22 December 2014

How to Make a Business Pitch the Pixar Way

Since Pixar made its first feature-lenght film in 1995—Toy Story—it has been capturing people’s imagination with incredible films like Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, and Up. Not only has Pixar become famous for making the first computer-animated film ever (Toy Story), but also for its brilliant storytelling techniques.

I’ve recently stumbled across this article highlighting the 22 rules of storytelling according to Pixar. The idea came from former Pixar story artist Emma Coats who tweeted about what she had learnt during her time working at the animation film studio.

Among many of the Emma’s gems for telling a great story, here’s to me the essence of Pixar's storytelling:

Once upon a time there was ______. Every day, ______. One day ______. Because of that, ______. Because of that, ______. Until finally ______.


Drawing from a Bloop Animations’s video examing Pixar's storytelling rules, Caroline Siede wrote that “all Pixar films (and most good films in general) center on a call to adventure that pulls a hero from his comfortable world to a new, unfamiliar one. In Toy Story, Woody must learn to live in a world in which he isn’t Andy’s favourite toy when Buzz arrives. In Finding Nemo, Marlin must cross an entire ocean to find his abducted son. […] Watching a character react, fight, and grow in his new surroundings is what makes these Pixar films so compelling.” 

As counterintuitive as this may seem, you can apply this storytelling formula to your business presentations too. In fact, not only is this something you can apply to business pitches, it's actually something you should do if you want to make them memorable.

If you think about it, this rule goes hand in hand with the old Aristotle’s three-act structure, a storytelling technique not only used in movies, but also in writing and in many other art forms built around a story. And a presentation is an art form built around a story. [Tweet this] The three-act structure splits a narrative into three parts:

  • Set up
  • Confrontation
  • Resolution
Here's how Aristotle's three-act structure and Pixar's storytelling rule come together.
  • Set up: Once upon a time there was ______. Every day, ______. One day ______.
  • Confrontation: Because of that, ______. Because of that, ______.
  • Resolution: Until finally ______.
Now let’s see how you can use Aristotle in your business pitch.

Set up

At the beginning of your presentation you should describe the world as it is without your idea, product, service, etc. (
Once upon a time there was ______. Every day, ______). Your audience will be with you because you are describing something they are familiar with. Then, pose a problem that changes their perspective (One day ______). If you are pitching to a customer, highlight a problem they have that you can solve. By doing that, you are creating a gap in your customer’s mind between the world as it is today and the world as it could be tomorrow if there was a solution to their problem. This is your call to adventure that pulls your hero (your audience) from their comfortable world to a new, unfamiliar one.


During the second part of your pitch, you should be playing with the gap you’ve created previously. Give concrete examples of what your audience’s world looks like with such a problem and what it could look like if you had a solution (
Because of that, ______. Because of that, ______). It’s crucial not to reveal your solution at this stage. Remember, Marlin had to cross an entire ocean to find Nemo. 


Until finally ______. This is the right time to reveal your idea, product, or service. By going through the three steps, you’ve not only created a gap in people’s minds, but you’ve also built on a desire to see that gap being filled. Once you do fill it up with your solution, they will be more inclined to accept it.  

Like these ideas? Meet me over on Twitter or Google+ to start the conversation right now!


2 December 2014

The Ultimate Guide To Speaking So That People Want To Listen

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds 

In this article I'll share with you:
  • The ultimate guide to speaking so that people want to listen
  • My humble opinion on this topic 
  • An example from a personal experience that can teach us something about communication  
Julian Treasure’s ultimate guide to speaking so that people want to listen

In this TED talk, Julian Treasure—a sought-after international speaker—offers up seven things effective communicators must not do and as well as four elements every great speaker should master.

Here are the don’ts:
  • Gossip: “We know perfectly well the person gossiping five minutes later will be gossiping about us”, says Julian 
  • Judging: “It's very hard to listen to somebody if you know that you're being judged.” 
  • Negativity: It’s also very hard to listen to negative people, those who always see the glass half empty 
  • Complaining: See above
  • Excuses: It’s hard to listen to somebody who never takes responsibility for his own actions, but rather blame others. Worst case is when people blame others for failures and praise themselves for achievements
  • Lying: Who likes layers? 
  • Dogmatism: “The confusion of facts with opinions.
And here are the do’s:
  • Honesty: Be clear and straight 
  • Authenticity: Be yourself  
  • Integrity: Be your word 
  • Love: Wish them well
Julian’s talk is full of great insights. If you’d like to find out more about his ideas, I do suggest that you watch the video above. He truly knows what he’s talking about. 

My humble opinion  

We are flooded by tips and tricks on how to get better at communicating our ideas. And it’s fine because the power of the spoken word is huge. This is not only relevant to TED speakers or international speakers. It’s valid in business, education, family life, etc. I can’t think of any aspect of our lives where the ability to effectively share one’s ideas is not relevant. However, I also think sometimes we dive into too many details. So I thought I’d do many of you a favour if I narrow the Julian’s list of do’s and don’ts to one main concept. 

The one piece of advice that matters the most is authenticity. None of the Julian’s lessons work if you are not authentic—if you are not yourself. You may be good at not judging, at being positive, you may be honest, but ultimately being yourself is preparatory for all the rest. In Carmine Gallo’s latest book Talk Like TED, I’ve found the best communication lesson ever: “Stay in your lane.” Carmine says we shouldn't pretend to be Ken Robinson, or Steve Jobs, or Hans Rosling. We can (and should) learn from them, but we need to follow our path and become the best representation of ourselves that we can possibly be. [Tweet this]  

My personal experience 

A couple of weeks ago I shared on Facebook a photo of my girlfriend which has a lot of meaning for both me and her. A little bit of background. I live in England, she lives in Italy, so you can imagine how rarely we see each other. We’ve recently spent together a nice long weekend in the Venice of the North: the lovely Amsterdam. On our last day we went to the airport and had to say goodbye before the security checks because we were assigned two different gates. Our goodbyes always come with some tears—it’s all inclusive. After an hour, though, she unexpectedly appeared again right on the other side of my gate, so we could see each other for one more minute. I couldn't not share that meaningful moment. 
This photo got about 130 likes. For someone who’s not Guy Kawasaki, it was an all-time record. Why do you think many of my friends liked it? I believe the main reason is that we’ve been authentic. We haven’t been afraid to show who we really are. We shared our story with no barriers. People are naturally drawn to things that are transparent and authentic. 

This is not a lesson in social media, it’s something you can apply anywhere. In your next presentation, in a meeting with your boss, in a job interview, in the relationship with your friends, authenticity is key. Stay in your lane and be the best representation of yourself that you can possibly be.   

IMAGE: TEDxYouth@Manchester via Flickr