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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E55. The Secret of a Magic TEDx Talk with Brian Miller



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 that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco first. My guest today is Brian Miller. Brian is a former magician turns international keynote speaker, author and human connection specialist. His TEDx talk, how to magically connect with anyone has been viewed over 3 million times worldwide. I could probably call Brian, a thought leader, but I think he would magically disappear me if I did that. He also hosts the beyond networking podcast where he's interviewed legends like Seth golden Shama Hyder, Julian Treasure, Heather Monahan and Carl Fussman. So I'm expecting my invite any day now. Ladies and gentlemen, Brian Miller. Ryan, welcome back.


Brian Miller 1:47

You do manage to keep saying something silly. In every intro. That was good. You had me you had me laughing I was trying not to laugh. So I didn't audio over your intro.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:57

There is that's the brand. It's it's become the brand of this of this show. And I stopped telling people to mute themselves, because I find it adds greatly to the introduction is someone cracks up trying not to crack up.


Brian Miller 2:13

That's so funny, because I I was I was laughing, but I know to keep myself quiet because I'm also a podcaster. So I was trying to do you a favour by not doing that. But yeah, I was over here laughing. Yeah, it's good.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:25

But we have a challenge you and me. So no, this is for someone who has missed the original episode. We did this right at the beginning, you were on the first podcast we I recorded. But you and I will say we went off track because I wasn't necessarily trying to keep us on track. But there's there might be five to 10 minutes of storytelling in that original one and any might be more political commentary than storytelling, because we quickly went into messaging and defund the police and all sorts of other stuff that we weren't necessarily trying to talk about. So this time, I'm keeping us on track.


Brian Miller 3:02

I have every confidence in you. I'm ready. Okay, so


Francisco Mahfuz 3:07

the thing that shocked you to fame, at least as a speaker was your TEDx talk, which I've watched a number of times, and I absolutely love. And I know that one of the things you hate is being asked to retell the story in that TED talk, because you might as I just watched the episode, right? But I wanted to try ask you something slightly different about that. The structure of your talk for anyone who hasn't watched it is this three minutes of story, then there's a whole bunch of magical stuff in between you talk about a little bit about connection, the story kind of comes back at minute 10. Then you talk a little bit more about connection. And then for the last two minutes, it's you finishing the story. Now, I know this is this might sound like a bit of a soft ball question. But why did you make a story? Such a big part of your talk?


Brian Miller 4:03

Yeah, I mean, it's, I don't think that is a softball question. I think that's really important. And because when people go to give a really important talk, especially short form talks, when you have very little time, it's really, really hard to do the kind of work you want to do as a speaker when you have less time, right? And it's, I'm sure you know, this quote, and many of your listeners do, but one of my all time favourite quotes is from Mark Twain, right? And he said, I didn't have time, I didn't have time to write you a short note. So I wrote you a long one. instead. It's really easy to talk for three hours if you if you're interested in your topic, because we can just ramble on forever. But if you only have like a TEDx talk, you have 15 minutes, or these days, they really want 12 minutes, 10 minutes because I work with a lot of TED speakers now. You know, you got to get you got to move the audience and you got to move them quickly. And I say this to people all the time. If you You want to bore people, give them facts, study statistics, give them proof, if you want to bore them, if you want to move them to action, tell them a story. So the story for me, for me every kind of short form talk, especially TEDx, because that's kind of like the Olympics of short form inspirational talks, is, how can I move this audience in the least amount of time with the least amount of proof, because if they want proof, they can get it later, they can Google it, they can look it up, I don't need to prove anything capital P prove in the talk, I only need to soft P prove it, I need to, to convince them. And the way you convince people is by getting them engaged in a story. And by letting them see themselves in your story by making the story about them, even though it's your story. So that that's that's the answer.


Francisco Mahfuz 5:46

Okay, now, I'm gonna have a whole bunch of questions a bit later about story in general and how you use storyboards in your speaking and the blog and some other areas. But I wanted to talk to you about story very specifically with regards to magic. Now, that is a specific case, because the talk you were telling us, it wasn't a magic show that you were doing, it was a talk. But when you when you perform, or when you use to perform longer shows, how much did you have to first use stories throughout whatever you were doing? Or also think of the show as a narrative? That is not just a whole bunch of, of tricks put together?


Brian Miller 6:33

Yeah, so I was obviously so as you know, I was a full time magician for 10 years, I still do magic, and I still do full straight on magic shows, even though everybody who hires me now the people who've known me for years in the industry, who still hire me to do a straightforward magic show, they know that I can't help myself, I'm going to get a message in there. I'm going to I'm going to backdoor a message something important. And and to that point, and maybe this will partly answer the question. In fact, when I was like, just 17 years old, I was studying under a world renowned magician, I got very lucky in many ways in my life, and I bumped into David Blaine's Creative Consultant at an Applebee's at 2am in Buffalo, New York when I was 17. And he kind of took me under his wing, his name's Garrett Thomas. And one of the things he said to me, and he's one of the best sleight of hand magicians who's ever lived. He said to me back then, you know, as a magician, you're in a rare position of power. Very few entertainers. Very few people in any industry in any medium have the kind of power and influence magician has, because we have the control of the room, we are in possession of the secrets when nobody else is, you know, we can essentially manipulate and persuade people and we can use it for good or for bad, you said. So as long as you have that much power, why not take the opportunity to do something positive with it, not just to entertain someone with a magic trick, which is great in and of itself. But to do something bigger to give them something to give them a gift that they can use in their life in some way not to get preachy, but to give them something. And I've never forgotten that. I mean, you said that when I was 17, I didn't get it back that it took years before I really understood what he was talking about. I was like, Yeah, wait, man, I just want to make people's jaws drop and go, Whoa, you know? And then you realise, no, there really is an opportunity here as a magician to do something meaningful. And so as a magician, I think the hardest thing, if you're interested in storytelling, like I am, is not to get preachy during the show. Because what people really want in the magic show is to see awesome magic, right to laugh, to see some awesome magic to see some crazy stuff, and then go on with their lives. That's what they came there for. So you can't get really deeply philosophical with them. You can't go into long form storytelling, unless you've really earned it. Right. I tell a 12 minute story to end my magic shows these days, I was doing it pre COVID. And I'm still doing it my virtual shows. But it's at the end of a 75 minute show. I've earned it by that point right at the beginning of the show. Magic joke, magic joke magic joke, right? You have to get them on board. So to the question of narrative, though, I always have a story in my head. My shows are themed. Even if I don't always make that theme obvious to the audience. If I'm performing for, I don't know, 14 year olds, they don't need to hear a theme. They just want to see some cool magic. But for me, if I know what I'm trying to do via my magic, using magic as a vehicle for them, it still helps me deliver a better show because then I can choose the tricks. Choose the jokes, choose the transitions, choose the volunteers based on what I'm trying to at least subtly impart with my magic. Does that answer the question?


Francisco Mahfuz 9:54

Yes, but then my my follow up on to something you just said is, is the narrative model for you than for them?


Brian Miller 10:01

Well, I don't think so I think it's for them. Because I think that the only reason that I would do that is so that I'm delivering the experience that I want them to receive, right, that there's some kind of a gift or some kind of experience that I believe is for them. Otherwise, I just do tricks for myself in the mirror, right? So as long as I have an audience, everything I do is for them. And I think very critically about how every trick is going to sound or seem or look or feel. And that feel is really important, right? It's kind of the the ineffable thing that how do people feel when they're in your presence, whether it's a magic show, or a conversation, or a sales pitch or a podcast, and if there's a way that I'm trying to get them to feel and this may be different for different audiences, right, I'm going for something different when it's a Bar Mitzvah than when I'm working for, you know, a bunch of C suite executives and everyone in between. But that narrative helps keep me on track because it becomes kind of my North Star, the way that you know, I teach TEDx speakers to craft their idea worth spreading before anything else, like we can spend sessions, multiple hours just getting that one sentence down. Because once you've got it, once you've got that narrative, that Northstar everything else falls into place. So yeah, I really, I think it's for them, but it's my way of keeping me on track for what I'm trying to deliver for them, instead of just getting wrapped up. And I thought this trick was cool. I'm gonna throw it into the show, cuz that's really easy. There's a lots of cool tricks that shouldn't be in my show.


Francisco Mahfuz 11:34

12 minutes is pretty long for a story. I mean, I think even in a keynote, 12 minutes for one story, if you told it straight would be on the longest side, at what type of stories it or the one that used to under Show.


Brian Miller 11:49

Yeah, and so here's where the word story becomes really interesting. Because I think when people think of a story they think of, you know, once upon a time, right, and they think of this, I'm gonna start when I was five, I'm sure if you and I have talked about this, an easy mistake to make, and I made it as an early podcasters to ask somebody for their story, right? Story?


Francisco Mahfuz 12:10

Worst question ever.


Brian Miller 12:12

It's the worst. Right? Because what people think when they hear story is start at four years old and get up until now. Right? Well, that's not what I mean when I say story. So like the closing of my show, is, is about balance, finding balance between work life and art. That's what the closing of my show is about. And it's a trick that I'm doing throughout the story. It takes 12 minutes to do this trick slowly. I could do the trick in 90 seconds. But I take 12 minutes to do it, because I'm doing it slowly. While I'm telling a story. And the story I tell is about the creator of Calvin and Hobbes Bill Watterson and the fight he had with his publishing company in the mid 90s. And that might not sound like anything interesting to end a magic show with. But if you've never heard that story, it's got everything you would want in a Hollywood drama. And, and it's got like intrigue, and it's got devastation, and it's got a silver lining. And it's all about balance in life and work and art. And it's what I want to leave my audiences with feeling at the end of the show, I want them to walk out of my show not going God that guy was a great magician, or he was funnier What a cool magic show. I want them to walk out inspired to make their lives better. Like, why not aspire to that? And I'm sure I don't always achieve it. But I think most of the time I do. And so it's not like I'm going, let me tell you the entire story of the legal battle Bill Watterson had that's that's not what it is. I start in the middle, I tell them some stuff and I back up and I related to something that happened in my childhood, I related to something that they might have gone through, I go back to the story, I finished telling it. And while I'm doing it, I'm doing the magic trick. It's it. It's a piece that's taken years and years and hundreds of performances to get down. It was way too preachy at the beginning.


Francisco Mahfuz 14:00

Anyway, has it always been the same story? Yes.


Brian Miller 14:03

From I crafted the trick and the story together, it was built together. I can't imagine telling that story with a different trick. And I can't imagine doing that trick without that story at this point.


Francisco Mahfuz 14:15

A lot of the things that you just said that you don't do. I agree a lot of people think that that's how we tell our story. And that's one of the reasons why a lot of people have resistance to stories. But I think to anyone that has done a tiny bit of studying or practising into the craft of storytelling, you what you described, there are some of the most basic hokey rookie mistakes that people would ever make. And let me tell you a story when you never announce it because I tend to think that a story I story is in some ways, like the guilty pleasure. So no one likes to watch Home Improvement shows, in theory, but the moment they start You'll find yourself bored Do you just have to see what the house looks like at the end? I have friends that are like that with cooking shows or with big broad there are something horrendously crap like that. You will never admit that you like it and if someone announces it you won't you say you're not interested. But if if there is Nikki Lee get you in, you're in and you're going to stay until the end. The voice and in the timeline is another


Brian Miller 15:26

bachelor. I mean, you can get wrapped up in the goofiest sleaziest TV if you buy into the quote unquote story of the show, if you're hooked by it, yeah.


Francisco Mahfuz 15:37

It's It's surprising how little it takes to catch your attention. The other day, I watched an episode of million dollar beach house, it must be shallow show of all time. And it wasn't even a good show. But at the very end, they're showing this house in the house looks super impressive. And the very last seconds is the owner who's trying to sell the house. We just walked into this open house that looks like it's gonna be a massive success. But they had redecorated redecorated the house, and she was kind of a hippie, and they did the whole thing in a modern style, and she looks really pissed off. And then you're like, what's going to happen now? You know, the middle of the show when she's filming. She's in the middle of the living room. So I almost watched the next episode, because of it. But somehow, I realised it wasn't that important. But a bit they had me because because they did it. Right. They told me. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so I,


Brian Miller 16:36

I do I just on that point, I just, I, I love what you had, you would just started to say about about how you can just start a story that you don't have to announce it. That's, that's so important that you don't build it up or set it up. I open all of my workshops with a story about something that happened 50 years ago in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And I don't say well, now I'm going to tell you a story about how different perspectives whatever, whatever, and then do it, I come I'm on the screen, we see the people, we do our quick technical checks, because it's virtual these days. Yeah, I do that first. I wish I didn't have to write the best thing and live is not to do or say anything before your opening line. Can't do that virtually. But you do that. And then I go, alright. So 50 years ago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City that has special exhibit on display was called the last works of Matisse. Nobody has any idea where that's going. The title of my talk is beyond networking, how to magically connect with anyone in the virtual world. They just introduced me as a former magician, I came on the stream screen and started talking about something that happened at a museum of modern art 50 years ago, if no idea what it's about. But I can tell you from having done it 50 times in the last year that everybody goes, they just lean in and they lean in because it's you have to know where it's like the beauty of stories, when they're told well is it doesn't even have to be your story. It can be almost any story. And if it's told, well, people want to know what's coming next, right? That's the David Mamet quote, the only thing that keeps the audience in their seats is wondering what's going to happen next. And that's, that's a beautiful thing, you can almost tell a story that has nothing to do with that almost is, is so tangentially related to your topic, that you're just waving at your topic as you walk by it with your story. But if it's even a little related, it's beautiful. And if it's more related than that, then then then huge win.


Francisco Mahfuz 18:37

Yeah, so a couple of, I think very important things when I just said, so you said you don't have to announce it or build it up. I would actually argue that you shouldn't announce it at all. I agree. And the reason I say that is because I believe that there. There are two separate pathways into the brain. One of them is last year, in immediately you know, a story is gonna come out what is an anecdote, right? But the moment I give you a time or a place, that's the brain the brain has been signalled as stories coming pay attention. This might have important information for our survival, or thriving rival rival rival, and that's what we want. But the moment you say I'm going to tell you a story I think you getting all that baggage of you know, maybe this is a childhood thing maybe it's entertainment and in your you're leading people how long is this going to take? Yeah, the wrong path because they don't have a good association with that that line or that word? Typically. Yeah, so So I will never never ever announced it. Never ever been like yourself, just just go straight in. Alright, that


Brian Miller 19:52

one of my mentors in magic very, very early. He said, Never ask somebody if they want to see a magic trick. They're not qualified to answer I


Francisco Mahfuz 20:01

think that's a very good point. The other thing you said, which I think is essential is you said, you can talk about something that has very little to do with your topic in you can, and you can be massively entertaining. But obviously there is a huge risk there is they are giving you their attention. If by the end of that two minutes or three minutes or 10 minutes, it's not clear 100% how that connects to whatever you're there to talk about. I think the audience will feel cheated, and see no doubt. Yeah, it's a cheap trick, you're entertaining me to make you make yourself come across better. But


Brian Miller 20:39

what what I meant, what I meant by that is, I think a lot of people when they're trying to tell their stories, whether it's in their marketing, or their website, or their speeches, they are there, they get hung up, because they're trying to find a story that 100% perfectly encapsulates the entire idea makes the arguments has the proof that it's all in there. That's that's not the point of the story, the point of the story is to get the audience emotionally invested in the topic or the idea you're trying to get across. That's it. So it only has to, you only have to, like knock up against the idea that as far as I'm concerned that the the story has to get them to think about your big idea in a way that gets them interested, that gets them engaged, that gets them passionately involved. So that when you start to get into the stuff that you have to do make the arguments off or the studies off of the proof, whatever it is, they're already in the right frame of mind, they're already invested. And they have this story to think back to as they're thinking through the examples and attach it to the story is is is is the you get to hang your talk on the hook of this story. That's what it's for.


Francisco Mahfuz 21:50

Yeah, so another way of described is in the past is, the story is not about what happens in the story. The story is about what the character or characters feel when those things happen. And the point of connection you're looking for years. Am I talking about a feeling that you can relate to because if I'm talking about a feeling, it doesn't matter if it's about Calvin and Hobbes, it doesn't matter if it's about Everest, doesn't matter if it's about you, blind guy in a restaurant, Ron guy in a restaurant, it's in that feeling can be a super simple feeling. his frustration is his achievement, his pain, his grief is you trying to do something and not managing it? That's it. It's a story about money. I'm not going to try and summarise that one because I haven't given this any thought actually, but but most stories are generally about someone who wants more out of life. That's it doesn't matter if they're an astronaut, or if they're a spy, or if they're just a parent or you are me. Yeah. So


Brian Miller 22:48

overcoming obstacles becoming a better version of yourself getting more out of life. Yeah, there's there's really classic archetypal themes that have been around for 1000s of years. No, they work, they work because there the human condition


Francisco Mahfuz 23:02

in on because because you said people are looking for a story that, you know, a story about exactly what they want to talk about. And that's the wrong approach. So the right approach is to look for a story that makes people feel something and that in there has to be ideally a connection between what you're trying to say. So in your particular case, when you do you actively look for a story. When you're trying to make a point? Did you just have a collection of stories and say, well, actually, this one actually would work very well for this, do you have an active process or this stuff just comes to your head? Because you're so I have exposed to this all the time?


Brian Miller 23:39

Both. And I think that the second one because of the first one. So it started with an active decision. It started with years and years ago when I went even as a magician, but especially as I transitioned into speaking, magic is a very, very specific type of storytelling, right? Because the trick comes first. You know, usually, actually, it's interesting, because there have been times when I've had a story or an idea, or, and I'm like, now I need to find a trick that, uh, let me get there. But usually, as a magician, you have a trick and you need to find a way to present it. But as a speaker, you need stories all the time, especially as a keynote or and I was doing 90 minute keynotes a lot, like like, not like the 40 Minute, 30 minute 40 minute like, you need a lot of stories to get through 90 minutes because you can't just give them facts and statistics for 90 minutes. So


Francisco Mahfuz 24:26

what I started doing, some people have tried.


Brian Miller 24:30

We've all seen those keynotes. Don't get too long, though. You know, we've all seen those keynotes. And that's what I think is funny when you know I'm I'm I get to put on my website. I'm the top rated speaker at every conference and every series. To be honest, it's not that hard to do that, right, because most speakers forget that the purpose is to use stories to get people engaged to give them that it's not, you know, the content area itself that they're experts in is usually pretty boring. So being the top rated speaker at a conference should not be that hard if you understand the principles you and I are talking about right now, having said that, what I did is I became a collector of stories. That's how I see myself just a collector of stories. So I see the whole world through the lens of human connection, because that's my specialty. And so what I do is every day, I, whether it's something on TV, or in a movie, whether it's an article I read, or a post, I saw on social media a conversation I overheard walking through the world, which hasn't happened for the last year. Anything that I noticed, that has any kind of a story associated with it at all, I just jot it down in my phone, I have, like 1000s of notes. In it just like called like story ideas or blog ideas or something like that in my in my phone. And a lot of times if I'm by myself, or if I can, I'll talk through it, I'll hit the record button. On a note, it's way better. For me, voice memos are great, because you don't just capture the story of the thing you saw. But you can talk like five times faster than you can type or whatever, three to five times faster than you can type. So you get it out quicker. And you capture the the emotion, the rhythm, the way you felt in that moment, you can always get it transcribed later. So I became a collector of stories. And for me, it was an active process of just notice something new every day, at least notice one new thing every day. And many of them never make it anywhere. They don't get out of my phone. But anytime I'm feeling stuck, or if I'm working on a new presentation, I won't get to a point in writing out a new presentation go, I need a story here. Let me go find one of my phone, what I'll do is I'll stare at the blank page. And then I'll just open up that thing on my phone and just start scrolling and just see the titles of the notes that I've written and one of them will jump out at me. I'll go What was that now read it or listen to it now go. Ah, that was cool. I wonder where that would fit? Would that be any you wouldn't be useful here? What does that make me feel? And that's my process. So I started with a deliberate, active approach. And it has just become intuitive over years of doing it like any other practice. It's not nobody's born with this, like, I got a six month old. He doesn't know how to do this. Like, people think that some people are just gifted storytellers? No, it's a practice. It's a it's a skill.


Francisco Mahfuz 27:24

Your approach is very similar to mine, I find that, although I've I know many different ways to look for stories, and some work very well. I much prefer your approach. And my approach is write them down. Like anything that seems remotely interesting, write it down, because it's a lot easier to have stories, and then figure out what point you can make with them what emotions you can tap by talking about by telling them then to try and strategically look for a story. And I find that this is the perhaps the biggest challenge with most people that I work with, is the finding of the stories. Because if you get them talking about stuff that they know, they can tell the story, they might not tell it very well. But it's much easier to craft a story that that is interesting into something better than say, Okay, well, you seem to be able to tell them well, you just need to find them now. And people start going I've got no ideas. And it's not an easy process. I think even for people that are used to if I say to you, okay, Brian, you need to find me a story about, you know, a leader doing some of it's a pain, yes, I can Google stuff, but it's Yeah, to go through your memory that way.


Brian Miller 28:38

And, and the other problem with that, on top of it being incredibly difficult to do, which it is, and which is why you and I have this other process, which works much better. But on top of that, the other problem is, if you go find a story for a point you're trying to make you have no idea if that story will be interesting or engaging to an audience. Whereas when you do it the other approach that we're talking about, I know, pretty sure that any story that caught my eye or caught my ear enough to write it down will be interesting to somebody else. Because if it was interesting to me, we're not that different. Yeah, we've got different preferences, and not every story is for every person, whatever. But if it caught my eye caught my ear, there's a much higher chance that it will be engaging to somebody else as well that will capture them as well the way it captured me.


Francisco Mahfuz 29:30

Okay, so you talked about how different we are supposedly are. And there's there's one other question I had with regards to magic and how I've seen you describe magic. So I've seen you talk about magic and I think what you said was that within the magician in the audience, you have to be different because if you know the same things, there is no possibility of magic magician teaching doing to another magician that knows the trick that there is nothing there. So there is there is a clear there And I think your line was that you have to create connections or you create connections with magic because of the differences, and not in spite of the differences. I heard that. And I thought, That's interesting, because to me, that sounds like the opposite starting point into story. Because stories, are we not different when it is you believing that we're not different. And you're going to use a story to highlight that we're not different to find that point of connection. I think at the end, you still get to that point, that shared space with magic, but they are different starting points, I think, or they can be.


Brian Miller 30:41

Yeah, I mean, you know, it's interesting that the the reason that I talk about it like that, so the from the context of magic, right, as you said, if I'm trying to do magic for another magician, they know all the same stuff I do, I can't, I can't do magic for them, I can't inspire them, create wonder for them, I can't do any of that, because they know exactly what I know, which means magic literally doesn't work for them. And I use that analogy to the wider space of human connection that we we connect with people like like you said, not in spite of our differences, but because of them. It's because we have so many different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, religions, languages, ideologies, experiences, it's because of that, that we can actually form something bigger than itself. If you and I both grew up in basically the same town with new the same people with the same socio economic status with the same score the same teachers, it's not a lot of place for you and I to build something new, or at least, we got to work a lot harder, because we both know on the same stuff we're coming, if every time I say something to you, you go, I agree, nothing happens, right? It's really boring. It's why most grad schools have a hard rule against hiring their own doctoral candidates, when they give a PhD, they don't hire that person, even though they loved them so much, they gave them a PhD. Because then the it's like intellectual inbreeding, essentially, like the same ideas just keep getting passed on forever and ever. And so you need to have somebody who got a PhD, go to some other university where they have different ideas, who never would have approved that thesis. Because that's where new ideas come from. And I think that that's, that's the thing, nobody, when I told the story of doing trying to do magic for a blind guy in a restaurant, no one in my audiences anywhere, will be able to relate to that completely different perspective. But by the end of the story, everybody realises that in spite of all of our differences, the core of that story, was trying to connect with somebody where we didn't immediately or intuitively understand their point of view, trying to find a way to bridge that gap. Everybody has had their own version, within all of their own perspectives and their own stories, has had moments where they've been embarrassed or frustrated, because they didn't know how to connect with somebody that was from such a different worldview. That's what the story was about, even though our starting point and the story I told, you could never have associated with, apart from it, you had to be me.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:15

And so that that story was, to a great extent, a personal one, it's something you experienced yourself. But the story you mentioned earlier about Calvin and Hobbes and and a lot of stuff that I've seen you talk about during the podcast or on the blog, you are telling stories that are not only not yours, but they're not really personal stories, they're not, you know, individually in the world, leaving their normal lives there, you know, companies and artists and famous people are very strange things. Because I, you know, I don't think you're hiding this terribly well. But But we both know that, you know, we are we come from Nerd lens. And that comes through at times.


Brian Miller 33:53

Oh, yeah. It's not it's not hidden. That's for sure. It's not even attempting to be hidden.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:57

So do you have any particular preference of you know, this type of story for this type of moment? Or is it just Well, I found this one, I like it, and I think it fits here, but there's no judgement of it to do better to tell a story about parenting here, other than a story about Calvin and Hobbes.


Brian Miller 34:14

Oh, that's, I feel like those were two kind of two different questions. I'm trying to figure out where it was a good chance. Yeah, yeah. Well, it's because I was thinking about giving a speech versus writing a public blog are very different things. Right. So so that the second question and you may need to kind of remind me exactly what those two questions were there. But the second one was more to the point of kind of writing in public or telling stories and pilots on my blog, have no idea who's going to be reading a general sense of who reads right, but I don't have any idea could be anybody, especially when you post it on social media. There. I spend a lot more time telling, like you said, either stories of companies or historical events or something Something weird I read about that happened once, you know something, I overheard something like that something that's less a little bit less personal because you don't have to know me, then you could have never heard me maybe you comment on one of them. So the people that you follow that follow you on LinkedIn then see it. So if it's really about me and my story, it'd be much harder for, you know, twice removed three times removed people to get in to get into my work. So I'm going for more accessible stories there. When I'm on stage, when I'm the speaker that the audience is there for, I'm mostly going to tell personal stories, but but not always. And I think the best way to explain this kind of talk a little bit about the way the process I actually teach for giving TEDx talks, because I don't think you'll have heard this before. No, it's a little it's kind of quote proprietary, in terms of this is like my approach. So there's two different kinds of, of stories that I have pretty much all my speakers tell in their TEDx talk, the personal story, and the the non personal story. Now the thing is this, the personal story, the one that's about you, the hero's journey you're going to tell about yourself, is how you get the audience to be emotionally invested in who you are. And to get them to understand why you're the one worth listening to about this talk about this topic, right? So you're going to structure and this is usually the cold open in a TEDx talk, the opening story, it gets the audience know who you are, what you've gone through to care about you be invested in you and believe that you're worth listening to on this topic. That's where you're the hero of the story, you are the hero of your story. But the audience has to be the hero of your talk, right? There's a difference make sense there. You're the hero of your story, but the audience has to be the hero of your talk. A lot of people have trouble with that they go, Well, how do I do those two things at the same time. And I call this the nested approach that you're going to imagine two concentric circles, the inner circle is your story, where you're the hero of your story, the outer circle you we nest that story within the full talk, where the story of the full talk makes the audience the hero. And so what your story does is get them to understand you as the mentor, figure, the Yoda figure, right? The the guide, right, which you and I both know from classical storytelling, and then you structure the entire talk, where you're just the mentor part of it, you started the whole talk around making the audience, the hero and that when you're going when you expand from that out to the wider talk is when you need to shift from personal story to other types of stories, especially if you don't know exactly, there's lots of different perspectives in the audience, even if I'm speaking to one companies, one department, still different backgrounds, belief systems experiences. So I'm going to go for a few different types of anecdotes or stories, they're kind of shotgun approach to make sure that anybody who's listening can see themselves as the hero of the talk, after I've used my story to get them invested in it.


Francisco Mahfuz 38:10

Yes, one, one way of explained, what you just described, is that storytelling, when you know, outside of a personal context, you're not telling a story to your friends, you know, telling stories, your family, if you're telling it in a business context, or or in a public speaking context, that storytelling needs to be intentional, or it needs to be strategic. What are you trying to do with that story? So I want the audience to like me, and to think I'm credible to talk about this. So that first story needs to bridge that gap. So why should they listen to you? And why should they listen to you on this topic. But as soon as you've gotten that done, you know, that I think might have been presented. And that said that that talk is a gift that you're giving to the audience, if you don't switch that from, this is my story. This is what I've achieved that what I've learned to this is why you should care about this, this is how you are going to use this is how it affects your life, then, you know, you're not done what you're there to do. Yeah,


Brian Miller 39:16

there's literally a line in my TEDx talk where I hit this on the nose, as obviously you can I think this is a point in most people's talks where you should be obvious and you should not bury this where there's literally a transition moment about a third of the way through the talk, right where it should be right where we know, after I've told the interest story, and then I essentially say and here's what we're going to be learning about today. And here's why I care about it. Then there's a line where I go, but you're not magicians. So how does this apply to you? Why should you care? I think I actually said in the talk, why should you care about this? You're not magicians, that tells the audience I am now going to flip the script from what we've been doing about me to why this is important. Why this is right. relevant to you. And you can literally just go through your script and change every I to you, or at least we, anytime you can use you, or at least we instead of I, you're in much better shape.


Francisco Mahfuz 40:13

So we might have answered the question in the beginning, because part of the question was where do you choose to use the personal story versus the the non personal story? So one part of it is obviously, what are you trying to do? And a non personal story is not going to necessarily do that right at the beginning. But is there any other criteria in your mind, see what I'm thinking more about? Speaking, or, or telling stories in a live context or an online context, not written, no writing? I think the written form is very different. And I think you get away a lot more easily. With a it's harder to get away with a personal story, if they had no idea who you are, if the first thing that ever coming across is that piece of writing, I think you'd have to work a lot harder to to do for the personal stories to have the same impact.


Brian Miller 41:02

You have to really craft the hook to be so interesting that it doesn't matter who you are, but they want to learn about what happens next. Yeah, you have to be really impactful right away.


Francisco Mahfuz 41:13

Yeah. Well, it's interesting, because you when you were talking about when you use them, and and I think I hadn't thought of it this way. But the medium, I think the medium where we we would have evolved to connect seems seem to seems to give itself more easily to the personal story, because that that's what we would have done right, we would have been telling personal stories, whereas a medium that is arguably colder, like writing doesn't as much, I mean, eventually can tell personal stories and in writing. But if you have no picture that goes with it, there's no video that goes with it. There's nothing, it's just the the board's.


Brian Miller 41:53

Yeah. And that's when you know, if you're writing a blog or something on a regular basis, that's where I feel like you can tell, I don't know exactly how often I do it, I don't I don't track that. As you know, from our personal conversations, I don't care about metrics at all, I don't look, I don't check stats around analytics, I just do my work. But I think I probably tell a personal story for every six or seven blogs about once every five or six blogs, maybe I tell a personal story, the rest of them are all the stories of other things. And then just me relating human connection to that in some way, drawing a point out of it. And that's just the way that I I write blogs. But I think that if people get really into it, the people that read every week, once in a while, they do want to know more about you. That's how they're building a deeper relationship with you. But you're probably not going to capture new people with the personal story in a blog. Whereas on stage, I'm all you got. You're in the audience, I got the mic, the lights are on me. And if you're going to sit with me for the next hour, you need to care about me, or there, you know, are you going to tune out and you're going to be bored. So it's not just for me as a storyteller, again, to our earlier to the very beginning of this conversation, it's for them, I need to open with a personal story, because they need to care about me, or at least believe like you said that I'm credible that I'm trustworthy to listen to for an hour or 90 minutes. It's a huge ask.


Francisco Mahfuz 43:17

Yeah, and something else that I think is important for a lot of people to understand when it comes to the personal versus non personal is that depending on the context, maybe all you need is the personal stories. For example, if you are promoting yourself as or supposedly you are an expert, then you can have a whole bunch of stories of you doing the work where you're supposed to be an expert on, you don't necessarily need to talk about a whole bunch of other companies that have done that. But if you're trying to sell an idea, so for example, if I'm talking about storytelling, which is what I talk about me telling personal stories, so I can prove that I'm a good storyteller does does a tiny bit. But if I can never tell stories of how other people and how other companies have used storytelling successfully, then then I'm not getting my point across necessarily. If I'm trying to convince your organisation there is value in this. And this is not just me telling you that I need stories that are not my stories that show that that works. So it shows that you My case is storytelling as the is the thing I'm trying to convince you of that there's value and not the way I convince you that it has value. Yeah.


Brian Miller 44:29

And that just made me think of that just jogged my memory of exactly where personal stories don't work or don't don't work as well as what you just said, which is telling other people's stories, which is the the world of it's like the MLM world of online coaches and Facebook ads, that world where every single online coach and I believe in coaching, I have coaches and all that stuff. But that's not the kind of coaching I'm talking about. I'm talking about the coaches who coach coaches to coach coaches to coach coaches right It's It's turtles all the way down problem, that nobody's doing any real work. It's an MLM. So when you see those Facebook ads, the coaches always telling you the story about how they never used to be able to get clients. And they never used to be able to sell their courses until they finally cracked the code. And then they tell you this whole thing, and then they made a billion dollars in two months. And they did it without ads, even though you're watching an ad about it. And they did it without ads. And then here sign up for my masterclass at the end. And if you've ever done this, and I do it on every one of them, because it's a fun thing I do. If you've ever commented on any of those ads and asked the person, Hey, before your business was coaching coaches, what did you do? What business did you have successfully, that you used this formula that you use this process for? And then they block you. That's what happens every time. And the reason they block you is because they only have a personal story of it working for them selling you the thing that they're selling you right now. They don't have stories of how they helped their client learn this process to sell cat pyjamas, you know, in in Mexico, you know, to me, like they don't,


Francisco Mahfuz 46:09

you could have gotten four cats. I don't know.


Brian Miller 46:16

I was reading. But you know, like, if you're gonna sell me on why this process works for whatever you got to tell me about other people who've done it in lots of varied industries. Otherwise, if it only worked for you selling me the thing that you're selling me right now, that's not helpful. That's where the personal story breaks down. And where what you do is so effective on LinkedIn, you're you, you prove that you know what you're doing with storytelling, by telling other people's stories. So well, it's really effective.


Francisco Mahfuz 46:44

Thank you for that. And because I know we're coming up to the end of our time, I wanted to just read an idea by you, which we're not gonna have time to get into properly. But you were talking earlier about how we can give people facts and statements. And these things don't work. I've said this a tonne of times. It just, it just doesn't do what you think it does. It makes you sound grownups supposedly. But that's not how human beings actually communicate. That's not how you get ideas across. And in. And when we inspire people to action. And I, I got taken back to, to when I was younger, and we didn't have access to the music that we have now. So I was just at the end of vinyl, but I still got cassette tapes, and then I got the CDs, and I didn't have much money growing up. And they were expensive in Brazil, at least. So you would buy one. And you now felt stuck with this thing for the next at least weeks, maybe months, and you'd listen to it. But more important than listening to over and over is that you would listen to the whole thing. So you got the whole, to call it the whole narrative of what the album was. Whereas if you just listen to one song, you might like it, you might not like it, there's a chance that you're not going to get the same impact from that one song, that if you had this into the whole thing, and for sure, it's not going to stay with you. And an either to think of it as as you know, the whole fact is a fact by itself or statistic by itself might be impactful. But it's not. That wasn't designed that way. So it works in spite of of how you're accessing that information. But it's not because of it. That's not how music was meant to work.


Brian Miller 48:37

And I wholeheartedly agree, mentioning


Francisco Mahfuz 48:39

that I have been listening for the last three days to the moon lattice, which is a band I believe you are aware of.


Brian Miller 48:46

I am aware of them. It's so funny. I had no idea where you're going with that. Yes, that's my brother's band out in Seattle. They're prog rock superstars in an age that doesn't listen to prog rock. They're incredible, aren't


Francisco Mahfuz 48:56

they? They're very good. I prog rock is not even my thing. But


Brian Miller 48:59

it's not mine either. I would never listen to it if it wasn't my brother. But I mean, they're, they're Yeah, they're they're prodigies over there.


Francisco Mahfuz 49:08

Between the moonlighters and askers Enigma that's got it in


Brian Miller 49:15

my mind is very basic compared to my brothers. But to that point, though, it's so funny cuz you and I are just so similar because I last year, maybe the year before I wrote a blog, it's one of my favourite blogs I ever wrote. And it was very, very short was called vinyl communication. And it was literally exactly about that it was a blog I wrote about getting into vinyl for the first time. What pretty much ever in my life. It's like when I was little I wasn't into vinyl, it was just music, right? So like I got into vinyl a year or two ago. And the best thing about getting into vinyl is what you said which is I'm literally discovering stuff about albums I've heard all my life 1000s of times that I never because there's songs did I just skip them songs I just skip we can't skip the song. So not only do you have to listen listen to the songs that even you think you don't like. And it turns out, we do like these when I'm forced to listen to it. And then I'm forced to listen to it in the context the artist originally intended with what you just said, which is, if I had, if I opened my magic shows with the Calvin and Hobbes story, everybody would fall asleep. It's too much, it's too heavy, it doesn't have context, you don't get what I'm all about yet. But when it comes to the end, where you've gone through the whole show, we've gone through a kind of a narrative arc together via magic tricks via laughter via something very kind of superficial. But we've gone through an arc, you've got a sense for me, even with my little one liners here and there of who I am and what I stand for. By the time I get there. It's a pin drop, and they'll give me 12 minutes of undivided attention to tell a story. And so I yeah, I think that you're really, it's really important that not only do facts and statistics and studies and research, they have their place, but they need to be in the right place. And they need to come in the right order. The order matters. I recently wrote a blog called the order of operations. It I got a math degree. And it's not just math where that matters. The order you do things in really matters, the story you open with, versus the story, you close with the stats you give the way you give anecdotes in the middle, what transition to use, and when a really matter one switch, try switching one line for a different line in your speech, you know, and just see what happens you magician's will do that we used to do that all the time ago. I wonder what would happen if I did this trick before that trick? You do? And you go, wow, completely different impact. You know, and maybe it's what you want. Maybe it's not but like, it really matters.


Francisco Mahfuz 51:44

Well, stories work and to enter to mention something I heard from you recently that I really like that. And that apparently you're bad that your favourite review of all time in from your book is someone who read it and said, I know conversational kung fu. So obviously, the matrix line I know, show me that one of the greatest themes of scenes of the movies of all times. And then that's how I think of it and I will start using this now. Storytelling is communication. Kung Fu.


Brian Miller 52:12

Yeah, yeah, that's exactly what it is. It's it's, it's awesome.


Francisco Mahfuz 52:16

And man, and now you have to go right out. I know, you're everywhere.


Brian Miller 52:20

I got a, we got a couple minutes if you can wrap it up. But yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 52:25

so you were everywhere. But if you want, what is the best entry point for people to come across more of your stuff? I've mentioned the podcast I mentioned, the TED talk, I'll list out I'll link those up is where do you want people to go to look, look for


Brian Miller 52:37

you. Great. Okay, so depends on what kind of person you are. If you're listening to this, and you really, really write because it matters. If you're listening to this, and you're really interested in that that TEDx Talk aspiring TEDx speaker, you are even you just want to get better at that kind of storytelling, go to conquer the red dot.com conquer the red.com. I'm I my current session is in session. I don't have an active group right now. But you can get a tonne of resources where I go deep into the stuff you heard me talk about here, all free there. And then you'll be on the waiting list if you ever want to jump into the next round of the group. So conquer the red.com. And if you're just interested in kind of my work in human connection, and you want to see how I use storytelling in my blog, in my writing and that kind of stuff. That's human connection dot blog.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:24

Okay, I think we did it this time. I think we?


Brian Miller 53:28

I think we did, man. This is good. I really enjoyed this. I would like to do this. I wish we could do an ongoing series about storytelling, because this is great.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:38

I'm sure I'm sure we can we can manage them for you if we try hard enough. But if not, I'll just bring you back every 50 episodes.


Unknown Speaker 53:44

Wonderful. That sounds perfect.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:47

Brian, thank you very much. I know you and I could talk for hours, but you now have a family to attend to. So thank you very much for time,


Brian Miller 53:54

man. Thanks for having me back. It's pleasure. Alright,


Francisco Mahfuz 53:57

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


I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or 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 tap. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find this. 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



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