failures. I mean, failures and vulnerability are one of the things that connect all of us, so don’t, don’t feel like you have to be in vulnerable. Sometimes the stories of failure are the stories that bond us most to each other, and as every salesperson knows, it’s all about relationships, right?
[00:00:55] Brianna: The more I connect with you, the more I’m gonna wanna buy your product. It might even be more [00:01:00] expensive, but if I wanna talk to you, if I wanna relate to you, that’s who I’m doing business with. So be vulnerable. Who said vulnerable is bad?
[00:01:11] Jewels: In this episode, I have the pleasure of talking with Brianna Blacet.
[00:01:15] Jewels: Brianna is a corporate storyteller who specializes in helping highly technical subject matter experts, craft compelling stories about using technology to solve human problems. Rihanna started her career as a journalist and has been a newspaper reporter. I. Magazine writer and editor, author of three books and countless blogs.
[00:01:35] Jewels: Brianna loves to deliver storytelling workshops and will happily gab about the topic with anyone who will listen or who cannot get away because they’re in a moving vehicle. She admits this does not always make her the most popular party guest, but. Party guests, maybe not, but probably the perfect podcast guest for this particular one.
[00:01:53] Jewels: Brianna, welcome to the show.
[00:01:55] Brianna: Thank you. Yay. I finally have a place in the world.
[00:01:59] Jewels: [00:02:00] Fabulous. So tell us a little bit about who Brianna is.
[00:02:03] Brianna: Well, I am many things. But I guess being a storyteller really is the one thread that’s gone throughout my entire life. As you mentioned, I started as a newspaper reporter and now I tell a lot of stories about technology, which.
[00:02:19] Brianna: Is interesting because a lot of people find technology very boring and I think that’s because they tend to leave out the the most important elements of story. And when I give storytelling workshops, I talk a lot about integrating the elements of fiction. Into stories of technology, things like protagonists, things like conflict action, all those things.
[00:02:45] Brianna: And it turns out that really helps people want to engage more with brand and also you make technology less dry and more interesting.
[00:02:55] Jewels: Tell me what inspired you to refer yourself to, as a storyteller rather than a [00:03:00] writer, and what’s the difference?
[00:03:02] Brianna: That’s a great question. Well, I, it started because my, at my last job I worked for VMware and my title was actually Innovation Storyteller.
[00:03:12] Brianna: But my interest in telling corporate stories actually started back in 2017. I went to a business conference, I can’t even remember which one it was. And a woman named Kendra Hall, I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered her. Um, she was on stage and was talking about using stories in corporate settings, and I was so taken by her and she talked about the application of story in so many contexts.
[00:03:39] Brianna: From job interviews to your resume, you know, which is more of a written story form to sales, which I think is a really, really good application of story. And I was so entranced by her that I took a couple of her storytelling classes and then from there on was trying to. [00:04:00]Legitimately become a corporate storyteller.
[00:04:02] Brianna: And then I got the job with VMware. And so now I just, I’m, I insist I’m a storyteller regardless of what my, my
[00:04:09] Jewels: title is. So what are some of the most surprising applications of storytelling techniques that you’ve come across? I.
[00:04:16] Brianna: Well, when I was at VMware, like I said, they kind of, for some reason, I guess I got a reputation as the storyteller and different groups within the company would ask me to come and give them storytelling workshops.
[00:04:30] Brianna: And so this one group I. Well, just to back up for a second, sometimes stories are orally given, right? And sometimes they’re written. So I got invited to do a storytelling workshop for a group that primarily made a lot of really boring webpages that described technology solutions. So while I did go through the elements of stories with them, I actually went through and looked at all of their web pages and marked them [00:05:00] up and gave them ideas for how they could integrate humanity into them, because that’s, I always say that technology is created to solve human problems, so we should have humans in the stories of technology.
[00:05:16] Brianna: So I like to talk about it as infusing it with blood or life. So that’s what I did with their webpage. I went through and said, okay, first of all, you’re not. Speaking human language here. No one refers to themselves as a this or that. Let’s see if we can speak regular human talk’s, not as I call it. And let’s go over and see if we can redo your webpages to add some humanity.
[00:05:42] Brianna: So that was a, a fun exercise and I think I humiliated them all thoroughly, but they liked it and then they started doing it, so that was great. I. You
[00:05:52] Jewels: referred just earlier about inserting or, or using the elements of fiction in your storytelling, and [00:06:00] particularly like how does that relate? How would you integrate fiction into a corporate technical sort of conversation?
[00:06:07] Jewels: Tell me a bit about that.
[00:06:09] Brianna: So the first thing to know is that stories, as you know, I’m sure are the original form of human conversation and human learning. So even as far back as the caveman days, we find these pictographs on, on cave walls even before the formal creation of language. And it turns out that there are parts of the brain that light up in response to a story.
[00:06:35] Brianna: So when someone’s speaking, there’s this process called mirroring where the listener begins to identify with the, either the teller of the story or the protagonist, and then there’s a mechanism called coupling so that once you’ve identified with the teller or the protagonist, Everything else that comes next is coupled as an association with the teller.
[00:06:59] Brianna: So [00:07:00] that obviously works in fiction, but it’s the same thing in nonfiction. So one of the most important elements of story is having a protagonist, a human element. And I often tell this story about. The debut of Gone With the Wind, the movie, and it’s a story about how when Gone With the Wind first came out, something like 40,000 people came out for its premiere in the city of Atlanta.
[00:07:27] Brianna: However, despite the fact that it had a lot of black characters in the movie and some like Kattie McDaniel, she won the first best supporting actress that any black woman had won. They weren’t allowed to come into the movie theater. Because of segregation. So then I say, is that a story? And I say it’s, it’s really not a story, it’s just sort of a fact, right?
[00:07:52] Brianna: So then I take the story one step further and I say, so there were the segregation went was as far as in [00:08:00] churches as well. So there was one particular black church who reenacted. The story of Gone With the Wind, dressed up their church like the Plantation House, and they had this whole choir of little black boys and girls standing in front of the plantation house singing.
[00:08:17] Brianna: So then I ask people, is that a story? And I mean, I think it’s more of a story, but then the real kicker is one of those children at age 10 was Martin Luther King Jr. So suddenly we’ve got a story. We’ve got a man who basically launched the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and arguably in many places around the world.
[00:08:41] Brianna: And that one moment could have been the pivotal moment that kicked it all off. Suddenly you have a story because you care about this one man, and you care about him because he is someone moving and he’s a hero in his own right. So that’s a great way to take a fact and turn it into a story. [00:09:00] So yes, that works in every context.
[00:09:02] Brianna: Every context, especially in sales. You walk in, you tell the story of another customer who you know their system was falling apart, and you came in with your software and you saved the day. There’s no difference between that and a fictional story. I mean, hopefully you’re not making it up. That’s the fiction part.
[00:09:19] Brianna: So you have to have a protagonist. You need to engage the senses. That’s another way that that coupling mechanism happens is when you engage the census, and then you obviously need a conflict and you need a resolution of a conflict. And that’s the basic elements of the story. Regardless of medium, they’re universal.
[00:09:39] Jewels: So stories are fantastic in movies and you’ve, let’s say, you know, there’s a million beautiful examples within movies where you can, you know, you, they’re memorable, right? You, you know, 40, 50, 60, 70 year old movies you can recall even if you saw them as a kid. I. ’cause they’re so memorable, which is the power of storytelling, right?
[00:09:57] Jewels: We know that. Can you gimme some examples [00:10:00] perhaps of where it might translate into that sort of corporate world? When you’re talking about like a technical product, as you say, typically very dry. They have their own language. You know, they speak about things that that average Joe doesn’t necessarily understand.
[00:10:15] Jewels: There’s a couple of questions there. One is, how do you go about sort of teasing out helping people tease out those stories to make them relevant to what it is? They’re actually trying to achieve. And the second part is how do you get them to sort of switch their mindset from just, you know, trying to deliver the technical aspects of their product and then sort of inserting these stories and eventually maybe getting to the technical side as well.
[00:10:41] Jewels: I
[00:10:41] Brianna: don’t think you have to separate them, first of all. I mean, so there are multiple parts to this question. The group that I talked about when I came and sort of deconstructed their webpages, this was in the pandemic, the beginning stages of the pandemic, where suddenly the world was remote and it was a major, [00:11:00] major problem for corporations because V P N software, which is used to securely connect to corporate networks, became overloaded.
[00:11:09] Brianna: And it also became an attack surface, so it, it introduced a lot of security vulnerabilities for companies. So the company I was working for had created a solution for that. It was an end user computing solution wherein people could connect from the network. You know, to the network from anywhere, and it was still secure and it gave the user a very good experience.
[00:11:33] Brianna: The first thing you would think of when you hear about this is like, cool, I’m working at home now, but my experience is just as good as it would be if I were in the office. And the IT people are like, well, this is just as good as if you were. In the office security wise. Right. But this group, for some reason, overcomplicated all of the vocabulary that they were using.
[00:11:56] Brianna: Like they referred to it as a [00:12:00] multimodal user experience. I. And I came in and said, what the bleep is that okay, that’s not a thing. I don’t refer to myself as a multi a multimodal anything, right? I might be a remote worker, I might be a hybrid worker. I’m a work from home worker. But multimodal is the language of somebody who’s creating technical solutions, but it’s not the language of the people to whom you’re selling your solution.
[00:12:24] Brianna: So I mean, that’s rule number one to me is. Speak in terms of the problem that you’re solving and that’s the conflicts in any story right now as far as getting people to do that. I think what’s really important is to show them the effectiveness of it. And VMware where I used to work, they actually had a competition for salespeople.
[00:12:46] Brianna: They had a storytelling competition and they invited me to be a judge, which was something I’ve, I’ve waited my whole life to be able to legitimately judge other people. Instead of just on my own time judging [00:13:00] everyone, so I got to go in and listen to all these amazing stories and these story, these salespeople really had it down because if they don’t engage you emotionally, if they don’t give you sympathy for the protagonist, the end user who can’t connect to the network, the poor IT guy who’s gotta stay all night because someone breached the network.
[00:13:20] Brianna: They’re not gonna be able to sell you a solution. So I mean, with sales, at least there’s a reward at the end, which is commission. Right? But I think also in some other contexts, business context, people don’t realize it, but it’s perfect for job interviews if you want to stand out from your competition when you’re looking for a job.
[00:13:43] Brianna: Walk in there and tell a story. Now, of course you gotta make it relevant and keep it short. ’cause that’s one of the things that’s important, right? You don’t want their eyes to be glazing over. But when you start telling ’em about the self-interest that’s involved, the reward for telling stories, you don’t have to [00:14:00] convince them of anything.
[00:14:01] Brianna: You just have to teach ’em how to do it. Everybody loves a story. Like you said, it’s, it’s, everybody loves a movie from childhood. We teach our children through stories. We teach them morality through stories. And I don’t know about you, but I have a kid, and when he was little, I could be like, don’t go in the woods.
[00:14:19] Brianna: There’s wolves out there in that Indem Day or Woods, right? Or I could tell you the story of Little Red Riding Hood and how she was horrifyingly attacked by a wolf who was dressed as her grandmother. And they will remember that their whole lives. So I mean, the impact is always there. You just have to remind people of, of how magical that is and how it sticks.
[00:14:42] Brianna: And it’s completely based on biology, it’s brain science. So we are wired for stories. I
[00:14:48] Jewels: love the idea. Does I answer your question? Yeah, it does. Okay. I absolutely love the idea of the storytelling competition within the corporate. I think that’s fabulous. I hadn’t, I hadn’t heard that [00:15:00] before and probably something I’ll, I’ll try and encourage in the future.
[00:15:03] Jewels: Do you think, you know, I’ve been doing this for more than a decade now, talking about the power of storytelling and what that can do in particularly inside corporate. And when I first started talking about storytelling, it was only a decade ago. But for some strange reason, it was almost frowned upon, right?
[00:15:20] Jewels: It just didn’t seem to resonate at the time. And the, the word storyteller wasn’t as anywhere near as abundantly used as it is today. Fast forward sort of 12 years now or more, it does seem to be a little bit more prolific in the space people are starting to talking about, but there is this real reluctance still within the corporates and still within the management teams and the, and the senior leaders.
[00:15:44] Jewels: How would you encourage, like perhaps an organization who knows they need to get on this journey, they know they need to tell their story a little bit better. Maybe the, the stories they used to tell are just falling on deaf ears ’cause perhaps they were too technical. What sort of [00:16:00]advice would you give somebody who perhaps is starting out?
[00:16:02] Jewels: They, they’re keen to do it, but they really just don’t know where to start.
[00:16:06] Brianna: Well, I work in Silicon Valley, so it’s, you know, it’s an area that’s, at least we pride ourselves on innovation. And I’m not sure what the business climate is like in Australia, but a lot of the hugest US companies now have chief storytelling officers.
[00:16:24] Brianna: So, I mean, when you start seeing I B M or Microsoft hiring a chief storytelling officer, it is legitimized, right. And Cisco, where I work now, we don’t have a chief storytelling officer, but there are definitely storytellers within the company. They have storytelling training. So I guess I haven’t really been in the situation of having to say, listen to me, listen to me.
[00:16:47] Brianna: Stories are great. You just go ahead. IBM’s doing it, don’t you think you should pay attention to? But again, if you wanna convince someone about the power of story, just tell them a good story. You’re telling it [00:17:00] well enough. That’s all there is. She’s done. Right. Fabulous. I mean, is it like that where you live?
[00:17:05] Brianna: Is it like that in Australia? Are you seeing chief storytelling officers?
[00:17:09] Jewels: Yeah, absolutely. It is definitely coming. More prevalent in the marketplace. It’s probably, it’s not anywhere near where I would like to see it. People still sort of don’t really. Understand when I’d say the word story, how that relates into the business.
[00:17:24] Jewels: There’s still this conflict, right? Mental conflict between, you know, a business conversation versus a story. And I think people assume that a story is fiction or a story is, you know, perhaps related to comedy or related to something that. Is personal and not a business oriented thing to do, and I think that switch is occurring, but it’s a little bit slow.
[00:17:46] Jewels: I’d like to see it, you know, speed up, but it is definitely something that people are starting to be aware of at least, and they understand that. You know, the old PowerPoint, death by PowerPoint sort of presentation [00:18:00] full of technical slides just does not cut it anymore. Oh, yeah. And so I get a lot of work, you know, in my, in my role is to help people take those old presentations and go, we need to tell this, but we need to tell it in a better way.
[00:18:16] Jewels: And so we’ve just got, most of the time we scrap almost everything that they. And in the past put it through the shredder and we start again. And it really, you know, right as you say it comes, it starts with a problem that you’re trying to solve in particular. It starts with a story behind that. You need to build that sort of empathy and trust and a story is a great way to do that.
[00:18:37] Jewels: Right.
[00:18:39] Brianna: Yeah. And actually once I wrote an ebook called Why Your Presentations Suck and How to Fix Them, and it was a lot about that. And I told people, your slides are not for novels. Okay? If you’ve got a lot of tags, give it to me and I handout I can read too. You know, your [00:19:00]slides are meant to be visual aids that accompany your messages.
[00:19:06] Brianna: And certainly pictures aid with retention. So I mean, they’re great devices, infographics, those things. Yeah. But presentations that have tons of, I see it all the time and I’m just shocked by it when I see people who I think are seasoned presenters doing that. So wake up, people snap out of it. But the second thing that you asked me was about people think it’s about personal stuff, and I would say, It’s always personal.
[00:19:36] Brianna: Stories of technology are personal stories. You know, what are we doing? We’re trying to fix things, you know, and I’m working in emerging technologies and cloud native technologies, and it’s like we’re trying to fix some heavy duty problems. I mean, remote work’s the perfect example of that. Or being able to extend networks all around the world, the old hardware routers and switches.
[00:19:59] Brianna: That [00:20:00] doesn’t do it anymore. So we are trying to solve those problems. I’m in California, you’re in Australia. This technology is allowing us to connect. We’re on Zoom, we’re looking each other in the eyes. This wouldn’t be possible 15 years ago, right? So I mean, that’s a technology that’s changing everything and now we have a relationship, right?
[00:20:22] Brianna: So that’s a beautiful thing. Technology is about human problems. So I think all stories are personal.
[00:20:29] Jewels: No, I can’t agree more. And I think the more personal, to some degree, the more powerful they can become, and the more vulnerability you show, the more powerful they can become. They’re not easy. Sometimes stories from the heart can be sometimes a little bit difficult to tell, but often they’re the ones that have the most impact, right?
[00:20:47] Jewels: You draw somebody in, people feel empathy. They may have been in a similar situation to you, and they feel that. They feel that through the story. They feel that through the tone. They feel that through the way [00:21:00] you, you know, impart that knowledge. And it just draws them in. And once you have people in and in your space, then they’re more likely to listen to the next thing that you’re about to tell them.
[00:21:11] Brianna: Sure. And to buy your products ultimately. And what’s interesting about what you just said, and it’s something I always say is, Don’t be afraid to tell stories of your failures. I mean, failures and vulnerability are one of the things that connect all of us, so don’t, don’t feel like you have to be invulnerable Sometimes the stories of failure are the stories that bondness to each other, and as every salesperson knows, it’s all about relationships, right?
[00:21:39] Brianna: The more I connect with you, the more I’m gonna wanna buy your product. It might even be more expensive, but if I wanna talk to you, if I wanna relate to you, That’s who I’m doing business with. So be vulnerable. Who said vulnerable is
[00:21:52] Jewels: bad? I couldn’t agree more. And, and in fact, it’s almost the opposite if you avoid the vulnerable stories, right?
[00:21:59] Jewels: If, if everything [00:22:00] seems perfect in your life, then you seem unattainable. Like if I just see the Instagram. Version of you, you know, you’ve got the perfect life kind of thing, right? And that doesn’t resonate, right. It doesn’t feel like that’s normal. That doesn’t feel like I’m part of that conversation. It just feels like maybe something I can aspire to, but it doesn’t connect me to you.
[00:22:20] Jewels: So I think you have to mix in those stories. The, the failure ones often the better stories to tell.
[00:22:26] Brianna: Sure. I think the difference with business storytelling is that you have to have a goal in mind. So the story is never just a story to tell a story, right? You’re not just there to entertain somebody, but like I just told you right now about during the pandemic and why these, they call them sassy solutions, but they’re end user computing.
[00:22:48] Brianna: Solutions for connecting people to the network that can work from anywhere, still be secure, still have a great user experience. That’s a perfect example, right? It’s like this is a story of [00:23:00] failure. How all of our systems failed us and how technology there is the protagonist. So I mean, I think. I don’t know.
[00:23:08] Brianna: Maybe it’s just me, but I, I always think that every story has a hidden protagonist. Every story has a conflict. Every good story has a resolution. Sometimes technology can be the hero I. I see it that way.
[00:23:22] Jewels: Anyway, I wanna roll back to something you said a little bit earlier, and I know you have a little bit of a side hustle, I think it’s called.
[00:23:28] Jewels: She reinvents, if I’m not mistaken, devoted to helping women transform and elevate their careers. Right. Tell me how you advise women to use stories and job interviews, resumes, cover letters, those sort of things, and why this, why stories matter in those particular environments.
[00:23:47] Brianna: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, it sounds like you might have looked at my website because I actually have a whole module in my coaching that’s devoted to stories, and I mean, I think that you [00:24:00] can walk in and it’s the old, I don’t think interviews anymore though.
[00:24:04] Brianna: Tell me about your greatest strengths and your greatest weaknesses. Sure. Okay. My greatest strength is that. I don’t know. I can analyze complicated data and put it together. My biggest weakness, I’m too much of a proti or a perfectionist. That doesn’t really cut it right, but if I tell you the story about how I saved a company a hundred thousand dollars because of the way that I related to a client.
[00:24:31] Brianna: Suddenly they’re listening. Everybody wants to know what’s in it for them. So when you use stories in your resumes, your cover letters, it’s all about the benefit to the user. Everything with marketing has to be about the benefit to. The listener, right? So in a job interview, walk in, tell the story how you saved money.
[00:24:53] Brianna: Tell the story about how you, you were innovative and you tried something no one had tried. Tell the [00:25:00] story of how you tried and failed, and then you fixed it. So you will be the person who’s more memorable when you do that. And certainly your resume has to tell a story too, because it’s not, it shouldn’t just be a list.
[00:25:13] Brianna: You just be one among many. It’s a, the question is, do you want to stand out? Do you want to? Connect. It comes back to human connection. If you wanna hire me for a job, you need to connect with me, just like the salesperson. How do I get you to connect with me? I tell you a story that makes us the same, right?
[00:25:33] Brianna: Everybody’s had these stories of failures. I. Or tried things that didn’t work and you had to try again, it unites us all. So bring out the stories that connect people and you will be the one who gets the second interview or gets the job assuming you’re qualified. Certainly So, And if you’re not qualified, it’s even better.
[00:25:53] Jewels: You mentioned making sure the story is relevant to the situation, right? So I think that’s a really important point, [00:26:00] is that context is is king. Now the story doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the point you’re trying to make, but it does need to link, right? So, The story can appear to be totally off track and, and a little bit weird, but eventually you weave in your point and very important, I must stress this, that it is important to have a point in your story so that you get somewhere, but in context as well to the environment.
[00:26:27] Jewels: So whether that’s going for a job, whether that’s, you know, you’re trying to sell something, whether that’s you just telling a story of, you know, your a story on your website, perhaps it’s. The context is key there, but you can weave in some weird and wonderful examples that on the surface may not appear relevant until it is, and then when it becomes irrelevant, it opens your eyes and you go, wow, I just, I got the, you know, I’m, I’m with you on that journey, and I got to where you wanted me to get to, right.
[00:26:54] Jewels: That was
[00:26:55] Brianna: the greatest thing about that sales storytelling competition. These guys would [00:27:00] tell stories of wins and loses and, you know, wins and losses rather, and really evoke a lot of emotion and then bring it around to what they were selling a solution or a product. Super, super effective. That was the day I learned that being vulnerable does X or that was the day I realized that no matter how prepared you are, it’s your intuition and your ability to pivot quickly that makes you successful.
[00:27:24] Brianna: Whatever it is, you just bring it right back to where you’re going, which is y. If you want to you stories in business for job interviews on your resume, you should practice them 500,000 times. In the shower with your best friend. Do you know, talk to your mom, talk to someone who has no idea what you’re talking about, if you can engage them, you know, it’s a winner of a story.
[00:27:47] Jewels: Very similar advice that I give is use every opportunity you can to tell a story. So whether you are out for dinner with some friends, whether you’re sitting with your family, whether you are in front of a inner [00:28:00] sales. Boardroom, it doesn’t really matter. Always use every opportunity you can to tell a story and to test a story as well.
[00:28:07] Jewels: So comedians do this very well. They do them open mic nights, right? And they’ll have five minutes, and they might get the opportunity to tell four or five jokes in a very short period of time. And what they’re doing, and they do it over and over again. What they’re doing is they’re testing constantly, testing material, right?
[00:28:22] Jewels: So they’ll tell five jokes, three of them will land. Two are terrible, so they’ll ditch the two or rewrite the two. Go to the next open mic. Tall five jokes. The three still land very well. Great. That’s a second validation. And the two that you had to readjust, then they either work or they don’t, and you keep doing that over and over again.
[00:28:42] Jewels: So test your story. Test your theory in different formats and different way of vocalizing as well. To get to the point where you can tell the story at the drop of a hat and you know it’s going to engage. You know you’re gonna get right in a comedy sense, you know you’re gonna get that laugh at the end of the joke, right.[00:29:00]
[00:29:00] Brianna: Right, and the opposite is true as well. Like I think it’s so important that you consider your audience, and I always tell this story about my ex-husband. He’s not here. So my ex-husband is kind of one of those guys who really doesn’t have a good feeling for social cues. So he is not necessarily clued into people’s body language or the looks on their face.
[00:29:24] Brianna: And he is a highly technical guy. We used to joke that he would go to a party and corner someone’s grandmother and start talking about mainframe computers. Somebody who’d never touched a computer in their lives, and she’d be standing there with her eyes glazed over and he wouldn’t notice at all, and people couldn’t get away from him.
[00:29:44] Brianna: Like, don’t be that person. He was let go. Right? Consider your audience and keep it short. Don’t wander and wander and wander. Every story has a beginning and middle and an end, so make sure you get to the end if you want to have the chance to tell another story, at
[00:29:59] Jewels: least. [00:30:00] Just pulling back to that little side hustle that she invents.
[00:30:03] Jewels: Tell me, and I might be honestly asking this question openly, is, is there a difference you focus on women in this particular instance? Is there a difference between the way women should tell stories or do tell stories and versus the way men do? I. Wow,
[00:30:19] Brianna: that’s a great question and it’s something I never really considered that before.
[00:30:25] Brianna: I mean, the reason my business focuses on women is ’cause we tend to be at a, a disadvantage in the marketplace. And so I guess that kind of connection. Also, women, I think are more expected to be vulnerable. So you might think perhaps stories would be a better device for them, but I don’t think that stories are particularly better for one gender or the other.
[00:30:48] Brianna: I just think that women need to pull out every tool at their disposal because we have to try harder. Especially when you’re standing in an industry like technology, which is so male dominated, it’s really [00:31:00] hard to engage sometimes, no matter how equal people wanna make it, no matter how liberal or progressive the interviewer is, we have unconscious biases.
[00:31:10] Brianna: So I think it’s important for women to be as engaging as possible. But no, I don’t think there’s a difference. Stories are for humans. So if you’re breathing and walking on two feet or or wheeling in a wheelchair. If you’re a human primate, then yes, stories are for you. My dogs tell terrible stories.
[00:31:28] Jewels: Yeah, they’re not the best storytellers.
[00:31:30] Jewels: Well, they do give a good hopes. All right. Nope, absolutely. Yeah. So for those out there listening and thinking, okay, all right, you’ve convinced me storytelling is a good thing to do. What are a few steps, some simple steps that somebody could do? Perhaps they’re a small smallish business or maybe even a large one, it doesn’t matter.
[00:31:48] Jewels: And then not telling stories to today, what are just some easy first few steps that somebody could take to start down that journey of storytelling?
[00:31:57] Brianna: Well that is a great question. And of course there are [00:32:00] written stories and then there are spoken stories. And so I was writing for a small startup ’cause I also freelance write on the side.
[00:32:08] Brianna: And this startup has this collaboration software, which is really, really cool. There’s all kinds of stuff built into it, you know, electronic whiteboards and presentations, and just a whole collection of features that you don’t find usually in one solution. And that is their best quality and their worst quality because it’s, if you just give people a list and say, okay, it does this, does this, does this, does this, people glaze over.
[00:32:34] Brianna: They don’t know what to do. Start with what problems can I solve with the. Back to that whole technology is for solving human problems. I would say if, if it’s a data sheet, I would also say this kind of unrelated throw away personas, please throw them away. Personas are two dimensional representations of human beings.
[00:32:56] Brianna: Throw them out. Stop thinking of [00:33:00] people as flat pieces of paper. Engage their emotions. What are their problems and how do you solve them? If you can solve your customer’s problems, you’ll get the sale every single time. So for example, that company with the collaboration software, sure they got a list of great features, tons of them, but what do I do with this software?
[00:33:20] Brianna: So now put it in a frame and say, okay. You know, employee experience centers, these big flashy theaters where they bring the most lucrative clients into them. Using that software, you can explain how to make the most immersive experience possible. How to preserve the content after the meeting is over, how you can weave in live and prerecorded parts of it.
[00:33:46] Brianna: Give it context. Even a, a case study is really, A boring kind of a story, but you could take a case study and then choose it with life and blood, and that’s a much better way to communicate than a list of [00:34:00] features. Certainly.
[00:34:01] Jewels: Do you think the formats are important? So you, you said that, you know, there’s obviously different formats that are writing, speaking, video, audio, there’s a ton of, you know, presenting.
[00:34:11] Jewels: There’s tons of different ways to tell stories. Do you think the medium. Necessarily is as important as you know, where it gets perhaps, uh, distributed to, or, or is it, you know, case for case depending on what you’re trying to do.
[00:34:28] Brianna: I think it’s case by case, but I don’t know if it’s depending on what you’re trying to do or just the context, and that’s just my opinion.
[00:34:37] Brianna: I’m interested in your opinion about that too. I mean, I think, you know, obviously with sales, they’re doing a lot of verbal storytelling. For me, a lot of times I’m working with subject matter experts and their blogs, like talking to researchers. Now people, their eyes start to glaze over when you start talking to them about machine learning models.
[00:34:59] Brianna: But [00:35:00] now if I start to talk to you, like I could say, okay, we’ve got this cool AI software and it uses machine learning models and it can do this, it can do that. People’s eyes glaze over. But if I tell you this, I created an AI system that helps me screen job candidates. And here’s the problem. All the machine learning models are biased because we don’t have enough data, and the data that we have is biased.
[00:35:24] Brianna: If you just search the internet for all the data in the world, It will come up as sexist, racist, all these things, right? Suddenly you see a really important human problem that you wanna solve. You don’t wanna end up with a company that’s all one kind of per, you wanna encourage diversity. People are, you know, they’re reporting their diversity metrics.
[00:35:43] Brianna: So when you put it in those human terms, I would have to work with those researchers and say, how can we tell this story? Don’t tell me the story of the model. Tell me why. And always start with a problem statement. A problem is just a setup for a story. I, I was, I used to joke that I [00:36:00] wished I had t-shirts that said, what’s your problem statement?
[00:36:02] Brianna: But I mean, isn’t that what every story’s about? It’s a conflict that gets solved. You learn that in fiction. I don’t see any difference. I. But I’m a writer too, so I’m kind of biased. Yeah. ’cause I
[00:36:13] Jewels: do a workshop with a partner of ours and we spend almost half a day on the problem statement right at the very beginning.
[00:36:22] Jewels: It takes forever, but we get to a place which is typically one paragraph long, you know, maybe two sentences. So it’s very short, but it’s so powerful when you read it. They get it. So firstly, the client gets it, the customer will instantly get it, but they’ll also feel what you’re trying to achieve. And the problem statement I think is, is hugely important.
[00:36:47] Jewels: So yeah, we spend a lot of time in that space too. Going back to your other question back to me was, you know, do I think the format is important? Yeah. I do, but it’s in context, right? So I think you’ve gotta be [00:37:00] super aware of who the audience actually is and what their modal potentially is. Um, where, where are you delivering it, right?
[00:37:09] Jewels: So if you are delivering through social media, for example, so if you’re doing Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok or something like that, The story has to be typically quite visual, but also has to be quite short. So you need to be able to tell a story in a very short period of time if you’re doing it on YouTube.
[00:37:25] Jewels: However, somebody might actually, you know, watch an entire documentary. Again, it’s visual, typically visual, but if you’re a blogger, you know it’s written. If you’re trying to write a case study, it’s probably a combination of writing with a, with some imagery. So you have to think about, there’s a few things.
[00:37:41] Jewels: One is where am I delivering it? What through what medium am I delivering it to? But what’s the audience like too? You know, do they like reading more over listening or do they like video over text? So be conscious of who you’re delivering a message to. I think it’s good to have a combination. Personally, [00:38:00] I think I agree, having some variety so that you do hit different types of people.
[00:38:04] Jewels: And I, and I’m, I know the same sometimes. I’m not in a situation where I can watch a full length video, so text-based stuff is easier. And if I’m on a, a train or a public transport or something like that, I, I don’t necessarily wanna be watching a 20 minute video, but I can read for 20 minutes in that same period of time.
[00:38:23] Jewels: Right? So contextual based delivery, I think is hugely important, but also be aware of the types of people that you are delivering
[00:38:29] Brianna: to. I agree, but you just made me think of something which is in a way, you can have the same exact story and be able to tell it in 30 seconds or two hours. And when I was a newspaper reporter, once upon a time, in the old days before, we were doing it all with desktop publishing.
[00:38:50] Brianna: Everything was what they call inverted pyramid style. And what that means is that the first paragraph of your story basically has to tell the [00:39:00] entire story by paragraph two. You better be able to cut it off from the end. ’cause you might not have enough room in the newspaper for all these stories you’re trying to fit.
[00:39:10] Brianna: All these columns of texts all over the place. So you could think of that inverted pyramid and say, okay, I gotta be able to tell this whole story in a 32nd Instagram video and then expand it for each subsequent medium. So let’s say I wanna interest you in a product. I get too interested in 30 seconds on Instagram.
[00:39:33] Brianna: Maybe then you’re gonna go a step further and go to my website. Then on the website, I’m gonna communicate it in a little bit longer form, et cetera, et cetera. But if you can’t fit it in one paragraph or two, which in newspapers, it’s the lead and the billboard, you better work on your story. That’s that whole problem statement thing.
[00:39:53] Brianna: If you can’t tell me even a company, if you can’t gimme your elevator pitch in 10 seconds or less, you better work on [00:40:00] your story. That’s my personal feeling on it. I
[00:40:02] Jewels: think that is incredibly fabulous advice because you also gotta consider where they are in the journey of the relationship between you and them as well, right?
[00:40:12] Jewels: So if, if this is the first interaction you are having with somebody, The chances of them watching you Babylon for 60 Minutes is possibly quite, you know, difficult to achieve, right? So in a social media context where the goal of that piece of content, as you say, is to tell enough of the story to draw me in, that I might take the next step, which is what the goal might be, is to take a step, come to the website, and maybe watch a 10 minute video on the same story, but expanded.
[00:40:45] Jewels: And then that might lead onto a, a 60 minute version that you, you know, have a full webinar on or something like that. Right. So there’s lots of different ways to draw people in and it’s, it is dangerous to try and expect them. Um, I think attention, you know, [00:41:00] attention is the most valuable resource we have right now.
[00:41:02] Jewels: Right. Yeah, I know. And we live in a world of scrolling thumbs as well. So you’ve gotta get my attention very quickly and you’re only gonna keep it for a very short period of time in most instances. So you have to be able to right.
[00:41:15] Brianna: And engage those emotions. Right. You gotta cat him right away. But at the same time, if you go too fast, you ruin it too.
[00:41:22] Brianna: I’m always telling my boss, ’cause we have web pages and, and he wants everything to be right at the top. Like, call to action. Go take the free trial now. And I’m like, Slow down because I wanna date you before we get married. And I think of it the same way, right? Like your short Instagram video, that’s our first date.
[00:41:42] Brianna: You might get a little bit more into it once you get to my longer video. And then it’s, you’re not gonna marry me until you’ve had the free trial. So it’s a whole process. If you put it in context of just humanity, I think it makes a lot more sense. It doesn’t have to be scientific. Think about the way we relate to [00:42:00] each other.
[00:42:00] Brianna: I meet you at a party. I’m intrigued by you. We exchange numbers, maybe then we have a phone call. You know, it’s a progressive process and all corporate stuff comes down to trust. And again, I guess stories are a great way to promote trust as well. So, but just never forget that at the end of the day, we’re people, and that’s why stories work.
[00:42:24] Brianna: Even product sales, it’s all people, it’s all emotion. It’s all. Solving problems. So be personal, be empathetic, create empathy. Listen to people too. People love when you listen to their stories.
[00:42:38] Jewels: Brianna, I have a feeling you and I could talk about storytelling for three or four days without taking a breath.
[00:42:43] Jewels: Uh, yeah, but we have to wrap it up at some point. Do you have any parting wisdom for anybody out there listening, thinking, okay, I’m done. Let’s go. Let’s, what can I do next? Well,
[00:42:54] Brianna: I think they should go take one of your storytelling workshops. ’cause it sounds like you’re teaching a lot of ’em. [00:43:00] But I mean, I guess what I would say is don’t think this doesn’t apply to you a and don’t think you can’t do it because if you back up, you realize you’re telling stories, you’ve been telling ’em your whole life.
[00:43:11] Brianna: You’re gonna keep telling ’em your whole life. So maybe learn about how to do it in those different media. And I would say they should go straight to you and take your classes, which I would like to see what you’re teaching too. I go to everyone else’s classes and workshops, make sure I’m not missing anything.
[00:43:31] Jewels: Brianna, you’re very kind. Thank you. Thank you for the plug there. I didn’t have to pay Brianna to say that either. No. Brianna, where can the audience find out a little bit more about you?
[00:43:41] Brianna: Well, it depends how much you wanna know about me, I guess. So you can find out the very corporate things about me on LinkedIn.
[00:43:48] Brianna: You’ll find me Brianna Blacet, B L A C E T, and I do work at Cisco. And otherwise, if you’re interested in talking about stories and how to grow your [00:44:00] career with them, you can go to my website, which is she, s h e dash reinvents, all one word. And I would love to talk to you about your career. I, I just wanna hear your.
[00:44:12] Brianna: Stories. That’s the other thing I do. Come have a half hour consultation and tell me your stories. I can’t wait to
[00:44:18] Jewels: hear Brianna. Fantastic. You’ve been a great guest. Thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Thanks
[00:44:23] Brianna: for having me. This was super fun. Have a great rest of your day,
[00:44:31] Jewels: A great conversation and a great reminder from Brianna about the elements of any good story. Don’t forget the protagonist to engage the senses. The conflict and the resolution and even the most technical solutions have a personal element which you can weave into your stories. Stories allow you to connect, and if you can’t tell your story in 20 seconds or less, you better work on simplifying it.[00:45:00]
[00:45:01] Jewels: Much love Chat soon.