Tell Your Story, Pixar Style

February 27, 2014    |    Brad Holst

At a recent Mandel leadership team meeting, my dear friend Patricia Bourne (our VP of Finance & Operations) shared that she'd listened to an NPR TED Radio Hour broadcast called Framing the Story and found it to be very insightful and entertaining. I just finished listening to the podcast and couldn't agree more.

During the podcast, NPR interviews Pixar’s Andrew Stanton. He wrote the iconic Toy Story series and Monsters Inc. Plus, Stanton wrote and directed WALL-E, A Bug’s Life, and Finding Nemo. Each film enjoyed global commercial success and universal critical acclaim, arguably making Stanton one the great storytellers of this century.

Stanton's insights are helpful to any business person who grasps the power of a well-told story. Here are three, taken almost word for word from the podcast, that I think are of particular value to anyone who uses stories to influence, educate, and/or motivate others.  

1.     Storytelling is joke telling.
It’s about knowing your punchline, your ending. It's about knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal—deepening your listener’s understanding of and belief in what’s being discussed.  Stanton cites this quote from British playwright William Archer as particularly helpful when learning how to create good stories: “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.”
 
2.     Make me care.
Stanton calls this “The greatest story commandment.” Humans are always searching for stories that make us care emotionally, intellectually, and/or aesthetically. He explains that we all know what it’s like to not care—like the frustration we feel when clicking through hundreds of channels, desperately looking for something on television worth caring about.

But, when your audience can connect emotionally to what you're saying, they're much more apt to remember what you've said and to take action because of it. For more on this, check out my video on The Power of Storytelling.
 
3.     Use what you know.
At the emotional peak of the podcast, Stanton describes this as the first story lesson he ever learned.  It’s clear that he strongly believes in using what you know and drawing from it. In other words, capture a truth from your own experience and let that truth drive your story.

Check out the entire podcast for yourself. It’s fun and chock full of useful storytelling nuggets. I'd also encourage you to check out Stanton's TED Talk: The Clues to a Great Story.


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