Join Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknall for Speechless Chapter one as they share the founding principles for good storytelling. Tune in to learn how to make your idea memorable and more repeatable, what you can do to take your listener on a journey, and why you should always hone your skills in a safe environment.
[00:00:00] Maryam Pasha: You are listening to Speechless, the new podcast from storytelling experts, Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknall. Hit for now to learn how to tell stories that changed the world.
[00:00:18] Maryam Pasha: One of the biggest misconceptions when I'm working with clients, Simon mean, is what we mean by storytelling. Mm. And so I thought we could take a minute to, to explain what each of us means when we say storytelling, when we talk about [00:00:30] stories. Um, for me, anything can be a story. Mm-hmm. A story is more like a vehicle or a structure that communicates information in a memorable and repeatable and simple way.
[00:00:41] Maryam Pasha: Mm-hmm. So data can tell stories. Your own personal experience can be a story, something you've never experienced but have read about. You can tell a story about things you've seen or things you've never seen, but have like ex you know, done research on can be a story. Anything actually can be a story. And I think the mis the, the most often misconception.[00:01:00]
[00:01:00] Maryam Pasha: I come across is that stories are somehow intimate and they're personal. And I don't mean a personal story. I mean a vehicle to communicate information.
[00:01:09] Simon Bucknall: And if, if a story or if story is absent from a presentation or a speech or a flow, what would that look like? What would it look like when it's not there?
[00:01:18] Simon Bucknall: So
[00:01:18] Maryam Pasha: for me, it's the difference between someone reciting a series of abstract, maybe coherent, but abstract facts with no context, with just. A [00:01:30] thing and then expecting you to remember it. If, if, if I have to say, imagine your worst teacher in school, right? Especially for the sciences, who would just like, or math, who would just throw abstract concepts at you with no context or way to anchor that information and remember it, and then you have like, Regurgitate it up.
[00:01:50] Maryam Pasha: You know, it was hard enough to do that when it was actually your job as a student to like memorize abstract facts. If you as a speaker have a voluntary audience, you know, people who are [00:02:00] choosing to listen to you and all you do is tell them abstract, like a string of abstract, ungrounded facts, they're not, uh, you know, storytelling for me is about putting things in context.
[00:02:10] Maryam Pasha: It's about giving them meaning, and it's about, I think most importantly, making your idea memorable and repeatable.
[00:02:17] Simon Bucknall: Mm. Yeah. Yeah. Yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. I, I think from, in my mind, when I think about storytelling, I think of it as a journey. Mm. It has to be a journey of some kind. And any journey has to start somewhere.
[00:02:27] Simon Bucknall: It has to finish somewhere, and [00:02:30] there's gonna be some stuff that happens in between. And, and, and one step, uh, in the journey leads to another. And so that's, For me, I find possibly also cause I love travel the most helpful analogy. And, and, and as you said, I, that may not be one of that has deeply personal content in it.
[00:02:45] Simon Bucknall: A journey can start with, it could absolutely start with a, with a number. Yeah. It could start with a very basic concept. Yeah. But it, but the point is that yeah, it links to and go somewhere. Yeah. I, I can remember years ago when I worked in consulting, one of the things that the, one of the directors of the firm insisted on whenever we were putting [00:03:00] together a slide flow, was to print them all out and put them on the desk and say, right, let's lay them all out.
[00:03:04] Simon Bucknall: Would we be able to follow the meaning of this presentation if we just read the headlines? Oh, yes. And, and to this day, there are times when that can be a really, really compelling way to check whether this is actually a journey you're taking the audience on or you just throwing stuff at them. Yeah. Um, yeah, and I think the, the point you made about, about it not necessarily always having to be something that's very personal is a really important point.
[00:03:25] Simon Bucknall: It reminded me immediately of, uh, of an experience I had some years ago in the Lua Valley and not as you [00:03:30] do, working with a, I was with a group of French hydroelectric damned turbine engineers. Yes. I have it to me every day. Yeah, all male, all French, all in their probably fifties I should think. And that's of course they're stuck in a room with the Englishman that looks like Harry Potter's dad thinking, oh, where am made doing this?
[00:03:45] Simon Bucknall: And uh, actually we got really well with in the day. It was great, but early on there were one or two concerns that we had to address. And, and because the, the purpose of the day was on storytelling and a French hydroelectric damn turbine engineer, perhaps understandably, had some certain reservations [00:04:00] about that.
[00:04:00] Simon Bucknall: Yeah. And I remember one of the participants saying, look, this, this is, this runs counter to French culture. This is not how we communicate. I, I'm not comfortable with publicizing my private life. Yes. To which of course my response was, I thought, okay, this isn't a fair challenge. Just say, look. Glad you raised it.
[00:04:17] Simon Bucknall: Rest assured this is not about publicizing your personal life. Of course not. Um, Uh, well, or at least it's not about publicizing your private life. Yes. And I think the key distinction that came from this, and I, and I remember, uh, we had to [00:04:30] talk about this a little bit in the group at the times to say, yeah, it's not about publicizing your private life, but it is about personalizing professional experience.
[00:04:39] Simon Bucknall: And, and so whilst it's true, storytelling doesn't have to involve personal stuff, I think even when it does, Involve personal, or should we say firsthand experience. Yeah. There's also then a dividing line between stuff that is personal and private. Yes. There's all sorts of stuff, which you just think, I want that to go nowhere near.
[00:04:57] Simon Bucknall: Yeah. An audience or just anybody [00:05:00] outside the circle of trust and that's, that's, yeah, quite right. It needs to stay private. It's not about revealing something. No, exactly. Yeah. Sometimes, of course, people do choose to do that and speak about stuff that's very sensitive, very, very personal and, and in a way, Until that point, private.
[00:05:12] Simon Bucknall: I know I have, there's been times when I've done that and there can be, can be, if it's appropriate for the audience. Tremendous power. But there's also a huge amount of stuff which does not need to be personal, private, rather, but which is personal. Yeah. I, and I think that's, that's a really important distinction to make people's mind.
[00:05:26] Simon Bucknall: So rest assure folks, this is not about saying all those skeletons in [00:05:30] your closet, all those demons that you have been forever hiding, need to kind of Not necessarily. Not necessarily, no. Even when it's a personal story. Absolutely.
[00:05:36] Maryam Pasha: You know what it is actually, the way you reminded me, it's about, Making sure that you come through.
[00:05:42] Maryam Pasha: Mm. That's what it is. When, when, when we, when I think when we both talk about personal experience or bringing that perspective, it's about making sure that you're communicating in a way that is different to if a robot picked up your script and read it and. You know, I always think like there could be 20 [00:06:00] Genesis who could talk about this subject.
[00:06:02] Maryam Pasha: What unique experience and perspective do you bring that doesn't necessarily even have to be a personal experience. It can just be a perspective. It can be a, why you chose to, to to tell this particular story actually is unique to you. Yeah, absolutely. Um, and I think you. You see that there's two Ted speakers that I've not worked with, but I've watched their talks and I'm huge fans of that I think do this really well where they bring themselves into the storytelling, but they don't talk about their [00:06:30] private lives, if that makes sense.
[00:06:31] Maryam Pasha: And that's Margaret Heman and Dan Gilbert, like hugely different. One is like a business consultant on productivity. One is a, you know, a psychologist that looks at judge judgment and decision making very different, but both do this super, super well. I. If you're listening to Simon and I talk about stories and think, yeah, yeah, yeah, that's all great, but I'm not a storyteller.
[00:06:49] Maryam Pasha: Let me ask you some questions and Simon, we can, can, you can think about answering these two. Um, have you ever had an embarrassing experience? [00:07:00] Mm. I'm gonna say that every single person listening is gonna say yes to this, right? Sometimes I ask, have you had a bad date? But that depends on the audience I'm speaking to.
[00:07:09] Maryam Pasha: But let's say you have an exp embarrassing experience, right? What is the first thing you do after that experience? You go and you tell someone that you, you are close with about the experience and you tell them like everything, and you tell a story. But what you do is you tell it. As if it's like with a joke and a punchline and a moment and all this kinda stuff, and then you consciously or [00:07:30] unconsciously you gauge their reaction and then you tell it again and you tweak the bits that didn't work the first time and then you tell it again and like three years after the experience, you have a tight one minute set on that embarrassing moment that happened to you.
[00:07:44] Maryam Pasha: So you know when, when you think, oh, I'm not a storyteller, or, oh, I dunno how to do this. I think actually what I would encourage people to think about is, This is a human skill. Communicating in stories is something we do as human beings. We often just don't take the things we do [00:08:00] with friends and family about lighthearted experiences and transfer them into either the world of work or, or, you know, things we're working and, and, and trying to drive forward in the world.
[00:08:10] Maryam Pasha: And so it's actually about, I think calling yourself a storyteller feels like very too grand for people. You know what I mean? Like
[00:08:18] Simon Bucknall: Yeah. Brene Brown might say that, right?
[00:08:19] Maryam Pasha: No, I'm not a storyteller. I'm not a storyteller. But actually every single one of us has not just told a story, but retold. Refined. Yeah.
[00:08:28] Maryam Pasha: And perfected a [00:08:30] story. That's all. That's all This is really. Yeah,
[00:08:32] Simon Bucknall: absolutely. E e everyone e every one of us is absolutely a storyteller already. It's, this is not something that people don't have. We, we, we, we tell stories all the time in our own lives without even really thinking about it. Yeah. And I think, uh, certainly for this, for this podcast, I think if it enables people to tell better stories on purpose, when under pressure, when it counts, that's the key.
[00:08:51] Simon Bucknall: That's the key. And so often some of the best material, and I'm sure you, I know you've seen this with the people that you've worked with over the years, whether in relation to storytelling, to to help, to [00:09:00] communicate messages on climate change or indeed to get messages across through, uh, TEDx conferences and elsewhere that so often some of the best material comes from stories that people may have been telling around the dinner table with friends over drink, over coffee for years.
[00:09:14] Simon Bucknall: I remember in this speech that that. Got me into the final of the world championships. Mm-hmm. Uh, in Vancouver in 2017. Uh, and it's probably the best contest, seven minute contest speech that I've given was the one I got that got me through all the rounds to the semi-final. And in that [00:09:30] speech at semi-final level was a story about my experience of being in an Oxford interview.
[00:09:34] Simon Bucknall: And that was a story literally with the professor and then, oh, hello Simon, you know, to Mitchell, which, which friends of mine and I have been. Tossing around and joking about for 20 years. Yeah. You were tutored by the same, the same professor and uh, you know, complete with the impersonations and the dark.
[00:09:50] Simon Bucknall: Oh, university. It's wasted on the young. This guy's the classic eccentric Oxford professor, and you can imagine, anyway, there's a story that we joked about close friends of mine for going [00:10:00] back to the late nineties, and it wasn't until. Mm mm mm six to 20, 23 years after the experience that it occurred to me.
[00:10:10] Simon Bucknall: There might be a way to use it in a speech. Yeah. You know, it's, and, and I've been thinking about storytelling consciously for years, and it's still so, so often the best stuff is actually buried in our own experience. We talk about it already. The question is, What if it was to be brought into a mission critical business?
[00:10:25] Simon Bucknall: Critical, yeah. Reputation, critical presentation, speech, presentation pitch. [00:10:30]
[00:10:30] Maryam Pasha: Absolutely. And that's the case. I think the thing here is, you know, people are often like, but why? Why? Like, you know, this ca like I, I don't know. I feel like sometimes it's a bit of hesitation around it as well, which is even beyond just the personal, like I'm not a storyteller and.
[00:10:42] Maryam Pasha: It is like, is it really effective? Hmm. And I genuinely think, like, think about the last book you read, the last movie you watched the last episode of a TV show. You could do that, like you could, you have consumed that content once. And if I asked you to tell me about it, you could tell me about it. Yeah.
[00:10:58] Maryam Pasha: Because it's not a series of [00:11:00] abstract ungrounded out of context things. It's a story. And I think if you are someone who wants to change the world, you need people to get, you need people to talk about your idea. You can't be the only one talking about it. It needs to catch on. Right. And the way you get people to talk about your idea is to tell a story, because then they can take that and they can repeat it.
[00:11:21] Maryam Pasha: Yeah. And that's, and that's the only way. That's gonna, that's really a powerful vehicle in my mind to get across what we want. Hopefully, I [00:11:30] hope that as people listen to this podcast with you and me, they do consider themselves storytellers more and more.
[00:11:35] Simon Bucknall: Absolutely. And it may be that people start to spot themselves.
[00:11:37] Simon Bucknall: You might spot yourself in action. Just start to pay attention to the situations you're in, guaranteed. If you're around the. Dinner room table or you are having a chat with some friends, sooner or later, some stories will start. I remember, uh, laura lex uh com, a standup comedian. I interviewed her for a book I wrote for brides, for wedding speeches.
[00:11:53] Simon Bucknall: And uh, one of the questions I asked her was, how, how can people develop, um, good humorous content? [00:12:00] She's a professional standard comedian, and she's, she's done live at the Apollos. Absolutely terrific. And, and she said, well, my best advice is invite some friends around, crack open your favorite drinks, whether that's alcoholic or not.
[00:12:10] Simon Bucknall: Possibly it would be alcoholic, but, and just start chatting. And sooner or later, if you're good friends and you've got rapport, you'll start trying to make each other laugh. Mm. And I think the same is true with storytelling, actually. You get the right people around the table. Stories start being told sooner or later was with a couple of friends of mine just last night.
[00:12:24] Simon Bucknall: And it wasn't long before Yeah. Stories started to crop up. Oh, do you remember that time? And sometimes it's a story [00:12:30] which everyone in the room has heard before. It said before, and it's that in joke type story. But this, this stuff is gold and it's, and it's, it's there so often It's right there in front of us.
[00:12:43] Simon Bucknall: You've been listening to Speechless, the podcast from storytelling experts, Marion Paster and Simon Bucknall. Hit follow now to keep learning how to tell stories that changed the world. And if you enjoyed it, please leave us a rating and review. Until next time, speak less, say more.[00:13:00]