Search
  • Francisco Mahfuz

E57. Pitch Like A Crocodile Wrestler with Martin Barnes



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 too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Martin Barnes. Martin is a pitch coach with 20 years experience in London and Beijing working with tech companies, CEOs, Hollywood A listers and director boards. His clients include Google BMW, China accelerator, Angel hack and the NBA. Now, this might be the last podcast I ever record. Because Martin and I have been trying to do this for weeks are both of us have perfect Internet connections. But both times we tried, our connections got suspiciously bad and got cut off many times. Just some tech mishaps. Bad luck, or is it the powers that be trying to stop us from getting this message out? If you never hear from me again? You know the answer. Ladies and gentlemen, Martin valance. Malta, welcome to the show.


Martin Barnes 2:04

Hello, Francisco. So lovely to be here for the third time. Third time's a charm. Very much. Hopefully


Francisco Mahfuz 2:09

that is the case. Yes.


Martin Barnes 2:11

Great intro. Excellent.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:14

And talking about great interest. You have a very particular way you introduce yourself to people when they ask what you do. And I believe you use this in presentations as well. Can you please share that?


Martin Barnes 2:28

Absolutely. So when people ask me what I do, I tell them I'm a crocodile wrestler.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:33

Okay, go on.


Martin Barnes 2:36

Exactly. That's exactly the response I'm looking for. And that's what it feels like being the father of three year old twins. So in the morning, when I'm getting them out of bed, getting them dressed on the way to school, they are literally crawling all over me. She wants to wear what she's wearing, she wants to wear what she's wearing, it's a nightmare. They can like split disappear into two different directions. Just getting anything done is exhausting. And I remember sort of finally getting them dressed to just sitting on the bed going like crocodile wrestling. And then I had this little sort of, and you know, when you sort of see here, you're very good at saying you have to see the stories around you. And that was a moment when I was like, ah, that's what it feels like. And if I can share that feeling, then I can catch people's attention. And so once I've talked about my kids a little bit, I then say I am a pitch coach. And I help you catch attention by telling little stories, which are going to sort of really resonate with your audience. And so far, it's working really well. I get a lot of first replies. People go How are the crocodiles and so that little sort of intro story is very simple. It's like a short sentence becomes the next step in a in a bigger conversation.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:46

That is one of the best ways to to know that whatever you're using in your marketing to know that it's working is when it comes back to you so I A while back, I was talking to a guy called James Lorraine on the podcast about headlines and social media headlines. And his his his a technical copywriter and his headline is, I can explain tech to my mum. I thought that if he said I can explain tech to your mom, you changed that subject here completely but but he said that one of the ways he knows that that that tagline or the headline is amazing is because a lot of people that approached him to potentially work together say I need you to explain tech to my mom or you know it's not my mom that angel to explain tech to it's my client is my customers or whatever I use on social media I use become more interesting, the Netflix and I get a tonne of comments on that people say Oh, I love that, you know, I don't think you can become more insistent on Netflix. So yes, it's a great way to just changes things up by adding a lot of colour to it and you start that movie in the person's brain when you give them something a lot more visual a lot more interesting, which is you know, essentially It's just a metaphor. And metaphors are the tiniest version of a story as people like to think of them. But talking about stories, one thing that came out, when we were talking the last times in our aborted attempts to get this going, one of the things we found out was that outdoors, I've seen you talk about starting pitchers and presentations with a story, we figured out that that wasn't exactly what you were doing. You know, can you? Can you clarify what great realisation you and I have come to after the the first the first or second attempt?


Martin Barnes 5:39

Absolutely. And it was such a great conversation. And I love talking to other sort of pitch people presentation people, storytellers because we've all got different approaches. And through our conversation, I really reflected on the idea of what is storytelling. And then what are, as you said, story elements and story structures. And I fully appreciate that I'm not like a true true true storyteller. I haven't read a book. Not all of my social media posts catch a lot of attention, even though that's what I say I do in pitches, I think that a pitch in a post a little bit different. And I think there's story elements where you can reveal and discuss things in slightly more interesting ways than just sort of doing data drops, where you're coming in with hard facts and lots of information and too much context. Whereas the story obviously has a real flow and a structure that's been developed over over the whole of human existence, you know, right from the caves to having a sort of online core. And I think that where you take it and a lot of other great people take it is adding all of the recipe elements of ethos, pathos, what's the third one? Logos, logos? Yes.


Francisco Mahfuz 6:54

So for anyone who doesn't know what we're talking about logos is the Greek word for logic, or the closest thing to its ethos is credibility. And pathos, or Pafos is emotion. So we always say that, if you're this is this comes up a lot in public speaking, you know, you need to be credible. So you need ethos, you need to make sense, logos, and you need to move people emotionally


Martin Barnes 7:16

buffers. Exactly. And those are the elements that go into these amazing stories. But they're quite hard to handle, even for people who've read the books and sort of claim that they are like storytellers, they don't always get it right. And I think that it's it's like climbing these mountains of experience and ability. So a lot, a lot of people are just at the base of a mountain and they go into a pitch or a presentation. And they just start dropping information and technical data, because it's their comfort zone. And where I take it with story story elements is to sort of say, Okay, well, how can we actually sort of just simplify that a little bit, and maybe just explain it, but explain it with a little bit of a human angle. And then I think where it goes to the higher level, and you talk about it in your book, and a lot of other great public speakers is when you're really taking people on a journey, because they feel all of the elements and they're incredibly well placed, that the journey is a pleasure and that people lean into the journey, and they're using minimum effort to be there with you. Whereas the opposite is in a presentation. That's not totally any type of story elements will structure the efforts on the audience, because the presenters just go, we've built this sort of technology that does X Y, Zed, but they don't elaborate. And so the audience is kind of going, I have no point of reference, I have no starting point, I have no in for me, and I'm doing all the heavy lifting, which is not really a great presentation.


Francisco Mahfuz 8:44

Okay, so there's got a lot of stuff to unravel there. Let me just pick up on something you said right at the beginning, because I think you were perhaps slightly unfair on yourself, at least in in one way. You are talking about how your posts don't necessarily get a tonne of engagement on social media. And one thing that I think is very important to realise is that content, or you know how captivating you can be with your content is part of that for sure. But there's a tonne of other stuff when it comes to social media, at least LinkedIn, which is the one I'm more familiar with, that has nothing to do with your content, because I can guarantee you if you get the greatest video that anyone has ever put on on social media, or the greatest return post, that in the hands of someone who has a large community, any engaged community might be, you know, 5000 views 10,000 views or, or more in the hands of someone who doesn't have those things. It could be a video that 200 People watch, right? So the reason why some people get a tonne of engagement on social media. Yes, it has to do with content, but its content over time plus community because if you don't have any information Seeing any of those things, and I've just made that up. And it's sounds brilliant, my years, I'm going to try and say that again some other time. But you know, if your content is not very good, you're not gonna get much out of it. If you don't do it over time, it's not one video or one post, it's a, it's a tonne of them. And if you don't have a community to back you up, none of those things are gonna work. So you need all of those things. So I've seen great posts from you and from other people that don't, don't do a lot. And there's too many factors. When you're presenting, I think this is very different. Because typically, you have a list when it was live, we had captive audiences. So the most an audience could really do is let their mind wander, because even picking their phones up in depending on the stick of circumstances is not really polite. So people will be very discreet when they do that. With zoom, that's a bit different. And it's very easy to be impolite with a video call. But when it comes to the live presentations, I think they are you start from a place that you have them until you lose them. And that could only be eight seconds, as you like to call it. The attention span. But But I think that is different when you're talking about things like social media, because you don't have them until you have them you have to stop the scroll, as people call it and stop people scrolling through the feed. And I think these are very different things. Right now back to to watch you actually do because I think we talked about it, but I don't think we described it. So you introduce yourself as the crocodile rest. Now, that is not a story. That is a metaphor. And it's a metaphor that doesn't make sense to a lot of people. You tell people to do something similar when they open their pitches, right?


Martin Barnes 11:48

Exactly. So when I'm working with people, they're often in their founder, like founders startup pitch, whether they're on a demo day talking to investors, they'll sort of come in with lots of anxiousness. They think that they have two or three minutes, six minutes, and they'd have to race through the content as quickly as possible. And so my approach is to sort of say, how can we say something in the first sentence that is going to tune people into the message and take them from where they are in their head a minute before the pitch, to being very present with you in the first 30 seconds and for the remaining session. And I'm actually dyslexic. So I've had sort of quite a lot of issues with reading, writing, attention span execution. And so through my own challenges, I'm always trying to simplify things. And I love sketching, and I love visualising and finding images. And so whenever I'm talking to people who are about to, like launch into their new software, their new tech their new innovations, I'm like, How can we describe this in the simplest way possible, that starts a visual in the mind of your audience. And a lot of these ideas came from a fantastic book called, I think it's Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, and he talks about how images are created in our mind. And I really want people to be able to simplify instead of describing what it is to describe how it works or who it affects because then the audience in their own storytelling capacity in their imagination, from all their experiences, can build their own image of that. And often simple is best I mean, my mom always says keep it simple, stupid, because I'm always over complicating things. And I'm really trying to boil something down to the essence of what it is, which is easy to say. And then also easy to receive. So one example I worked with a tech CEO in China, when there was a massive push on shared bikes. I don't there was a they feel them popped up in Europe, there was a yellow bike, an orange bike, you basically scan it with your phone unlock, like


Francisco Mahfuz 13:58

more Boris bikes, and I think it was the Bories bike in the way. Yeah, the Boris


Martin Barnes 14:02

bikes had the Boris influence, they weren't quite as good as the Chinese ones. And right. So I worked with the CEO, because he was going to do his first English presentation at the AIPAC conference in 2017. And his internal team was just coming up with loads of sort of what I call a wicked PDF pitch. It was just information you could get online. It was very static, it was very data heavy. And again, the audience was having to interpret what that actually meant. So when we work together, I was really trying to find out what the essence of his story or his experiences were. And what we came up with was that he was going to walk on stage, just introduce himself and say, I love bikes, and pause, and then explain that he had the world's biggest collection of yellow bikes. He had 32 million yellow bikes, he owned them all. And what he did with them was he shared them because he believes life is better when you share. And so I pitch that to him once and he just went I want that opening line. And I think it was really powerful because it was emotive, it was visual. And for someone speaking English as their second language was incredibly easy to say. So there's always a danger in your opening line, because there's so much spotlight on that opening moment that you can get tongue tied, even as a sort of native speaker, you can still trip over your words. And I wanted to make sure that he had something that was just easy and had flow, would let the audience kind of go. I get that. Yeah, you love bikes. And what he said in his first sentence, or what people would be referring to, as he started to stack more of his experiences, his insights and his stories.


Francisco Mahfuz 15:41

Yeah. So it's interesting how our brains not necessarily, you know, different people, but you and I, we work in slightly different ways, right? So I hear that and I immediately start thinking, what if he said, I hate bikes. And then he proceeds to talk about all these bikes, he has it all the space they take up and how much maybe his wife annoys him about all these bikes and what he's gonna do with them. You know, and then either he can always deliver later, like, I actually love bikes. I love that. That's why I have so many of them. But now they're causing me so much problem. So many problems are started with hate them. And this is why, you know, but yeah, so. So one thing we talked about earlier was this difference between what you what you're doing, which is you often just having that sort of hook for attention, or some people in the NBA or work with, they call it a grabber, which I think is a good name as well. Or sometimes it's just the metaphor. And I think the major difference between the the metaphor type of approach, like the crocodile wrestler, in a story, is that a story is always about change. It doesn't matter if the story is 30 seconds long or 10 minutes long or an hour long. Something by the end of that story needs to be different. You think in a different way you feel in a different way. So that something has to change, for it to be a story otherwise is just, you know, you're relating events that happened. Some people probably call that an anecdote, right? Whereas a metaphor is not that a metaphor is just, you, we're tapping into all this knowledge and associations that people have in their minds about these things you're describing. And sometimes they'll make immediate sense. Like when you say, the Achilles heel, you know, my Achilles heel, and most people understand that it's your biggest it's your weakness, sometimes your own supposedly your only weakness. You don't need to know the original Greek tale to understand that because it's just become common parlance. But when you say crocodile wrestler, people go, I didn't just are there crocodile tears. Does that mean? I shared one recently where my daughter told me no out of the blue. So this is, you know, just 830 in the morning, and I say something to her. And she laughs She looks at me and says, Daddy, you are funnier than a snake. And I love that but I had no idea what you meant by that. It's like what you mean funnier than a snake? Is this sort of like backhanded backhanded compliment, or is it You're offending me, really? And then I said, What are its snakes funny? And she says, Oh, yeah, we went to the Animal Farm, you know, the other day and there was a, there was an exotic animals bottom that has Nico's climbing up the arms of the handler. And, and that was essentially what she thought his name was hilarious because the snake was doing that, but apparently I'm funnier than a snake. So that approach is a really interesting one. But that's only part of it. So you do that. That's the sort of the story element you're using. There is the triggering of the visitor visualisations and all of that stuff. But there's a whole bunch of other stuff you do with pitching and presenting and that I wanted to talk to you about. So one of them is I've seen you describe that in order to get to that story, or that opening line or that metaphor, you ask people, I don't know if it's as many as 880 questions, or it's 80 questions. So give me give me an example of a few, maybe two or three that you think are usually your go twos are the ones that get you more results.


Martin Barnes 19:16

Excellent. Yeah. So trying to figure out what that is. It always comes down to your audience and your goals. And so I have I have like a library list of 80 odd questions that I sort of cherry pick from based on my whoever I'm working with. And with discovery questions, I think a lot of people use discovery questions, diagnosis questions. And it's sort of just saying, Who are you talking to? What are you trying to achieve? And then how long do you have? So the basic parameters, and then working with corporations or people who have sort of higher level stakeholders, as we're saying, Well, who are you actually communicating to? What's going to stop them from making a decision or what's going to let them make a decision? Talk about then the five W's, the real classics who, what, when, where and why they are timeless, because they just help you start to unpack and dig deeper, and then start to make connections and associations between all of the different tangible elements. But really the core is like your audience's goals, your audience, understanding who they are, and then your goals. So for example, I sent we both worked with the NBA, I've worked with them in China. And I sent them a pitch on a Monday, and it was a PDF. And I got a reply in three days. And the pitch had 70 words in it, and it had a very simple cover email. And it was another analogy, like I love analogy. So the first slide said, pitching is like four quarters. And it was a photograph of a tip off of a game. And then I sort of unpacked how pitching and basketball are very similar. And that was actually based off a presentation I made six months before called pitching is like surfing. And if I'd sent pitching is like surfing to the NBA, they would have looked at and God with his idiot next. But because I modified the story I maybe what the content, I modified a few words and a lot of the visuals, when they got it, they looked at themselves. And they saw themselves in my message. And my discovery questions help you do that they help you figure out what parts of what you're trying to share, are most relevant to your audience. And I have on my website, a link with like, 20 of my discovery questions that we can share with the audience later, you know, going through those questions, and I go through them and people look at me, like, why are we asking these dumb questions, but it's actually just turning over your ideas, and you have to sort of warm people up. And I might ask slightly repetitive questions with gaps in between. So I'll ask it at 10 minutes, and something very similar at 20 minutes to see how their thoughts have changed over our conversation. And then what I find 90% of the time is it's often the things that people say, as throwaway lines, as we're finishing the meeting, or somebody who sat there silently for an hour, pipes up with something and you're like that is gold, that is our starting point. And you have to go through that process to uncover the things that people don't normally say, because people are so good at just reciting the same information as a website, or just kind of offer. Here we go. Again, I'm just going to go through the features and the benefits. But you have to go below that, and really dig in to find the ideas that give you the simple explanation of what it really is.


Francisco Mahfuz 22:40

Yeah, I believe you called that collecting the edges, right?


Martin Barnes 22:43

Yeah, yeah. Or picking the scraps off the floor. I think one of somebody in a book said, you know, you take things that you may have edited out before you can pick up and they might be an amazing seed of a new starting point.


Francisco Mahfuz 22:55

One of the most important things you said in that description is that is ready describing the NBA pitch. I find it very interesting, because you can what you done is almost the opposite of what I often tell people stories are about. So a lot of people tend to think that the story is about what happens in the story. And I always say no, it's not the story is about how it made you feel how it changed you. That's what you're going to relate to. It's not it's not that you are jumping out of an aeroplane, it's not that you had a car crash is not that you climbed Everest as a typical example. It's about how that made you feel. Because that's what's the relatable part. It's not the the actual facts and the actual events of the story. But having said that, if the story can, if what happens in the story is actually very closely related to the audience and to the world that the audience leaves in. And you can still extract some type of analogy from it or lesson from it, then it's so much better. Because you know, if you can talk about basketball with basketball people, then there is already a resonance between the context and they don't think you're a complete weirdo. Like, why are you telling me about surf? Or it doesn't you know, surf would be as extreme because it's, it's another sport, and it's not theirs. But this is a resistance that a lot of people have with using storytelling in things like business, is that, you know, why? Why would you possibly tell someone about something that happened with your children? And people think that that's a problem that other people are gonna think it's weird that it's inappropriate. It's not, but a lot of people have that resistance. So if you actually have a story that happens in a similar context, that your audience, the head of your audience, in your audience context, then that's, that's perfectly fine and can be even better. The other thing you said was how you the answer people give you at the end of those questions is not the same answer they would have given you at the beginning. I noticed As more and more and more people who produce constantly, particularly things like books, or stories or posts on social media, or you know, people that as Seth Godin calls it, ship it on a regular basis, we start knowing ourselves a little bit better. Because we are standing over experiences and trying to figure out, why did I do that? What happened over there? And people that don't, that are not living in an examined life, they don't really know until you ask them the questions. And they go, ah, actually, this is important to me, or that had happened that has happened to me, I haven't thought about this in years, just because they're not digging through their brain constantly trying to find some useful or interesting content. So they just don't know what's there until you shake it loose by by a million questions.


Martin Barnes 25:53

Absolutely, that we're so busy that we don't often sit back and reflect, or we don't sort of ponder and wonder about why things happened. We don't let you know the what you've said it loads of times, it really resonates. It's like, you've got to see the stories around you. And if you're sort of too busy living your life, getting through your task to do less delegating, sort of scanning social media, you're just absorbing, absorbing, absorbing, but you're not slowing down, reflecting. And I think like writing, journaling, whether you're writing for a blog post, whether you're just writing to clear your head or working on a book, those things just really help you get more familiar with, with what you're trying to articulate, or what's you know, I often think about ideas like a goldfish floating around swimming around in your head. And so I have 1000s of sketchbooks, from my art school days. And then I got onto an iPad. And the first thing I wanted to do with my iPad back in 2012, we start sketching on it. So I've got like, I know, 200 100 page, sketchbooks on my iPad, just full of notes, doodle sketches, and I would just sort of sit there for hours, just sort of learning the tools and also practising drawing and thinking about just getting stuff out of my head. Because if you keep it in your head, it's just swimming around nibbling your attention, and exhausting you. And that doesn't allow you as we've just been saying to, to see the potential of the experiences that you have. And then to know that their story or their story elements that you could use in a professional context, to speed up and simplify because you're sharing something that people can relate to and with crocodile rested, for example. So I say I'm a crocodile wrestle I pause for longer than normal people say what does that mean? And I say it feels like having kids. And people have kids? Oh, yeah, I have the same. So we have a little conversation about kids. If someone sort of goes, Oh, okay. And I hopped over that we don't need to talk about kids, because it's not something that they can relate to. And then we just get straight into their pitching challenges. And I think like just slowing it down, and widening your perception and your eyes and your ears, to the stories that you are creating every day through challenges, failures and successes. And then using a lot of say, ideas from your book and other people about how to then share those so that we can see the transformation. And see where we started, what we experienced and how we changed that is a lot of effort, but incredibly rewarding. And I think you know, the more people can do that. And another thing I sort of say is that we were born to pitch, it's in our DNA. So I tell it, I tell myself a story about cave paintings being the world's first ever PPT slide. So I imagined in the cave, the guy that sort of put the pigment on the wall and drew the buffaloes in the mountains in the hunters. He then pulled in the rest of the community and said, This is what we've got to do. And they sort of sat there go, alright, I can see. So we've got to hunt him and trap him and you're going to throw the spear, you're going to do the final blow, you're going to carry it home. That was a pitch that was a startup immunity, solving a problem to survive the next season. We've been doing it forever. We just kind of forgotten. And I think, you know what we're trying to share is to reawaken people's ability to see stories, share stories, receive stories, and then think on those for to build their own success


Francisco Mahfuz 29:24

on that example, which I think is a pretty cool one, as I've told you before. You know, storytelling, as everybody talks about goes back all the way to prehistoric times from as soon as we started communicating, we started to telling stories, and a lot of people to talk about storytelling say that it's a common trope to go back because it's true. I mean, it goes back it's, you know, it's evolutionarily is the language of the brain and all of that I say all the time. But as I told you, I hadn't seen anyone compare it to pitching, which I thought was pretty creative. And I think it's even, perhaps even better example than the one you You've just described in the sense that, yes, maybe the cave paintings were the first PowerPoints. But over 100%, that cave man or woman did not do his show it, then turn his back or her back to the audience, and then started describing exactly what was on the cave painting, certainly, they would have been super animated and going, and we're going to go and find a mammoth just like here, here, this is what we're going to do here. So they were using it to back up their storytelling skills and their communication skills. He wasn't, you know, here it is, off you go, do you understand, and I'm just going to describe it exactly what you can see with your own eyes. Now, I think they would have used it as support for the actual pitch for the actual persuasion, which would have come in the form of either a story or some other way, you know, somewhat grunts and hand gestures or whatever is that they did at the time.


Martin Barnes 31:04

100%, you've nailed it, you've just added to that, to that visual, for me, it was a performance, it was it was the backdrop to their performance. I mean, it sort of was, maybe it was the first theatre. So they were there. And they would have had to really emphasise and communicate what they were doing. And like you said, they wouldn't have sort of had a stick with a, like a fire stick and pointed at their bullet points, you know, like, it would have been really animated, I can see it now in my mind, I'm sort of just telling this fantastic story. And I think the beautiful point you've raised is that we've we've sort of lost the power of our presentation slides to be an amplifier for what we really want to communicate, and we get really heavy, I call them brochures, because it's like reading a book or a magazine or an annual report, it's a super dense. And what we're doing at the moment is we're dividing our attention between the speaker who's the focus and the content, which is the background, but the cave paintings were just these beautiful drawings, and imagine they would have been illuminated by firelight, which is sort of quite focused. So they could have shown the animal move down showing the hunters and like directed their audience's attention, using the visuals to to keep focus whilst whatever they however they were verbally communicating would have been the moment. And if we can bring any element of that back to what we're doing professionally, whatever industry, then we're going to have such an impact because the baseline is so static. And even though PowerPoint or whatever tool is incredibly effective, it becomes this sort of slippery slope where you get sort of you fall into the templates that the software offers you. And it gives you three bullet points, you think you have to fill in three bullet points, it's sort of like it's a cookie cutter. And I'm always like, rip that up. Don't bother with that. What is the image that behind you is going to amplify your message and not divide your audience's attention but multiply it so that you're, you're resonating and that is just a bigger power surge of your data point, your bullet point, your text, your image, your icon, whatever it might be, will just make you way more memorable.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:22

You're talking about three bullet points. Which reminds me, let's talk about the three bit mountain for the hell is that? And in summary, what is this a process that you teach people when when you're trying to help them pitch better?


Martin Barnes 33:37

So well, this is the three beat mountain I sketched one in preparation hoping that we would go here. And basically, it's my sort of understanding of how a classic story structure can be adapted for a pitch. So I've just drawn it on a on a legal pad real quick to show people and talk about how simple it is. So it's just sketching a mountain. And it's focusing on encouraging you to focus on three core elements of what you want to communicate. And having an incredibly simple introduction, just your name, and maybe your business or whatever. Just set the context very quickly, a move into something which is going to catch attention so that your audience is sort of tuning in Yeah, I'm with you. We're talking about the medical industry, for example. And then the second beat is once you've established context, you can then start to sort of reveal your expertise and start to build trust so that people are seeing your credentials, seeing your achievements, seeing your innovation, and they know where they know what industries are they you've got their attention, you're building the trust. And then the third beat is be memorable, have a massive stack and bang have gone by so that you're leaving them with something that they're really going to ponder on it starting to sort of eat into Mind the ideas that you've been sharing. And then when you're at the top of the mountain, you then come down with a call to action. So let's have a meeting, ask a question, who can you connect me to? And I'd read the the writers journey, the classic book, I'd sort of started to dig into storytelling a little bit. I did a TEDx Beijing talk in 2010, which was an incredibly powerful moment for me because I did so much wrong, and I wanted to do so much right. And then looking at the the sort of three act play.


Francisco Mahfuz 35:33

Sorry, I have to stop there. Why did you do wrong?


Martin Barnes 35:37

What did I do wrong? I wrote an incredibly complex script for an 80. Okay, stage presentation, I tried to memorise that script. I,


Francisco Mahfuz 35:45

we just should, by the way, you should most people that work with this particularly tad because that they want the script like you cannot improvise, will say that. You know, I heard this from Brian Miller, who I had on the show recently, and he does a whole bunch of TEDx coaching a lot more than I do. And he says, You need to memorise, you don't memorise until you get it right. You memorise until you cannot get it wrong, like something that they could be a fire breaking out on the stage, there is no chance you're going to forget what comes next. Because you've done it so many times, which is different than memorising it word for word for most people. But for Ted, I think that is genuinely what the advice is, is, you know, learned code, because I wouldn't consider that a mistake. The mistake might have been, you didn't memorise it enough, you got to the point where you still sounded a bit robotic, you could do it, but it didn't sound like you. And then you had to go past that point. So it's like I've said this so many times. Now I could say it in my sleep. I could say drunk, I could say it in the shower. I could say singing. That's the point where you raised enough for Ted for most of the presentations don't need to


Martin Barnes 36:53

such a good point. And I mean, I was talking to another friend of mine who's a performer. And he was he's now a voice coach. So he helps you unleash the power of your voice. And he was saying, again, when you're you're learning lyrics for a song you have to, it has to get baked in. So you can do 100 Other things and sing the song perfectly. And so your your sort of insights there have made me realise that actually, when I was in preparation, I was dividing my time between tweaking my slide design and working on my scripts. So I wasn't 100% focused on my script, plus, I had way too many slides. So there were too many things that could go wrong. And one of like, one of them unravelled. And then it went butterfly effect. And I got super nervous, and I was pacing in circles. Because again, I hadn't prepared my body hadn't really prepared my mind, I over prepared my slides, and I hadn't prepared my body. And in the TEDx talk, the most important thing is you, the least important thing is your slides. And that's where I put most of my effort because of my sort of graphic design background. And so yeah, that was that was a monumental experience. I remember standing on stage and my legs started to shake. And I got tunnel vision because of a spotlight and I saw the exit sign. And this little voice went. And I and my leg, sort of, you know, if you've ever been a kid stood on a diving board, and you're the first time up and you're looking over you. And you sort of you motion yourself off, but you don't jump I did that on stage. And I almost bolted, which would have been like, horrific. i But I what I basically did was I just in my mind, I was like, What am I doing, I just ripped up the script that I had over prepared. And I looked at my slides, and I just triggered the stories that I want you to get through. And again, that's not what TED and TEDx won. But I slightly started to improvise. And it got me through and the audience loved it. And it was this massive moment of kind of saying, Wow, presentation moments are incredibly powerful. And if you're not prepared, you're wasting everybody's time, especially your own. And time is non refundable. So you can't get a refund on a bad pitch. As many people who've sat in meetings go Why am I here? You don't get that time back. So it's really the responsibility of the speaker to be as prepared natural and ready to share something which is easy to receive.


Francisco Mahfuz 39:20

Do you find many differences between the work you do not necessarily the work you do but but how that gets received and the results from it. When you are teaching people in China, where you've done a lot of work, or if you're working with people in the Western world that do you have to change your approach much different things work there, they don't work here or vice versa?


Martin Barnes 39:45

It's interesting question. In Asia, particularly, and not just China, but Asia, Korea, Japan, all over Southeast Asia. There is a slightly different approach. People feel that they shouldn't question a two Teacher. So in school, for example, the teacher stands at the front rows and rows of desks, it looks quite sort of 1950s. European standard, and the teacher just monologues and just drops all the information. They have the students diligently write it down, they absorb it. I think in the West, there's a lot more back and forth. So I think it kind of boils down to, you know, is it the Socrates way of learning through discussion and debate and dialogue? Or is it the Confucian way of learning by sort of respecting somebody's experience, not openly questioning that? So when you're in Asia, for example, you'll be stood in front of an audience? And you'll ask them a question. And you'll get crickets like know that poker face, no one will blink an eye because they know that that little blink might be your in to bring them up on stage. And that is changing. So when I first went to China in 2004, I was teaching graphic design, I've had a class of eight people, let's start the class by saying, Guys, what do you do at the weekend, just to warm everybody up. This is a tough crowd, right? So I just got used to filling the space, and just talking and talking and talking and talking. But now, what 1617 years later, I think with the Asian mindset is you have to sort of show that you're an authority show that you can really teach them a lot of things, and then make it incredibly safe. And so I finished a workshop with a financial company, we were doing a lunch and learn session. At the end, I sort of invited people to come and have a go in front of the group. And apparently the most timid, quiet, introverted person in the whole company stepped forward and had a go. And everyone was just like, she stood up, oh, my god, she doesn't even talk in our meetings. And she, I couldn't shut her up. She just she found her flow, and she got it. And, and I think it's all about making people comfortable. Because 16 years in China, we are way more similar than we are different. And so the cultural divide question, I always find a bit like, can we focus on the work? Actually, we're all human, please, because that's way more interesting. But there is this sort of difference. But when you reduce the right word, when you when you when you reduce the stakes, then they jump into it for you first.


Francisco Mahfuz 42:11

Yeah, I think that those cultural differences are, they can be over, over done, you know, over talked about, you can focus on them too much the detriment of you know, our shared humanity. But it's also true that some things go down very well in some cultures and not so much in others. So an example I've used before, because it's something I'm still terrified about is, in Asian cultures, self deprecating humour, which is basically all I do, when it comes to humour is not usually done, like they think you're taking away from your authority. So I, you know, I'm always aware that if, if I went, if I was doing a keynote in Asia, I would have to change dramatically a lot of the material I have, because a lot of the fun I'm taking I'm having is on, you know, at my own expense. So yes, we can, I think we can worry too much about things that are perhaps not that important, but we can focus on the wrong things. But it is true, that the way we speak resonates in the stories we tell resonate in one way with certain cultures, they might be slightly different in nada. So as much as there are some of some things are universal, the way the culture plays with that unit, that universal human emotion, it has to be taken into account as well. Otherwise, if you said if they don't feel safe, what could be a very emotionally moving and inspiring story doesn't really work because they don't feel comfortable to be that open in that environment. So I think those things need to be taken into account. We're coming up to the end of the time we have but the one thing I wanted to talk to you before we done is done whole pizza, chicken every bit about gung ho pizza because I know you work with them. And it's a pretty interesting brand.


Martin Barnes 44:03

Yep. So gungho pizza was founded in 2013 in Beijing, and it was to New Zealand guys and an Australian, they had a lot of time in China. And they basically wanted to re reinvent delivery pizza. So there's an incredibly smart woman in in China called Annie. Annie is a Chinese lady, who had been to Europe tried pizza seen pizza and realise that if she bought pizza to China, she would build an empire which she did in Beijing, she must have had 20 restaurants. And it was where all the foreigners when in 22,003 45678 because they just hardly any choice. If you if you wanted to rate the pizza on pizza scale pretty low. But when you're sort of surrounded by Asian food and you sort of craving a little bit of Western food that isn't KFC or McDonald's, she was a great option. So anyway, that was the environment I have Western food in China. And so the gung ho boys came in and they were like, We want to bring this New Zealand laid back up for it and vibe come up with Gourmet Pizza delivery. And so they were about three months from their soft launch. They were focusing primarily on delivery with a few sort of kiosks style locations. And they asked me to come in and help visualise their thinking into a brand pitch, a brand presentation. And it was designed to be an internal document. So what we were creating was not to be directly flipped into marketing, but it was like, How do I align a team? Which is Australia, New Zealand, Chinese, all over Asia, American? How do I get all of these different cultural perspectives that we just spoke about? And how do we align them quickly to what the gungho vision is? And so part of what I do is help people sort of take their thinking those goldfish out of their heads, and then put them down and say, Okay, how can you share this to somebody else, where you're reducing the risk of uncertainty, and you're allowing them to interpret it for themselves in the right direction?


Francisco Mahfuz 46:12

So what did you do? What did you guys end up with?


Martin Barnes 46:16

So we ended up with a full 60 slide presentation that covered five main areas, defining the defining the founders, defining the vision, defining the customer, defining the product, and then defining the future goal. And I went through a series of, say, like three or four discovery meetings, where we were talking earlier about the questions that we dig into. And I remember one point, the main guy who's, you know, a very smart entrepreneur doesn't like wasting time, he's looking at me going well, we ask him all these fluffy, fuzzy questions where, you know, why can't I see anything, you're just, you're just asking and sketching on a whiteboard. It's all very creative, but I'm not getting any results. Because he's like, you know, he's very open minded, creative, but he's also results driven. And then it was at the end, when I gave him that presentation, we walked through it, he just sat back, and he's like, you've got me, you know, and I asked him afterwards, I was like, so why did you choose to work with me. And he's like, you're incredibly good at helping people visualise what they understand, but can't communicate. And then I handed over the deck. And I never heard from them again, which for me is a good thing. Because it means whatever we delivered is working. And then three months later, they design their brand logo, they had all their graphics, they had their core message. And then they sold the company in 2019, to a big FMB conglomerate that just, you know, scoops up, and part of their journey, they got their brand into IKEA mega stores as a food kiosk. So they were able to really create the brand, and the business they wanted to. And I was part of that success. They were the driving force, but I was able to save them time by visualising their thinking in story strings, that little sort of anecdotes, analogies, and just ways of instead of verbally communicating to say a mixed language audience where you're not exactly sure who's understands what you can put it down and say this is what we do. And this image, and it's talking about this image.


Francisco Mahfuz 48:16

And what was there one unifying story string was the one unifying concept because you said, you know, how do you put all these people, these different cultures together? How do you communicate this? Did you? Was there one or a couple of different things that you thought okay, but this, this is how we communicate this? Because, because I'm still curious about I got them that negative of wisdom that I'm hoping for, because because I looked at their brand, and it's really cool, there's a whole ethical thing about it, they want to have local ingredients in sort of a Gourmet Pizza. So it's very different than then a lot of other stuff out there. But I'm trying to take myself back to the moment when they're pitching it and trying to figure out, okay, so if you had to describe it in like a sentence, or two, like, you know, in TED is 15 words, right? So what's the your idea of sharing? What is this company about? How are we different than anyone else? I'm just still wondering if it if he got to that point, then maybe they only got to that point later?


Martin Barnes 49:16

It's great question, they actually brought it, but they didn't really realise what it was. So gung ho, is an expression, which means roll your sleeves up, get on with it. And the origin of that expression comes from a New Zealander, who had worked in China in the 1940s 50s, slightly like a bit of a missionary, but I don't think he was, I'm not sure his sort of religious slant, but he was going into the back of beyond in China and just helping communities build and grow and be sustainable and his expression gung ho, was this sort of mixed up call to action that a Westerner could speak and a Chinese could speak and they when they call it out, it was like, come on, come on, team up. Let's do this. And that was really the essence. And they sort of knew that was what their spark was, but they hadn't sort of taken it into a visual narrative so to speak.


Francisco Mahfuz 50:12

That makes sense because that that story, again, whole story and where it comes from that is very prominent in their website. If you look there, they explained a singer, where do you think and hope comes from? And then they explain that so yeah, so that's cool. I mean, it's, it's a great way to phrase it. And I'm curious, and I don't know if there's a perfect answer to that. But like, they they just find the name cool. And then figure it out, you know, what does this actually mean? Where does it come from? And then all of a sudden, it fell into place? Or did someone know the story of that it wasn't actually what most people think it is. And that inspired them to use it? Do you know that managers?


Martin Barnes 50:48

I think, yes, I think I remember the two main guys. John and Jade are one of them's North Island, one of them South Island in New Zealand, and they're one of them sort of like Lucia bit stubbly, you know, the other ones kind of quite X Harvard quite slick and corporate, like one had a pizza oven at home, the other went to Domino's Pizza Academy. So they're, they're complementary or contrasting. And that was a key part of our messaging. And they were obviously very in touch with their New Zealand history. Because it's been already quite a lot of time in China. Like Jay, for example, has a cottage up at the Great Wall of China is amazing, sort of really rustic. And you look out the window, you can see there's a rolling old part of the Great Wall, it's, it's insane. And they brought that and they were using that as a real a real part of their story, their identity, as they were seeing themselves as the next generation of, if I can say his name, right, Ray Rumali, who was the New Zealand who came up with a gung ho story, they were sort of feeling like they were his, his sort of descendants. And they were they were bringing that same message to China. So it was from them, but they hadn't been able to expand and understand it. They didn't do the discovery around it.


Francisco Mahfuz 52:09

Cool. Listen, Martin, I think we could keep going for a while. But I know you have to you have to run. And maybe we shouldn't tempt fate too much. We've we've made it this far without any technical hiccups. So if anybody wants to get in touch with you, or find out more about the stuff you do, and how you help people pitch, where should they go.


Martin Barnes 52:30

So two places, either on LinkedIn, which is where like yourself, I spend a lot of my social media time. So look for the crocodile wrestler on LinkedIn. And then online, my websites called Eight seconds to connect.com. And again, there's a lot of ideas, blogs, downloads, information about how you can sort of look for your crocodile wrestler story, and how you can start your pitch


Francisco Mahfuz 52:54

like a sprinter. Thank you again for your time ate. And I'm sure I'll talk to you soon.


Martin Barnes 52:58

Thank you, Francisco. I've really enjoyed today's session. Fantastic. Thank you.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:01

Alright, everyone. 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 the 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