Search
  • Francisco Mahfuz

E51. Tell Unforgettable Stories with Mark Brown



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it to have your host keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Mark Brown. In 1995, Mark defeated more than 20,000 contestants from 14 countries to become the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking. Since then, he has delivered more than three and a half 1000 presentations to more than 1.5 million people over five continents. Mark is also the co author of the book, the speakers edge, and co host of the weekly podcast, unforgettable presentations. But Mark is much more than a triple threat. He speaks he sings he coaches world champions, and he never seems to grow old. But Mark is so popular. There are children in the Ukraine who imitate his laugh. And he's so good that the only person who ever beat him was en Frank. Ladies and gentlemen, the man the legend, Mark Brown. Mark, welcome to the show.


Mark Brown 2:03

Oh, thank you, Francis, for your very, very kind. I have to pay you later for that. Wonderful, interesting.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:10

Well, you may You make it easy. There are so many things to pick from I left quite a few of them out of the intro. I might come back to some of the stuff but But out of all of these achievements, there is one that I am view I more than any of this other stuff in is that you can actually tie a bow tie.


Mark Brown 2:32

Ah, yes. Well, you know, the story behind a bow tie is very simple. My youngest son who is now 26 When he was in secondary school, high school, he used to wear a bow tie on Thursdays he and his friends. I don't know why they did that. And you know, we had a you know, clip on bow ties you hook on lying around and somebody somehow had placed a couple of you know, self tie bow ties into his hands. Well, he kind of outgrew the bow tie thing. He became too cool for that. But they're lying around one day I said, You know what, I wear a bow tie. I wore a clip on it was nice in a tuxedo you clip on it's fine. But then they had this bow ties lying there. And I had to get a teacher. And anyone who wants to accomplish something should consult a teacher or a coach. So I consulted the best coach. I know you may have heard of him. His name is YouTube. And I went to YouTube and I learned how to tie a bow tie and I become


Francisco Mahfuz 3:28

that that is a temporary mental coach. I I occasionally go there to learn something and then I spent five hours checking out American Idol auditions


Mark Brown 3:40

in the YouTube rabbit hole, my friend. Yeah, last week. Yes, but


Francisco Mahfuz 3:44

I heard you say this thing about the bow tie how the bow ties you Where are you know, you properly tie them manually. And, and I always flashback to the very first time I had to wear a tuxedo. So this was a big corporate party. And so my wife is dressed beautifully. And I've got this tuxedo and I got the bow tie. And I thought you know, I'm gonna get a real bow tie and I was going to be one of the sorry people that get a clip on then, and then at some point my wife finished getting ready, which takes a fair bit of time and she comes she came out and I was on the verge of tears in front of the mirror. Say I cannot do this. I cannot do this the whole cocktail. Oh, I tried to do this thing. So set a clip on for me. I'm sorry I am. I don't get


Mark Brown 4:37

that's okay. That's okay. It took me a while to get it right. But then after a while it has happened. And I found out I have so many bow ties now and I get gifts as bow ties. And a few years ago it became my signature. So if anyone goes to my website goes online and sees any current photograph of me you'll see me with a bow tie and it's the real deal. I do tie them manually. It has become My, I guess my identity people know Oh, he's a bow tie guy. And you know, I'm not the only one who does that. But it became my thing and an age now where I can do so with, with grace. Just say, and you say mentioned my youth, the grey hair will tell you I'm not as young as I thought someone may think. But the bow tie became my trademark. I've only worn a straight tie twice in the last four or five years once was for my daughter's wedding, which I happen to officiate. And she wanted all the gentlemen to wear the same tie. So I wore a straight tie last year, August, as I gave my princess away to her husband, Roland, who is a pretty cool guy. So it all works out well, right. And next time you go to an event, it might be why as a backup, just get a coupon just in case so you don't miss the cocktail hour. How does that sound


Francisco Mahfuz 5:46

every time every time. But I like the detail of the bow tie because it ties very neatly into what we're mostly going to talk about today, which is which is stories and that you wearing that bow tie is a very distinctive detail that makes it easier for people to remember you. So I want to I want to start us off with with an easy question mark. What makes a story unforgettable?


Mark Brown 6:13

Before I answer that, I want your listeners to be aware of what you just did. You just said the bow tie ties in very neatly. What we'll talk about was that deliberate? No, it was accidental. Okay. Well, part of what makes a story unforgettable, awesome, unique flavours. For example, just now you used upon and didn't realise you're using it. But what part to answer the question. Part of what makes a story unforgettable is first, an emotional connection. I have had the privilege of working with a man named Michael Haig. He's a Hollywood script consultant, you may have heard of him. You may have not his company's called Story mastery. But the joy I have a first of all consulting with him and saying oh i i talked to Michael Hague. And then to say I work with Michael Hague is the fact that he is a high profile Hollywood script consultant. Very simply. He was on retainer with an actor writers producer named Will Smith you may have heard


Francisco Mahfuz 7:15

of when I heard of him. Yeah, exactly. On the side. Yeah, but


Mark Brown 7:19

he's probably one of the most well known actors and filmmakers in the world and he would consult with Michael Hague, he would not complete a script until he talked to Michael Hague. And Michael Hague simply says the purpose of a story is to elicit emotion and emotional connection is a is a level playing field. It doesn't matter what your economic background may be your ethnicity, your religion, your faith, how old you are. If you can connect emotionally with the characters in a story, that's the first thing that makes a story on forgettable for me. unforgettable characters, a good story may have only one character, but if the character is identifiable, the character is distinct. Is a character is relatable, is the character is visual to us if we can see the character we can understand the character and if we can not only sympathise but empathise and me clarify sympathise a feel for you empathise a feel with you. So if you can identify the character, understand their pain, feel their pain, empathise with them, you find yourself almost rooting for them, then the character becomes memorable. If the circumstances well crafted if the speaker or writer gives a clearer picture of the setting and what's happening, if the context is done in a in a very clear way, where the listener can visualise the character, the circumstance, it also helps. And a third will have another level would be the use of dialogue within a story where appropriate. In other words, don't report what happened. transport us to what happened. So one of my mantras is don't report transport. So first, identify because you want emotional connection, and you get the emotional connection from a character you can identify with. No matter what your background may be, you can see some commonalities. There they are, you can, you can almost physically see them. You can empathise with them, you understand the context, clearly, you can experience a dialogue that will help make a story unforgettable. And I teach people who I work with my clients regarding stories and presentations, don't tell a story or give a speech, deliver an experience. So when they when your audience can have the experience of what took place in the story. To me that helps to make it unforgettable. It could be a long story, or a very short story. If you do those things. Well, the story can be unforgettable,


Francisco Mahfuz 9:55

the way I tell people what Every story needs, and I think we will treading on very similar ground there. But I tend to say to people that Every story needs to be relatable, specific and emotional. So we need the characters in the situation to be relatable. There needs to be specific details and more importantly, a specific moment in the story in the needs to generate emotion. Because if the characters if the characters don't feel emotion, and they don't care about what's going on, why would we ever care about that? I


Mark Brown 10:25

totally agree. I love I love the fact you mentioned the moment. One of the principles I've been teaching recently moreso is what was the moment in the story, some called a turning point, some call it a crest of the wave, but they're, they're there a moment when something happens when the character changes, when the character undergoes an experience has an aha moment where something changes in the situation, there's a moment there. And sometimes stories have moments. Because a character may have conflict, which is then escalated to more conflict. And you you're then drawn in even more deeply into their story. But the moments are critical, because that's when the character changes, that can also affect change in us as the listener and the viewer.


Francisco Mahfuz 11:11

I also think that the moment is what allows us to experience the story other than just listen to it. And I I started thinking more strongly about this when I started getting more into storytelling. And then I thought about history class. And history class has all the should have all the elements for furs, the things that that interest, teenagers, you know, that you have, you have war, you have men, you can you can have sex, you have politics, you have all these things that you would pay to watch in a movie, but I don't remember ever being very excited in history class. And then when when I thought about it, what came to me was history classes, always a timeline, or at least an overview, what you don't do is what someone has just done in very, very popular series of books, which is give you the moment to moment experience. I think there's some books now, I think one is called a day in Rome. And the other one is, I think, is a day in Athens. So the whole book is one day, what does when they look like because then you can genuinely live it. Otherwise, it's our we was like this, he was like that, but you still fall away from that.


Mark Brown 12:29

And I think you know, in a sense, you look at stage plays that cover two hours of people's lives. Because you can follow the whole story in real time, it does tend to draw you in very closely. And in storytelling, you don't always have the luxury of an hour to take through tickets for whole story. But if you construct your story well and have the right number of details, I want to say details, sometimes you can get lost in the weeds, we want to discard the butterflies and the brain bows that were outside the kids were playing in the pathway and the dog was running play, they're playing with a Frisbee, and they went to the football game. And that's nice. But if it doesn't move your story forward, maybe you don't need those details, those particular details at that time for that story. And within that particular situation. So, you know, you could get really heavily detailed about that. But I'm glad you made sense some details are important, especially is as they relate to how we see the characters, our characters understand the context of the situation. But stories are so powerful to draw us in emotionally. And they can be very, very instructive. They can teach us so much about ourselves, and how we can respond in certain situations. And I find that stories are such an integral part of what I do, and I deliver my presentations. Even if I'm discussing something like leadership, you know, people get technical talks. But stories are common ground. And stories help us to relate to each other. At the end of


Francisco Mahfuz 13:57

the day. Stories are real life examples. I mean, they you don't need to just use real life examples, but but a lot of the stories that we use when speaking our real life examples, and it's I always find funny how, when you cannot understand something someone tells you, you say Can you can you just give me an example. Example when you're trying to explain things to people, you don't do it on the basis of okay, let me just pick some examples or stories and base my explanation around those. We tend to go high level and use a whole bunch of words until someone actually tells us okay, but can you tell me what something that actually happened so I can grounded in reality.


Mark Brown 14:38

What I found is, first of all, as human beings if we go back in time, and I've only lived on this earth for a short time, nice 60 years, but you know, I've, I think a history class, they talked about going into the, you know, Neandertal times and seeing these drawings on the walls of men hunting animals and they Go to the hieroglyphics and they see these paintings and this is etchings on the wall. They didn't have satellite TV and my smartphones back in those days. But I remember growing up in Jamaica back in the 1960s. And as a child, there were times we had scheduled or scheduled depending on where you live power outages, right? You had lamps, so you had candles to do your homework, but there was no TV. So someone always told stories, and Mr. Bill Scott down the street, he was the one who would tell us all the African folklore stories of Anansi, the Crafty spider and we had big boy stories. And we as kids were just fascinated. And I love what my friend, my friend Darren Lacroix, and named the 2001 world champion says, you know, your kids don't come to you at night say mom bedtime, mom, dad, show me a PowerPoint. No, they say Mom, Dad, tell me a story. My dad read stories to me as a child growing up in Jamaica, I read stories to my children. We have a natural proclivity, we want to hear stories, we tell our lives through our life story. And now we have Instagram stories and Facebook stories and LinkedIn stories. And we tell the world what's going on. So deep down, we really want to hear stories, because stories are, again, a wonderful points of connection. So I think it's important for us to understand the power of story and the value of story. And as you said, we can often tend to get technical and give us high level answers. But when you say it's kinda like this, it broke up the elicited, and you said don't get too lost in too many words. I have to be mindful of that, especially when my audience is comprised of individuals who don't speak my language as their first language. You know, as an English speaker. I know what English is the language of commerce, the world speaks English, yes, but there are other individuals in the audience for whom it may not be the first language. So I need to shorten my sentences and use words the fewer syllables, so as not to sound too overly educated, and just confuse people. And I found the Simple Stories, told him the simplest ways with Honest Hearts are so effective.


Francisco Mahfuz 17:12

So there's a few things that you said there that I want to pick up on. And I think that ties into something we said before, we talked before about the details. And it's that you made your name. As a World Champion of Public Speaking through Toastmasters, which is an organisation that I've I've been a part of as well for a while. And for anyone who's listening to this and don't know what Toastmasters is, it's the largest organisation of public speaking in the world. Now there is there's something about the way Toastmaster speeches are that that is very different than then a lot of other types of speaking. So your your speech, for example, shows off a lot of the skills you have, I think they're in likes to call your ninja skills. So there's symmetry There's rhythm, there's musicality, there's there's very intelligent plays with with words and rhetorical devices and things of that nature. But one impression I've often gotten from friends of mine who have come over to a Toastmaster meeting or who have shown a Toastmaster speech before is that it becomes too much sometimes for people who are not in that world. And in the professional speaking world, as opposed to the public speaking world. You notice that difference a lot. They're in some ways they're worlds apart. So what I wanted to ask you was because you've you've been in both sides of the divide. I mean, you still very active on Toastmasters, but you've been speaking for corporations for decades. So do you change completely the way you speak? When you speak into a company? Do you just tone it down? What do you find that still works fine, and what you sort of have to tweak?


Mark Brown 18:51

That's a very good question, Francisco. But truth is, I want the Toastmasters world chat title in 1995 in the previous millennium, and yes, I do have the VHS videotape to prove it. But it's bear in mind, it is a contest. You have seven minutes to make your audience laugh, cry and think it's not enormously easy. So you really can't go into your toolbox and pull out all the tools you can to create this emotional wave and leave appointment message in a very short time. And truth be told, Toastmasters does tend to have a bit of a short style to it, I will gladly concede that. I have changed over the years. My focus there was to have every word be impactful and meaningful. Use alliteration use rhythm use rhyme, a little singing here and there. Use the voice be a bit dramatic. Because I'm in a contest I want to win a contest. i Since then took that seven minute speech and converted it into a 45 to 60 minute programme for young people ages 12 through 18 in schools To build on the message which was about intolerance, indifference and ignorance, how we treat those who are different in this case, from this, this Beauty and the Beast, and I made it a programme for kids to build better relationships, changes school culture, and treat those who are different in a nicer way. That was a programmatic, delivered for many years, I was living that programme over 200 times a year, it was picked up by the public broadcasting system here in North America. And it was broadcast in the state of Maine was produced for a television programme. And it was then was submitted without my knowledge to the National Academy of Television, arts and sciences. And it received an Emmy Award for Outstanding youth programme. Of course, as you said, in my intro, I didn't win the Emmy Award, I lost out to a production of The Diary of Anne Frank, and nobody's going to beat a documentary. You know,


Francisco Mahfuz 20:51

it's just been to to beat that fray.


Mark Brown 20:54

But nobody, I got this, I got to go to Boston, Massachusetts, I got to wear a tuxedo, and I got to attend the Emmy Award. So it's kind of cool. But the point I'm making is I did all that back then, to win the contest. When I give my talk to 15 year old kids, I'm not gonna be eloquent and I don't wear a tie in a search and a jacket. I wear sneakers I wear, you know, a pair of slacks and a polo golf shirt. And I'm very conversational, because in real life, that's what people want to see. And more and more now, over time, what I've become aware of is a conversational style is a very critical style. It's a more believable style so much so I found myself considering this last night while I was in the shower. I do think in the shower once in a while Francisco, and I thought to myself, our former President Barack Obama would have townhall meetings and he would travel to the city to have a conversation with the people. He took his coat off. He literally rolled his sleeves up and had a conversation. And that found more and more now a corporate conventions, usually speakers in jeans and sneakers, just like you will meet today in a nice comfortable shirt. And they'll wow you with a one hour presentation. Wow. So this the quote unquote stuffy, formal eloquence that really does pervade the Toastmasters world a bit more particularly in the atmosphere of delivering a contest speech. But the truth is, in real life, I have found the more conversational, the more simple and clearer, the more honest. And the Simple Stories anecdotes us to entail that I tell. I use my family all the time in my presentations. That's what connects because you know what, behind a corporate title, CEO, CFO CEO, is a human being who's a mom, or a dad, who's a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, and their lives the outside the office are like yours and mine. And we hear you reference this school the speaking expert, you know the podcaster but you and I both know you're also the dad.


Francisco Mahfuz 22:59

Boy anyone has ever heard me speak before the children knew about my one success in my many failures as in my romantic life. And now that I have children, the children are constant subject of most of the talking I do. And it's I've found the conversational versus more theatrical approach to speaking a while back and the way I, I don't think I've invented this, but the way I always think of it is you're going for bar, not Broadway. And one of the things that one of the things that to me has been a game changer in in getting closer to that was just that I stopped. I stopped writing first. I used to write my speeches. And then even if you're super, super, super, super practice that they just roll off your tongue. You still vocalising written language, whereas if you what I do now is I will just tell the main stories of the speech over and over and if I need to output some bullet points down just in case I don't forget anything important, but it's it's always you recording, read or oral communication instead of vocalising written communication and that to me makes a big difference.


Mark Brown 24:18

Well, you know what it is you understand this and I've had to kind of drill down with some clients on this. When you always write out your speech and here's my caveat, here's my you know qualifier for the Toastmasters International speech contest. You are given five to seven minutes. I chose to write every word deliberately, so I had not only memorised it, but internalised it, but the mistake many people make is they write for the eye, what looks good on paper and not for the IR what sounds good in conversation. So a question I commonly asked my clients is this. Okay, I just heard that sentence over there. If you sat down with with me and our friend Francisco to get some coffee or tea. Will you really say that in that way? Well, no. But it looked good on paper, right? Yeah. That's not how you talk. To be conversational, you have to be yourself. You can't be the preacher who's on the platform. And God said in His words, it is. So that is done when you're done. And after church is over. Hey, Francisco, good to see you, buddy. How you been? You know, we laugh about that here in North America. And I'm sure over the world too. But it does happen. We get this speaker, man or speaker, woman and then over coffee or just a regular person. Why not be the regular person on the platform. What I've learned in my travels across five continents, Francisco, is that some cultures emphasise elocution as the art form, very, very young in their lives. So they bring that as children into their experience. And they come to toastmasters in other parts of their speaking life. And they bring the attitude of I must use elocution. And I must master the spoken word to an art form. And they focus more on the art than on the message. So I always say Bring yourself and your personality to the message, be conversational. And this let me hear what's on your heart. Don't try to find the most fancy word. And look, I'm a wordsmith. I'm a word nerd, I confess it. And once in a while, a big word comes out, but it just seems to fit for me. But if if you can't be conversational, you're missing a chance for the audience to get to know the deeper part of who you really are.


Francisco Mahfuz 26:30

There is something about what you just said of being a wordsmith and I, I had read, I have some notes on on your approach to finding stories. And I think absolutely encapsulates what you just said about being a wordsmith, because this is some of the techniques I have from you about how to find stories also. capture what captures you. Ah, that's something that amazed amazed you amused you or moved you? Yes. And the other one, which I think is also very, very good, which is less than first best and worst?


Mark Brown 27:03

Yes, yes. Ah, you've been doing some research on me. Yeah. Well, very quickly, Darren Lacroix and I, we were in Ukraine 2016. To do a programme, we're doing corporate training for a large company in Ukraine. And Devin booty was taking photographs of everything, I mean, everything. And you saw cars that were parked on the sidewalk, which is very strange in North America. That's normal in Ukraine, we found out you literally park on the sidewalk and go, Wow. And he took his photographs, as he didn't want. It caught my attention, it captured me. And if you take your mobile device and capture what captures you, what you might find is in your camera roll on your mobile phone, or your photo gallery. If you're a lowly Android user like I am, you realise there are photographs that have been there for a long time. And the photographs themselves are seeds of a story. You can tell? Why did you capture that image? Why didn't you keep it in your phone for three or four years? Why is that particular photograph the cover photograph, or your homepage on your phone. For example, here's my here's my home photograph on my phone to picture my wife Andrea and me. You can see her flowers, you can see my little boots on the air. We were as we were renewing our marital vows on her on the occasion of our 30th wedding anniversary. And that is my homepage. Because the memory is there. The story is there. And if I were to go into deep into the story, you'll find out I've been travelling on the road giving presentations. The week of this event is gonna be a Saturday and on our front lawn in our house. I travelled as giving speeches all week, I got home late Friday night, and there was so much more still left to be done. I pulled an all nighter. I didn't go to sleep Friday night. So I look right fully cheerful and nice, but not as exhausted. Right. So a little side story who was my best man, my oldest son. I mean, so many stories that come out of one photograph. So I urge you look in your camera roll or your photo gallery and ask yourself, why is that photograph there? Why did I capture it? And how did it capture me? You capture what captures you? It's a seed for stories. Every single day we have experiences and if it goes to our day and we stop at the end of the day and think to ourselves, okay, over the last 24 hours. What amazed me what amused me and what moved me if you can answer any of those three questions, you had the seed for a story. People say oh my life is boring. I got nothing fancy happened to me. You don't need fancy you need relatable. Okay. And just to go back over your life go through the seasons of your life. For example, you go through your high school college years. Okay.


Francisco Mahfuz 29:37

I don't I don't want to go back.


Mark Brown 29:39

But but you know, one reason is, you know, some of the stories you don't want to tell. Right?


Francisco Mahfuz 29:44

I need to revisit that emotional space.


Mark Brown 29:49

But no, you said you mentioned earlier for the other one was best and first, last and worst. Okay, a best best, best and worse less than first. I won't jump into all of them. You get the idea. You talk to Earlier your relationships and all your failed relationships. And the one good one you have. If you just for fun Francisco, were to think about your best girlfriend, or your worst girlfriend, your last girlfriend or your first girlfriend, and take any noun you want. Best Car, worst car, last car, first car, best date, worst date, your last date, even with your wife, your first date, you could pick any noun, any experience, and just take the best worst last first. And before you know it, you have a catalogue of stories. So I tell people maintain a story file in whatever medium you choose to use. You could use a computer software one note, you can use a Microsoft doc or a Google Doc or keep changing it. Whatever works for you, you can use a handheld device on my handheld device. I have an app called inkpad, a Google app which syncs to my computer, I can go on my laptop, and a desktop on my phone. It's all synced into the cloud. But keep stories keep ideas. Look at your experiences, your experiences are the seeds for your stories. And one bonus you notice to be true Francisco Family, family and family gatherings are just fodder for stories, family birthdays, family anniversaries, weddings, get togethers, you know child's birthday, anything your family does, who's your funniest family member who was the most boring family member, a family vacation, a Christmas sell? I mean, you just think of all of those things. Before long, the one word family becomes a separate category all together, have a wonderful story. So I encourage everyone to think about their lives as fertile ground to tell stories, which hopefully you can then connect back to your business applications as a pro speaker, or simply entertaining speeches are ways also to have conversation, because everybody wants to hear a story. And not so much about PowerPoint slides. Would you agree?


Francisco Mahfuz 32:06

I would but but I'm confused now. So what you're saying is that I shouldn't get lost in a mountain and chop off my arm. So I might have heard you give that advice before, but I'm not sure I got the right end of it.


Mark Brown 32:24

Well, the thing is, I think in our minds, many people in their minds believe for a story to be effective. It has to have an air of sensationalism. I had to climb Mount Everest backwards, barefoot, uphill, both ways and on the way down, shut my arm off to escape. That's dramatic. It is dramatic. But sometimes the simplest stories don't have to have drama of that magnitude. They simply have to connect heart to heart with an individual who's hearing the story. Most of my stories that I find very effective are simple family stories, simple story or a phone call with somebody I know an experience I had recently that made me go wow, I don't have a great deal of sensational stories. I get some of the simplest and most powerful responses. When I talk about relationships I called What mistakes and everyday activities I was in Germany back in 2017 credit Toastmasters event, actually. And I was telling the story about my winning the world championship public speaking you may have heard before Francisco keep it very short. I'll give you the Reader's Digest condensed version of the story. My wife, Andrea, our three children, David was probably 10 months old. And you know, eight and 11 had flown from New York to San Diego, literally coast to coast for hours, five hours in a plane to get to San Diego for the Toastmasters convention, where I was competing in the world championships. As you know, I won that contest. I was crowned the world champion that day. And I brought my family on stage for the photographs and so on to celebrate with me my daughter was holding my trophy. My baby was in my wife's arms. And my young guy was proud that he was there. And while we're on the platform, cameras are flashing my daughter had a an envelope with a greeting card. As you put it in my hand. I couldn't open it time. How was the node photo up you know, smiling and everything. And we were there for like two hours with handshakes and congratulations because they want to go to the pool. Fine. Go ahead. I'll catch up with you. I get to the room pick up my coat and a car to the coat pocket. I pull the card out Unseelie envelope because it said Daddy so a kid sent me a card. I unseal the envelope, pulled out the card and read my children's words. Daddy, I'm proud of you. Daddy. We knew you could do it. And David of course who was 11 months he wrote scores scribbled down I turned to my wife Andrea honey look what the kids did they got me this really cool card. She Yes darling but you don't understand what happened? No. Well, the kids got me Ahsoka. Listen to me, honey, shut up and listen to me. Your kids. They went looking for that card. They found the right card for you. They bought that card with your money. I know he's a great guy, listen to me, honey, they bought the card, they sign the card, they put it in the envelope, they seal the envelope, before we left New York to come to California, because that's how much your kids believe in you. Sweaty eyeballs in Germany that day, because they could see these little kids who are proud of daddy who believe in daddy who have faith in daddy showing their faith in daddy by sealing the envelope before they even got on the plane. And every time I think about that True story, I think to myself, Man, if that's the kind of faith my kids have in a, what do I need to do to maintain that faith and to live a life that's worthy of that faith? And the different ways you can take the story as you see fit? But my hope is, when someone hears that story, they question, does someone have the kind of faith in me? And if they do, Am I worthy of it? Am I living up to it? And am I willing to show that kind of faith in somebody else who I love who I believe in who I trust, am I showing them I have faith in them. So there's so many ways your brain can take that, but I heard a story to tell you how meaningful my family is, to me as the prove to you that even the business environment, family stories are effective, the best. One of the best testimonials I ever received was from a conference chairperson for a National Insurance Company here in North America. I was the closing keynote, my whole purpose was to listen to the entire convention three days, attend sessions, take notes, and be the one to wrap it up at the very end with the idea of performance excellence going out there and being the best that you can be with what you learned over the last three days. Cool. That's the assignment, I did a presentation. And Chris, the chairman came and gave me a 23 second testimonial. He said it was amazing. It was the best clothes we've ever had. Mark Brown inspired us to be our best. And we're going to go home, I'm going to hug my kids, and I want to do something better tomorrow, that last line, I'm going to hug my kids and do something better. Tomorrow was a blessing to me. For this reason, Francisco, I told a story about my kids, and what they mean to me. And he was able to connect to the mission, do something better tomorrow with a family hug my kids. So even in a business environment, corporate convention, the stories of my family were a connector to him as a human being and the dad. And the message of excellence still still rings true for the corporate message. So my point is, if you use the right stories in the right way, we can bridge the gap between the corporate and the technical and touch the human. And that's what makes you memorable, when they can connect the measures of the business to real life that make you a winner. That's my experience and my perspective.


Francisco Mahfuz 37:59

I think it's a beautiful story. And what I would never recommend you do is ask your wife Andrea, if by any chance she had a separate envelope, ah house,


Mark Brown 38:11

we're not gonna go there. We're not gonna go there. Don't Don't forget now. That was 1995. And in 1994, I had been to the World Championship and I had lost, but I had learned and when you lose, you should learn. I was coaching high school football in New York soccer to North Americans. And the head coach of the school, I was assistant coach and goalkeeping coach, and he always told the kids you win, or you learn, not you win or you lose, you win, or you learn. So I had learned in 94 from my losses. So have a wonderful coach and mentor David Brooks, the 9090 world champion. But I want to call back something you said earlier with the second person who helped me, the man who won that contest in 94, Morgan McArthur, the 94 world champion became a very, very dear friend of mine. And whenever I went away, I failed and I had a bad day. I call him crying and he'd say, veterinarian, he'd say, get back on the horse. Keep going. I didn't really pick me up. But earlier, you talked about the Polish style of Toastmasters, the drama and all of that Morgan MacArthur was second in 93. And he came back and won in 94. But he told a very simple story of the night before the contest. He was asked by his friends to come and have a nightcap, have a drink. Relax, the contest is tomorrow. You're easy. Just relax. He says no, I can't join you have to go work on my speech one more time. What's the work of your speech due to kindness is 10 hours away? You can't change it. Now that thing is locked in. What do you mean you can work on your speech? And Morgan said, Yeah, I have to go and take some of the polish off. I have to go and take some of the polish off. Because he understood then that being overly dramatic and being you know having He's elocution was not really who he was. He was genuinely a fun guy, the handlebar moustache. And he was great. He totally won the contest. And he's an amazing guy. And he has taught me so much about the importance of being yourself on the platform.


Francisco Mahfuz 40:14

There is a line you neglected to use this time. But I've heard you use before when you were describing the types of stories that that you need. And I believe the line was, they don't need to be sensational. They just need to be sincere.


Mark Brown 40:27

That's correct. Wow, you did do your homework at school? Yes, it is. That is that isn't Marxism, your story.


Francisco Mahfuz 40:35

Also, this stuff is so easy to remember the king of alliteration or Well, well, that's trying to, you know, try to remember, like a corporate mission state.


Mark Brown 40:46

Well, you know, what, as you mentioned, I remember one guy, an author, he said, he wrote his mission statement, he said, it was three words don't mess up. Okay, so, but you're right, I've often proclaimed your story doesn't have to be sensational, it has to be sincere. And I found sincerity and honesty, be very, very effective in Toastmasters, and also in the corporate world. I mean, even though it's a movement globally, where people go, and they do, you know, give talks about their failures and their mistakes and how they mess up. It's a worldwide movement now. And they have these nights where people tell your failure stories, to encourage other people not to make the same mistake, shorten their failure learning curve, and hopefully inspire others to make better choices and decisions going forward. But you're right, we don't need sensational, like climbing Mount Everest when cut your arm off, but the sincerity that connects to other human beings to say can relate. These are the stories that move us you look at some of the gold cast videos and powerful TED Talk videos. They are fantastic stories. But we connect, we relate, we have an emotional relationship to it. And we see the power of the message. So human beings who are just like us. So truth is precious few of us are going to climb Mount Everest, very few of us are going to go to the moon as an astronaut, very few are going to win five Olympic gold medals in swimming, like, you know, Michael Phelps, or be like my filter making Usain Bolt, very few of us will accomplish all of these things. But most of us live our daily lives with our families, or wives, husbands or kids or partners. Most of us may all of us make mistakes, all of us can recall our life in school, we know our first job, our favourite teacher in when we were in school, we don't we're going through right now in our lives, we understand everyday experiences. Let's talk about those. Because that's where we all meet on a level playing field or everyday experiences.


Francisco Mahfuz 42:39

I think the fact that what you just talked about where people that normally not normally people that have lost a competition like the like the Toastmaster World Championship, it's common that they lose one year and then go on to win a year later, two years later, whatever. And that's if you stop to think about it, that just shows how this idea of having the one story is just complete nonsense. And also for people who, for people who don't know how those competitions work, they it's even weirder than that. Because the competition that Allah the speech that allows you to beat most of the people that you have to beat is not the one you deliver and the fine, correct. So so if you say, oh, but this is my one story. Well, but then why you you're saving for last? If you get there, are you trying to get there with that one story?


Mark Brown 43:30

Some people actually go through that they have two speeches, would I do that one first, that one second. And when I competed back in the dark ages, you had to have three different speeches back then you could use one, it's a six, it's now it's a seven level of competition, but it was six when I was competing, the first four, you could use one speech club area division district, then we had the region a second speech, you win that. And after that, a third for the final. Now you have one speech club, area division district, you go to a region semi final, then you go to a semi final level six. And then you go to the World Championships, and you will do a completely new different speech. I believe the idea is everyone has one good speech in them. But to be a champion, you need to prove it not once, but twice. I can teach my friends in the 21st century. So listen, guys, in my day, you had to prove yourself once, twice, three times, Henry, really, really good. And the truth is Francisco, you may know this. Many of us have what we call our signature stories. These are the ones that we love that are ours. Nobody else can tell. And we love telling those. But our life experience goes beyond a signature story. It's a series of stories. It's a series of experiences. It's a series of observations that we can then pass on to our audiences as long as we can tie a valid message and point and hopefully call to action from those stories. They'll find inspirational, instructive, educational, or in some way can enrich their lives or even the lives of somebody else who may hear from them. The story you have told, sort of story has power to move people to help people to change people, to instruct people to inspire people, and to educate people. stories are powerful.


Francisco Mahfuz 45:20

I have one technical question to ask you about and story. And then then I think I've saved the best or the most important view


Mark Brown 45:28

always the best will. What am I seeing today? Go ahead.


Francisco Mahfuz 45:32

The technical question I have for you. I heard from it. This is sort of coincidental I heard from you. And I don't know if it was just before just after I started reading Robert Mackey's story was a very well, it's a very well known book for screenwriters for cinema screenwriters. So I think you were discussing with there and the what you guys call the story diagram. He, he got what he describes when he's talking about a scene in success. Every scene has a theme or an emotion. Or there's a there's a particular characteristic about every scene, you know, maybe the scene is about life or death, or it's about status versus loss of status. Are you feeling proud? Are you feeling miserable, and it says, if the scene does not move that emotion from negative to positive or positive to negative, then you shouldn't be there, that you need to be changing those, those characters in the story of the rise of the scene is not doing that, then you shouldn't be in your script. And I believe you guys talk about the ending emotion for each character, the beginning of what's the big emotion? And what's the ending? Or the final emotion?


Mark Brown 46:43

Yeah, well, the idea is, in the arc of the story, where is the transformation of the character? What did he or she learned going through the experience, it did not be a dramatic story of a significant change. He was first he was a pauper. Now he's a millionaire. But if there's some change in the attitude in the mind, in the action, if the direction is different, if they have a sense of hope, because even some stories don't have a final ending, where it's all fully resolved, I think of a film I saw called where God left his shoes, about a man who lost his job is losing his home. And he's trying to find a way for him and his family, a place to live and to get a job and all the struggles he goes through. In the when the film ends, it stars John Leguizamo, when the film ends, there's no clear definitive answer. Oh, he's now in a home He's happily ever after. No, the struggle continues. But you see his resolute attitude, you see his determination, you see, you see a mindset that he goes through that I will find a way through this. So if the main character undergoes some kind of change, if we can see that there's some kind of change in the character, then the story has a purpose for them. If the character becomes linear, and nothing changes, then why was the story there? We don't see there's no benefit. There's no lesson there's no one. What's the aftermath? It does that, doesn't it? That particular that particular experience doesn't exist? It's almost Will you ask yourself, if I took that part of the story out, would it harm or change or affect the stores the message in any way? If the answer is no, then perhaps you don't need that character, that interaction, that particular scene, it doesn't drive the story forward, it doesn't change anything. It's kind of nice to be there. And as presenter we overdo that, with words and scenes, it's a nice scene, it doesn't move the character for or the story for it doesn't change anything. So why is it really there? So technically, I think about that, if I remove this character, that dialogue or that scene, will it harm my presentation? If the answer is no, I give serious thought to well, do I even need it? I want to keep it tight and meaningful.


Francisco Mahfuz 48:58

There is a line which is not yours. It's what doesn't add, subtract


Mark Brown 49:05

that I've Yes, I've heard that too. What doesn't add subtract anything is it can. I'm not always so strident regarding the subtraction piece because it ends up being like filler, it can subtract if it causes a distraction. In other words, if somebody is wondering, okay, so why was that person even there? I don't see his relevance or her relevance. I don't know why I think so. If I'm off thinking about what I just saw, and you're continuing your presentation, telling your story or delivering the movie, I'm going to miss a part of the vaccine. I'm left wondering what was that all about? Why is it hat rolling around on the floor? I don't get it. And I'm distracted looking at the hat on the floor. And you move on to something else and I might miss something


Francisco Mahfuz 49:47

there. There is in in literature and theatre there is this expression, Chekhov's gun. And this is from Anton Chekhov was a Russian writer. And even he said so much He said, If there is a gun on the wall, then enact one, by the end of Act Three, this gun needs to have been fired. Because if the gun has not getting fired, then why was it there in the beginning to because now you're thinking there's a gun there, this gun means something. What is the point? Is this gun? So that you know that gun has to fire? Yeah. And yeah, I think I think a lot of people would just put a lot of we talked about the tails early people put a lot of details to grounded in reality. But there's a very different a big difference between oral storytelling and a movie, right? A movie, you see all the details. In oral storytelling, you just need enough details to follow to feel authentic, and to maybe relate to you know, that character who's doing this thing, our he he, he has, you know, if it's a we're talking about those masters, we can say something about the gestures. Everyone who's ever been in a meeting knows exactly what you mean. But you don't need to say all the 15 things that you could have said, I got it for one,


Mark Brown 50:59

very quickly. Just respond to that you made some gestures, very often now people will say. So, you know, I was really angry. So I put my hands on my hips. Why don't tell me just do it. We know you're angry, we can see it. And the other thing is the gun regarding the gun. Sometimes we want to be expressive, we have props, and we want to use props to reinforce the message. But if your prop overtakes the message, if your prop is a distraction, if you leave the suitcase on the floor on your speech the whole time and don't make reference to it. We're wondering what's in the suitcase, that can also be distracting. So you're right, if the gun is gonna be there, it's there for a reason. There's no reason for it. Maybe it shouldn't be there. You had one more question, Francisco? Yes. The big one.


Francisco Mahfuz 51:44

A big one. Yes. So the work you did for many years and the work that led straight from the Toastmasters speech, and that led to that Emmy nomination was that you were speaking in schools, to young children about bullying, essentially, or among other things, but bullying was one of the big words. And so what I wanted to to ask is, it's kind of a broad question, but I'm sure you can give me plenty of specific example if that is you know, children can be formed from everyone that I've ever known before. It was apparent I had to hear this from people now I know it's true. They can be one of the toughest audiences. Yeah, there is because they're not gonna politely watch you while you bomb. Yeah, they will. They will, boo. And you, you in in your speech, you talk about Beauty and the Beast is an essential part of your speech is using the Beauty and the Beast? All right, the Disney Disney cartoon cartoon version of fairy tale 93. And so what I wanted to ask you is how, how much how did you find that stories? Or what an essential part of connecting with those children and getting them to, to actually take in the message because this isn't this is not an easy message for it's not now it is a message for children to to actually do something about it. And I don't think it was an easy message then. So how much of a role that stories in not just Beauty and the Beast play in that work you did for many years?


Mark Brown 53:17

Well, it started with parenting. You know, my kids were 8486. So they were eight years old, nine years old when the first film came out in 1993. And I've always been one to tell stories to my kids. I read stories to my kids, I become the characters I do certain voices. I would do Sesame Street Grover, everybody I remember, you know, I can tell you stuff. But I saw that kids are engaged when they hear the story and told with characters as well. And I was literally home one evening watching the Disney cartoon with my children, my two older children at times. And I saw his powerful message from one scene in the movie. And they physically grabbed my old VCR for those who are millennials you look it up on Google. i Oh my God, my VCR remote control. I physically rewound that video and anyone who knows video will be familiar with it. Sound right I record a video. And I replayed the scene for my kids. I said listen to those words. And it's a message there. And I realised my kids got it. And I thought this is a I thought to myself initially, it's a message for adults. Then I realised it's actually a kid's cartoon, so kids can relate to it. And I gave the version of my speech at my son's elementary school when he was nine years old. And the kids liked it. And I began to deliver talks in more schools, and I built the programme using Beauty and the Beast as an anchor. But I would collect stories of kids I met I go back to my own childhood when I was 10 years old being bullied by the three mean sixth grade girls in my class and I would tell My stories I began to show as the later years using PowerPoint, photographs of myself black and white of myself when I was 1011 years old how goofy I was. And the kids could relate to a guy who understood them, even though I'm in my 50s, at the time in a committee of 55. And a kid who was 13 tells me you're cool, let's get a nice, but I was able to relate my own experiences to theirs. I told stories of real kids who were just like them who were going through what they went through. So I found the stories of people in their situation. And my own story, which shows the experience is pretty timeless. So I went back to 1971 and 72 When I told my story, and they realise, hey, he understands because he's been there, the common bond that became effective. So stories really drove what I did. With kids, I can't be high on concept with kids, I had to interact. I mean, my opening line for an audience of 813 year olds is Hey, guys, or girls, I got good news. And I got bad news. Okay, the opening is that I said, Yeah, first, the bad news. I have rules. Y'all Love rules, right? And actually, they're gonna say, no less. Here's a good news. I only have two rules. And I show him three fingers. And they laugh at me. Oh, sorry. I have two rules. In 15 seconds. I'm not a speaker delivering a lecture. I'm a goofy guy who talks to them who listens and answers back, oh, this is in response. And they right away, their guard is down. They expect a speaker in a coat and tie kids, Thou shalt not bully each other. That isn't my approach. I have a conversation. I tell stories. I ask them questions, and I challenge them. Have you seen this? I know why y'all do this. I've heard that before be on a show of hands. Who's heard that before? And ah. So I converse with them. I interact with them. And it's me a chair, PowerPoint slides, a packet of pocket tissues and 800 kids for 45 minutes. And it worked. It worked. 230 Or two?


Francisco Mahfuz 57:06

What are your two rules?


Mark Brown 57:07

My two rules. One, if I ask a question, give me an honest answer. Okay, don't hold back. Yeah. Oh, no. Yeah. If I ask questions honest about your honest answer. I gotta go back and think about it. That don't talk. You're talking over a year. Two rules. Rule number one, okay. Okay. I'm going to ask questions today. Okay, you must answer them. And to an honest answer. Don't hold back. Because you know what? I'm gonna be brutally honest with you. Are you okay with that? I'm gonna go Yeah. Oh, sorry. Rule rule. One was, rule one was enter honest, that's rule number two is whatever you do, let's have fun together. So when the rule is, actually they get that see,


Francisco Mahfuz 57:49

I actually had the suspicion that you hadn't done that much speaking in the last few months, because I heard you on a different show being traducida 3500 speeches, and I was like, and the reason he was was 4000.


Mark Brown 58:04

Now I say more than he's I put in more than that, because I didn't change that I have recently said more than


Francisco Mahfuz 58:09

I know, I will know that your your travelling schedule is back on when you start introducing shows us almost 4000 switches. The


Mark Brown 58:17

funny thing is, this is honestly in terms of travel. I have travelled in 2020 I travelled to at least 11 countries from this chair right here. So I need to change that number. Thank you for letting me know that. I should change that number.


Francisco Mahfuz 58:34

Mark, if people want to want more of your mark isms and your wisdom, where Where's where's the best place to find? Well, my


Mark Brown 58:41

website is Mark Brown speaks.com. I tried to tweet once in a while at Mark Leo Brown. I am linked in as Mark l Brown as well. And I'm look, I'm highly Google goo goo global. The simplest thing is if you look at you know you Google Mark Browns Mark Brown speaker, you'll see the guy with the bow tie out there. But certainly Mark Mark Brown is a website. You know,


Francisco Mahfuz 59:09

I put all that stuff on the show and that's great. And I was awesome. I would also recommend as people check out your podcast


Mark Brown 59:15

for get right. It's called the unforgettable presentations podcast. We have been broadcasting weekly for 79 weeks in a row now. We give high content we also interview some of the top speakers in the world and it's a lot of fun we have together and you could really learn can you make programme


Francisco Mahfuz 59:35

you make regular fun of Darrin of the English language.


Mark Brown 59:41

He tends to make fun of me being a wordsmith he comes in a dictionary. Hey, I brought my dictionary today Mark what's the word here? So I really Geez You know, come on bad. But yeah, I really I really enjoyed working with Darren because he and I have we really believe that what we have to offer is helpful we really believe in the power of of telling stories. We work together at Darrin sustained time University and one of his coaches there, we do webinars. And we do programmes day to day workshops every month. And we really want to help people to take a skill speaking to the next level, and go from good to great to unforgettable. So I know you are a master storyteller. And I really appreciate time to share my stories with you as well. Because you know what, it's been a good day by frame that and hopefully your listeners and viewers will take at least one nugget to help them become unforgettable.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:30

I'm sure they will. Thank you very much for your time. My pleasure in an absolute pleasure. Thank


Mark Brown 1:00:34

you, sir. Alright, everyone.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:36

Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.


I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



Recent Posts

See All

After 100 episodes, what storytelling lessons have I learned? Well, a few, so here are 23 for you, and they cover: why stories matter, what do you use stories for, where do you find them, how do you t