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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E79. Stories that Impact People, Profits and the Planet with Jeremy Connell-Waite



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 for Cisco first, my guest today is Jeremy Koerner wait. Jeremy leads IBM's wild ducks global commercial storytelling studio, where they create compelling pitches and presentations for purpose driven brands want to positively impact people, the planet and the bottom line. He also found that IBM's communications thinking programme, where he coaches IBM Global Partners in the art and science of commercial storytelling and speech writing. Jeremy's passionate about solving climate crisis, and he gives keynotes about how activism and technology can help to solve political, social and environmental problems, which is all very impressive, but he's also had plenty of bad ideas and less than successful ventures. He tried starting a kid's golf company, he wrote stories about a giant snake called Emma, and his solo podcast pilot almost didn't get picked up by himself. Ladies and gentlemen, here's the man obsessed with big ideas, small words and short sentences. Jeremy Connell-Waite. Jeremy, welcome to the show.


Jeremy Connell-Waite 2:12

That's an intro, isn't it? I don't know where we go from there. You've done some digging around. Absolutely. Pleasure to see you. This is going to be a lot of fun. I can't wait.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:20

I know where we go. I know where we go. I feel I have to start with these two questions: Fired up? Ready to go?


Jeremy Connell-Waite 2:28

Fired up! Absolutely.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:30

I think just yesterday, I was listening to the second episode of your podcast 10 words, and you're talking about Obama. And there's a lot of Obama stories in there. And there's one Obama quote, I believe that you have prominently pretty much everywhere, which is you can change the world by sharing your story, right? Yeah, I


Jeremy Connell-Waite 2:51

love that. I think Steve Jobs stole it. But I don't know who had it. First. I've tried to find out. And I've even asked Steve Jobs creative director, where it came from as well. And we've had westwing speech writers in to come and do things around some of the work that I do. But there's not just the best quote in the world. 10 words long, you know, it's probably the most powerful quote I've ever come across alongside one of my favourite quotes from Zig Ziglar. But it does beg the question, what are you actually trying to change? And like, what is your world? A lot of people don't believe that, you know, it's like, Oh, it's great. Jeremy, you might be in this boardroom is great. Obama, you're gonna be over here doing stuff with Davos are un, but I'm just working in this little company. What can I do? It's a great challenge.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:33

Yeah. So why I think I thought that the one that Steve Jobs has, that everybody loves to quote is the one about how the most important person in the world is the storyteller. I haven't actually seen I didn't see that one that that Obama's one supposedly Obama's one attributed to jobs. But the one thing I wanted to start, I want to talk about a bomb. I think a bomb is a very interesting entry into a lot of the stuff that you do. But the one thing I wanted to just break apart a little bit is why that quote makes any sense. Because to a lot of people that perhaps don't understand stories and how stories work. Why would sharing your story have any meaningful power? Now, obviously, I've got several opinions about this. But what's your reading of that quote? Like, why is that an actual thing? And not something that sounds nice?


Jeremy Connell-Waite 4:23

So it's a good question. And hopefully, my two cents is going to be useful to the audience because I feel like I'm chatting to the master now. So I'm going to ask for your advice. Whether or not you think it's true or not. When you think about exactly what a story is, I believe it's only here to do two things. There's lots of science around it. There's lots of mechanics, we've got all sorts of other things that we can look at. I know. We're both good friends with David JP Phillips. He has some strong opinions on this as well. A story is there to make you feel something. That's it, really. Now in the business world a story is there I believe to make you feel something so that you do something, you know a great answer. obtaining story, whether it's a novel, whether it's a book, a play a movie, it's there to maybe inspire you engage, excite entertain, write might even challenge you a little bit, but it stops there. Whereas when I think about the power of story in the commercial world, I call it industrial storytelling, IBM, it's really the power of getting a story to make someone feel something so that they do something. And that's the critical part. And there's also I think, a lot of storytellers miss that we really good inspiring and entertaining, and we less good at driving action. So if, like me, you're spending any time around climate change, you know, I'm on the board of a stop the traffic. So in my campaigning against modern slavery, sex trafficking, get dark, there's some dark subjects in that you need to get people from banks through to volunteers to do things that's hailed. And that requires a very different mindset than a traditional storyteller. So when you say, you can change the world, just by sharing your story, I genuinely believe that you can. But there's some things behind the scenes about the way that you deliver your story, there's going to determine whether your story has success or not, you know, in some sort of a commercial or a vocational way. And I think that's the hardest bit, you know, combining the left brain and the right brain. So we don't just do the fun stuff. But it's like, how do we drive action? And also, more importantly, how do you drive action with any kind of urgency? It's a big question. And it's hard. It's really, really hard. There's a saying that I like to speak to some of the IBM is about that storytelling is really easy. It's really easy when you don't know how to do it. Storytelling is incredibly difficult when you do.


Francisco Mahfuz 6:38

So you went in a lot of different directions there. But let me let me give you my two cents on that quote. And I think it's interesting because you, your response to that quote, is about the power of story. Essentially, why is the story powerful? Why can a story change the world, I look at that quote slightly differently, but I don't disagree with you in any way. I think the most important word in there just after story is your and I'm say that because the problem for a lot of communication. And this might be part of the big problem with climate change communication is it's not talking about individuals, it's talking about the world, it's talking about populations is talking about people. And I'm not sure if science backs this up 100%. But that seems to be the case, that the human brain struggles to have meaningful emotional connections with pretty much more than one person at a time. You know, there's a lot of charity data that suggests that if you should tell the story of one little child, then the donations are at one level. But if you add a second or a third child to that story, people donate less. And and what I what I often find is that when it comes to communication, people tend to think that if you talk about the 1000s of people affected, that has more power, than if you talk about the one person affected. And I think it's perhaps it shouldn't be that way. But it is, if you want people to care, you need to tell to share the story of one person in one moment in time, ideally, and not 1000s of people or the over the years, that just doesn't have the same impact as talking about one person at a time thus so that that's my that's my reading of that quote. And you see on the


Jeremy Connell-Waite 8:22

campaign trail, don't you you see it from good politicians. I mean, Obama did it a lot. You mentioned Brock, Obama, on the campaign trail, they won't be talking about these great big sweeping policies and manifesto points, he's going to talk about Joe the Plumber, you know, and he's going to talk about, you know, the skill teacher in Ohio and the cook that's in Detroit that was really struggling with finding a job. And that's absolutely what resonates with people, I think, when it's interesting, especially when you're looking at something, it's got a higher purpose. And as a side note, it does beg the question, does the world need changing? It's a very arrogant thing to say that we can change the world like, really, but what does that actually mean? And, you know, I've done a lot of research on Is there a number that you can try and put on that to figure out how many people it might take to be inspired to change the world. But there's the thing is, whatever, we're driven by whatever belief system, you know, political view, not everybody wants to change the world. And some people need to be conquered. If you've got to try and get people I mean, I often playfully say you've got to get some people to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. You know, and sometimes if that is regarding climate change, or modern slavery, sometimes education, that's a big deal, you know, but that's very political. But I kind of like it the other side as well. And this is really cheesy, so please forgive me if we go in from the top down. If something as big as political agendas and presidents, you know, you can change your world just by sharing your story. My Mother Teresa said, you want to change the world. Just go home and love your family. So I often try and spin that quote on its head in terms of story and think, Okay, well, what's my family is that, you know, not necessarily my home personal family. That could be my work family, could be a Sports Group. community could be a church, you know, whatever that little group is, it might be you in five people, but it's all about kind of understanding the impact that you could have on the world, with whatever that's variants, and it's very finite, isn't it, there's only a certain amount of number that you can change and people listening to this right now. They're gonna have a different size network, different levels of influence, you know, it's going to be to do with culture, where they live, their age, their experience, charisma, personality, mental health, you know, where they are introvert, extrovert personality types. And I think that's the side of story that we don't dig into enough, because we throw around these bumper stickers, which I love. My office is covered in gorgeous quotes. But when you actually come down to it, like we need to get people to feel something so that they do something. It's like, Give me something tangible, like how can you help me tell a better story today? What's the one piece of advice, that's why I work in structures quite a lot, because I find it helpful, give someone a framework, now they can start figuring out how to tell that emotional story in a way that's unique to them.


Francisco Mahfuz 11:00

The structure is one of the things I want to I want to go deeper on in a moment. But one of the other reasons why I started with Obama is because I think Obama is in many ways, an interesting example of something that I see as the theme, not necessarily of your work, but of a lot of the things I was interested about in your work, which is this conflict, or this contrast between complexity and simplicity. So there's the simplicity of the saga, the bumper sticker, the 10 words, and Obama was very good at that. But on the other hand, there was the complexity of his language, there was just the way he communicated. And he caught a lot of flack for that. And particularly if you compare him to someone who we just had a lot of experience with perhaps too much, which was Donald Trump, the change in the type of language between one person and the other is glaring. And I don't have much of a problem with Obama's language as I don't have a problem with Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. I mean, I really wish people talked that way more than they do. But it begs the question of when you get someone speaking at that level, like Obama did, arguably, that's not everyday language. That's not how normal people communicate. And I mean, he was obviously a very, very good speaker. But in the back of my mind, I always had this thing of thinking, but apart from that environment, but can someone else share some of those ideas the same way he can, when they are so complex, when they're so beautifully put, isn't there an issue there, where he is his to higher up, and then some of the message of the power of the message gets lost by by just not being a natural way of communicating?


Jeremy Connell-Waite 12:44

Depends on your audiences, I think I mean, it's a really great point, I look at the work that I do. And some of the structures I've created. we've invented this process. It's called communications thinking. It's modelled on the concept of design thinking, which has been around for a long time, which is simply putting yourself in the customers shoes to see things from their perspective. And we have empathy mapping and ethnographic research in the hopes and fears and all these clever workshops to understand what we need generally, you know, a lot of startups can design thinking to try and innovate, communications thinking and looking at it, like it's the same thing. But from a different perspective. It's still problem solving. But it's trying to put yourself in the audience issues and see things in that perspective. So often, when I do that, you know, you do have that question of who am I speaking to? Is it for the masses? Is it for five people, I often find myself in a room with 50 people, but there's only one person I'm actually talking to, might be the CEO. So I might use certain language that in theory could alienate a group. Now, obviously, if you want to give a TED talk, or you onstage at Davos, or you're on TV or Bloomberg, very different story, we need to, you know, use different language. But um, there is you mentioned Aaron Sorkin. I watched that episode a couple of days ago. And I think it was some seaborne and they were talking about Bartlet in one of the debates and they were talking about how your opponent was giving Bartlett hard time for being this academic this intellectual and he was the game on episode actually were 10 words came from and, and some seaborne said, Well, if your opponent feels like you're an intellectual and academic, you might as well knock some bodies down with it, you know, you might as well use it, leverage it to your advantage. And Obama was good at that. And I'm also kind of reminded of Ernest Hemingway, he used to get a really hard time because he went the total opposite way. He used really short words and small sentences. And people used to say, Oh, he's not using the big flowery three syllable $10 words, and I think I'm paraphrasing, but Hemingway said something like, why do I need to use a $10 word when I can use a $1 word? I know all the $10 words. I just choose not to use them. And that's why my writing is so successful and, and widely read. So both answers are right, aren't they? But it's not exactly what do you want the audience to feel and do and I encourage our audiences and certainly the people that I coach to mirror the language of the person that they need to get that action from. So if that's an MBA CEO from Harvard, that's got a background in research and is turned on by the scientific method, that will be a very different conversation than trying to seduce the CMO who may be different language more seduced by shiny things. And once kind of, I'm generalising but you know what I mean? It's he's trying to almost be that chameleon as a communicator, not what I want to say, what's going to resonate and trigger them? It's good point.


Francisco Mahfuz 15:28

Yeah, I'm working with one of the big MBAs here in Barcelona. And I find that my challenge with most of my students was always to simplify their language. And I would ask them about this thing I learned called the dinner test. I said, you know, would you would you? Particularly because a lot of it was storytelling says, Would you tell the story that way over dinner, or I'm not gonna say at the pub, because the pub language goes in a different direction? But would you tell the story to a friend over dinner with that language? Or you know, that body language and all of that, and they go, no, no, really? So why are you talking that way, then? And the challenge to me was, that isn't specific language and business terms, they work really well as a shorthand, you're trying to express a lot of things. And there's one business word that does all of that for you in three seconds. use that word, if everybody in your ads is gonna understand it. But if, if you don't need to use that word, I say this often in the keynote, in the keynote, I gave, I said, I don't know if it's because we convinced ourselves that we're grown up as soon as we started working. But we speak in a language that no human being has ever spoken before, you know, you would never go out for a coffee or a beer with a friend and say, and talk about your synergies or how your priorities are aligned, you come across like a crazy person. Okay, but in the office good all the time. And it's fine. When it's shorthand, when it shows, I'm in your tribe, I know the lingo. I'm one of you, that's fine, that that has its valued there. And then, but apart from that, there is no reason to use language that sounds academic, unless that's how you normally speak, if that's how you, you know, Bartlett spoke that way. Bartlett can speak that way, I think. But if you don't speak that way, normally, then I think complicating the language might mean, the message becomes less relatable, or you become less relatable. And I think that it to me, there's always this, this this conflict between, for example, you, you, you have on your book, on your own page, your book, you talk about the Anthony Bourdain quote about storytelling, which is, you know, I see stuff, I talk about how it makes me feel at a time, man, if you can do that, honestly, that's the best you can hope for. So that sort of is one end of the scale. And the other end is the IBM storymaps, and your smoothbore process and all the canvases and all of that. And I tend to fall on the simplicity side because of the type of stuff that I normally do with people. But I always feel that that's one of the challenges of trying to communicate at all times. Yeah,


Jeremy Connell-Waite 17:50

I Well, I've got it the interesting role that I have covers some of IBM Research and we got 3000 research scientists, there's six Nobel Prize winners, six Nobel laureates have come out of that team. And they're inventing technology that doesn't exist yet. The smartest people I work with quantum physicists who also some of them are world class tango dancers randomly talk about left brain and right brain coming together. So those are very specific, very unique, highbrow incredibly academic conversations about the scientific method, and how do we explain how quantum computing or blockchain is going to solve for certain problems in the future. So there's a, there's a very specific type of communication, which I understand is unique to us. But you just reminded me of one of the best pieces of advice I ever got, when I started out in my career. I don't know if you remember, there was a newspaper called The news of the World. It was a very sketchy newspaper in the UK. It was you know, Elvis has just been discovered, we found a bus on the moon, there was lots of topless girls in it. And it was kind of just one of those red tops that somebody that's more academic might look down there knows that I got a chance to spend some time at the BBC College of Journalism with the political editor, the news of the World, one of the smartest people I've ever met, just brilliant genius, incredibly articulate, more informed than anybody. And we had some drinks. And I slightly disrespectful, he said, Look, why are you spending all your time with this newspaper? Why are you not with the times? Or you know, the New York Times? Why are you not with the observer or the independent or the guardian or something is like, Jeremy, you're such an idiot, you have no idea. First of all, my readership is more than all of those combined. And he said, My job is to simplify the complexity of what's going on with all of these politicians. And I need to put it in a language that you know, the average person, manual labour, you know, in Bradford could understand. And he's like, there's something incredibly noble in that and it just really stopped me in my tracks about someone that understood and cared about something so deeply but was looking at you know, the 10s of millions of people in the UK that they get a chance to speak to using big ideas, small words and short sentences. And I was like, ah, You're playing a different game. That's that's what I need to do more of completely inspired. It was one of the first presentations that I was ever involved in. And it just stopped me in my tracks. I've tried to use that advice ever since.


Francisco Mahfuz 20:11

Yeah, I think that I think it might have been Einstein that said that it takes anyone can make something sound complicated, but it takes real understanding of a subject to make it sound simple. And I have seen people use this metric of you know, can you explain it to a 12 year old, because you can't, then you don't understand the essence of what you're trying to describe enough that you have to essence hide behind this big highfalutin words. And this is work that I've seen, you know, there's just essentially branding work or advertising work in many ways. But I know a lot of speakers are people who are getting into the speaking world. And the hardest thing for most of them is to find the 10 words, what is it that you do? Or what is it that you do for people, and it's something I find difficult, you know, I describe what I do on my headline on LinkedIn is become more interesting than Netflix, which unfortunately, I can't use as my official tagline, because you might get into trouble sometimes. But I've tried to explain the other people saying business communication is boring. And boring, is bad for business, it boils down to that innovators, you need to make your communication more exciting, otherwise, nothing you're trying to do is going to work because people won't pay attention. They won't remember, they won't be be motivated to take action. But I know a lot of people who they just find in those 10 words, or that one line that kind of says this is what I do. They just find it incredibly, incredibly difficult. And one could argue that either you haven't differentiated yourself enough that one line can explain it, and you're still sort of a generic, I speak about culture. Right? But okay, what about culture? And they haven't gotten to that point yet. But yeah, and one thing, talking about simplicity, one thing that I really liked that I've seen you describe when it comes to, by the way, I've seen you call this commercial storytelling, which is I make sense to me. But why do you ever do sometimes call it industrial storytelling?


Jeremy Connell-Waite 22:09

It's a good question. I mean, they're interchangeable, but industrial seems to have more weight. I like I like it for a couple of reasons. IBM loves the word industrial anyway, because there's a lot of heavy lifting, and is manufacture sort of visuals that seem to come with that. But I looked back in the early 1900s of people who do what we do. And it's not been very widely spoken about. I've not even seen any books written about it. But people who were essentially communicators, and strategists in sales, trying to solve a problem by putting yourself in the customers shoes or the audience issues and then trying to sell them stuff. IBM originally started out selling coffee grinders and scales, right and weighing machines. And the job title of those people you love. This was industrial artists and industrial artists in the 1911 1911. Over 100 years ago, they were called industrial artists. And it was really speaking to the industry and the art a little bit like where the word scientist came from, you know, the word artists had been around for a while. And then science was trying to understand how do we articulate the complexity of what we do and communicate it. And they stole the artist word to science. And then the word scientist was invented, same type of thing. So I do like the nostalgia and the reference back to those industrial artists. But you mentioned business and business storytelling is DOL and most of the time it is but it absolutely shouldn't be it really shouldn't be is why I'm just such a huge fan of doing what you do and all the people that you've had on this show. What we should be doing is trying to bring in people from other places to inspire and engage and entertain and challenge so that we can solve a problem. I've brought in people from Bollywood from the West Wing speechwriter, Studio Ghibli in Japan, Disney and Pixar, the Royal Ballet, like how do you tell stories without words? Well, let's look at ballet and choreography. How does Taylor Swift write songs? How did Quentin Tarantino write movies? Shonda Rhimes creates him for TV, I teach a lot of the guys that I work with to try and communicate better, whether it's written, whether it's spoken, using those principles, and people like you know that you get the raised eyebrow to begin with, like, why is that relevant? Why? Why are we dissecting a Taylor Swift song when we need to create a story about hybrid multi cloud and AI and customer experience. And then once you see the light bulbs going on, and the structure and the emotion and rhetoric and using certain words and simplifying complexity of something to explain it in less than four minutes, they're like, Oh, now I get it. You know, because business people are great at speaking for half an hour an hour, and researchers and scientists even more, but you try and get them to explain what they do in less than five minutes, which is often the attention span of a business audience. It's amazing how many people fall to bits, and it's usually the more senior people as well.


Francisco Mahfuz 24:52

Yeah. When I saw the word industrial, I thought of quantity. I thought if you're trying to tell stories, not the one story but if you have to like churn them out on a regular basis. This is I thought it was a useful word. And there was one thing I've seen you talk about how they're only really six stories that CEOs or managers are ever interested in. And I believe they were, you know, their stories about money market and exposure either going up or going down. So they just want to read through those quickly


Jeremy Connell-Waite 25:25

show. And it's really a back to structure. So I mean, you look at industrial, I've never heard it phrased like that, before that it's about churning out the stories, because it looks like that's kind of negative. I mean, I'm thinking of Simon Cowell,


Francisco Mahfuz 25:36

surely is probably not the world. But if you want to be prolific storyteller, if you need to, if you want to use stories all the time and not have this one big TED talk or this one big presentation, if you want on a regular basis, be putting stories in your communication, that I think that's what came to me originally when I heard about industrial and last the some of the other aspects that you mentioned, what's a


Jeremy Connell-Waite 25:55

really good point about it, though, is that there is an element where we do need to churn out stories, you know, and you can't afford to keep doing a customer story all the time. It's not sustainable. Now, if you're, if you're in TV, or if you're an artist, certainly if you're more the creative pursuit, you're there to entertain, of course, you need original content. But we're not Aaron Sorkin, we're in business. So you need frameworks and structures that you can replicate stuff. You know, I think back to Walt Disney, the first ever storyboard for Snow White, the first ever movie that was storyboarded was gone with the wind. So in 1937 1939, Walt Disney wasn't doing that for fun. He wasn't drawing out those boards, when you see him in front of all of those cells for fun, it was because it was so expensive to make the movie, the investors need a return on their investment really quickly, he's got a deadline, and he's got to get it out as efficiently as possible. So they're using a structure to create the story. And that's why I'm sure you've seen the graphics have done the rounds on social media, you can see the exact frame from say, Snow White, and then you can see how it's been replicated in Beauty and the Beast, there'll be taken the actual animated frames the wireframes, from an animated feature that was you know, 40 years earlier, and then repurposing it for Aladdin, or for Lion King, or for you know, the new Jungle Book or something. And I look at stories in the same way, which is why I'm so such an evangelist for Aristotle's Poetics, you know, 335 BC, it's 1000s of years old. And it's still the structure that we should tell stories using today, a three act structure, excite disturb assure, to use your example about kind of purpose driven stories, doesn't matter how complex a story is, in business, whether it's a tiny little $100 deal, whether you're trying to sell something, you know, for a couple of 1000, some software or a product, or whether you're working on a multibillion dollar deal, incredibly complex for you know, for a big financial organisation, it just boils down to four things, all you're ever trying to do is drive four things up and four things down. Nancy Duarte talks about this in her book data story, that when you say a story, you should data with a soul that famous Brene Brown quote, this is where I got the inspiration from. So really, you're looking at money, market exposure and sustainability, you know, on social impact. So money market exposure, sustainability, we want to drive for things up, and we want to drive for things down. So if you can visualise really, what you've got is eight boxes for on the top four in the bottom, okay, money, we want to increase revenue or profit, or we want to reduce costs. Now there might be a story a strap line, they might be a number one thing, keep it really simple one thing in each of those boxes, market, I want to increase market share, or want to reduce the time it takes to get to market exposure, you know, I want to increase retention, customer loyalty, I want to reduce risk, financial risk, operational climate. And then when you look at social impact and sustainability, we want to increase positive change, you know, make people's lives better humans, and we want to reduce impact on the planet, whether that's a transition to net zero, or whatever, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals we might be turned on by it's really simple. And there's nothing better than an emotional storyteller that's engaged in this subject, coming straight after the person that's got 300 slides to say, Look, everyone, it's okay, hold on. This is actually really simple. In fact, I've got no slides, I'm just going to draw it on the wall on the back of his napkin. All we're trying to do here is drive four things up and four things down, not in equal measure, not necessarily at the same time, but when you simplify the complexity of that, and you're the person that doesn't turn it with 300 slides, you turn up with one, you're everybody's best friend. And I think that's back to what you were talking about simplicity. You know, if you can't explain something simply enough, you don't know it well enough. Death by PowerPoint, David JP Phillips, right. You know, it's that and we still guilty of it. And we'll probably see TED talks in a couple years time death by mural. We'll just move on to a new technology platform. It's the same problem, but we've just got a different tool that we're using to kill the audience with.


Francisco Mahfuz 29:56

So you're talking about social impact, and I wonder if you want to talk about why change some of the stuff you just said now begs the question, you were very aware of death by PowerPoint you do. I've seen you talk about this many times, I've seen you, you talk about break down. Sir Ken Robinson speech where he uses no slides. But if I'm not mistaken, used to use an absolute tonne of slides when you present now is that because you believe that there is an exception to that rule, or because you haven't wind yourself off of of using that many slides?


Jeremy Connell-Waite 30:32

That's a great challenge. I think, first of all, I don't think I'm a great presenter, I've tried to be I thought at one stage, that's what I wanted to do. At the beginning of my career, I was fortunate to have some successes, which threw me on two stages anyway. And it was just that's what you did, you had a lot of slides, and I tried to make my slides as interesting as possible. I've always actually the one rule I have followed, which is a JP Phillips rule, about six subjects are less than a slide. So I've always had simple slides, usually one sentence or maybe one image and I try to use them as wallpaper, I don't really use many slides anymore at all, I'd much rather I'm a much bigger fan of people like Rob Bell, or Simon Sinek, that will just turn it with a whiteboard or a flip chart and do it live, you know, it's far more engaging, the audience feels like there's a shared experience, because we built it live, you know, we could do that in mural. There's all sorts of interesting ways. But then even today, there are situations when I use a lot of slides, and my working climate would be a good example of that. So the truth in turn, that's the name we give to the deck of how we explain, you know, the complexity of climate change. Al Gore has this process to walk you through those 55 slides in 10 minutes in that deck. And you can see an example on Jeremy dot Earth, I think if you click watch, and you scroll down, there's an example of me giving that presentation 55 slides, the transitions are every 11 seconds on average, but it might be 20 seconds, 10 seconds, five seconds at 111. Big pause. And because you've got like the arc of a narrative, and it's almost like a symphony, there's a musicality to it in the way that you're speeding up and slowing down. But I'm only using the slides as wallpaper. And as a very slight, Seth Godin uses this style a lot as well, he has hundreds of slides, and often he clicks them. So the slide lands on the exact word. And if you're in front of a big audience, they need something to look at, and it brings the story home. So I'm a big fan of that. It's not that I'm saying PowerPoint is shit, for the most part it is but I also work with teams that have to explain project management and software architecture, you know, and what are we about to do to transform your business over the next three years and look at budget plans. You can't do that on a whiteboard. So there's definitely a time and a place. All that I would say and certainly to our audience today, you've just got to ask yourself the question, Do I really need it? Like, is there another way can I do without PowerPoint? What could I do to surprise the audience and give them what they don't expect? It might be a prop, do it as Pecha Kucha, do it in Japanese style 20 slides in 20 seconds with no words in any of the slides, you know, six minute 40 presentation, but I think just find a unique framework that is going to make people from the absolute open, go, Okay, this is going to be different. You know, I'm going to stop multitasking, everybody turns their video on your virtual zoom calls, and you've seen everybody's eyeballs instead of the video often. goodness only knows what else they're doing at the same time. Yeah, it's just like any tool, isn't it? You can make something beautiful with it, or you can kill somebody with it.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:26

I would not use slides normally. Depends how long I'm speaking for. If I'm speaking for an hour, I'll probably will have slides live. Now virtually, I use way more slides than I would otherwise. Because I just think that the attention span, I mean, an hour online, just looking at talking head is just too much. It doesn't matter how exciting I think I might be with my stories or how funny I can be. None of that stuff is just too much for an hour. But my challenge to myself is always can they make because people sometimes organisers want the slides before. And I always say to them, sure, they're completely useless though no one is going to learn anything from those lights, most of them have no words, the numbers don't have any context. So I'm more than happy to send them to you. But apart from one or two slides, they're all completely useless. So their images, their numbers, but what I try to avoid as much as I possibly can, is have anything that stands on its own. So there might be a board person. And then there's the number 64%. Like what does that mean? Like I'm talking about engagement, but you don't know that? Or there is a pile of money being burned, and the number $26,041 or the amount. But does that mean like maybe gas that this is a cost of some kind, but that's it right? So that's what I tried to do with this slide. So they're not competing with me when I'm when I'm presenting.


Jeremy Connell-Waite 34:53

And it's when you turn in a presentation into a performance. I like that idea of when you using that style of presenting there is an element Performance going on, and whatever is going on behind you is enhancing the performance. I love the way that Chris Anderson coaches, TED Global speakers, because he talks about turning a presentation into a performance. But then he also tries to encourage the speakers to use the mindset of present presentation, you know, the clue is in the word, you're giving a present to the audience. So my voice, my narrative, my script, these slides, these pictures that I've carefully crafted that might be gorgeous, and could be on a poster on their own, I'm giving a present to the audience, everybody loves giving a present, everybody likes receiving presence, the audience wants you to win, they don't want to have their time wasted. And when you get certainly nervous speakers, because the more nervous people are, the more they put on the slides, because it's like this comfort blanket that they can speak to what's on the screen, which is obviously a terrible thing to do. But you have the mindset of I'm turning up to give a gift to my audience, I want to give them a present. Now all of a sudden, you have a different mindset. And and I love that. I mean, that's some of the best advice I've ever seen, especially for more junior presenters starting out in their career.


Francisco Mahfuz 36:06

Yeah, it's great, except that now I'm thinking about all the people, or all the times that I have to buy a present for someone, and I've got no idea what to give them. And that often means my wife, and he's like a birthday is coming up. Gotta give her a present. Oh, crap. What am I doing now? You know, everybody loves giving presents when you know that the person's gonna like it. And you have no idea. You're like, ah, have I just caused myself a problem here? Here? Here's your birthday for us.


Jeremy Connell-Waite 36:36

Yeah, there's many presentations I've given that were completely unwanted that were like, if you got the receipt, can we take that back to the store?


Francisco Mahfuz 36:44

Yes, yes. Right. So climate change. Now, I let me just make sure that I'm not basing this on a completely wrong assumption. But but the way I feel about this elicited regards to the communication about climate change. And a lot of people that I've spoken to before this, this podcast, feel similarly is that although a lot of things have moved in the right direction, and there's a lot of indicators that we're perhaps not as completely screwed or lost, as we thought we were going to be 10 years ago, the communication in regards to climate change is still not working, or at least not working to the level it needs to. So whereas this is an extreme example, but you know, we just come through, we're going through a pandemic, and in the beginning of the pandemic, because we saw no other option, we took measures that no one would have considered as a possibility or week before they were taken, you know, there were no cars on the street, most, lots of people in the world are locked in their houses immediate impact on the environment because of that. Whereas we've been batting around this climate change thing for a very, very long time. And there there is essentially, every improvement we've made seems to be very gradual, the no big extreme actions being taken. And I think the vast majority of people we speak to pay lip service to how important this issue is. But no one feels that it's a crisis, like the Guardian now calls it the climate crisis or not, they don't refer to any other way. Most people don't think feel is a crisis. Now I have my my thoughts of why that is. But first, do you agree with that? And if so, you know, what, are we getting wrong?


Jeremy Connell-Waite 38:22

Okay, so let's unpack that a little bit. First of all, you're absolutely right. It's not that the communication is terrible. Across the board. There are pockets of amazing communicators. And there's many of them that I know and spent time with Al Gore's one of them. Tom Friedman, Katharine Hayhoe, Catherine Wilkinson, the project drawdown guys, there are pockets, but what you're saying is absolutely true. It's not working well enough across the board. So we're not doing enough. And when most people don't believe it, they have a problem. So there is a belief problem. So you Okay, let's have a look at that. The human brain isn't really wired to think geologically. It's just we're not wired to think by geologically I mean, long term, we're wired to think short term. And yet something like climate change is so big and scary, it's really hard to get your head around because of, you know, you're talking about vast amounts of time, you know, what's going to happen in 100 years, sea level rise, this is what might happen to Bangladesh in 50 years, you know, 30 million people are going to be displaced, or this is what happened in the 1800s. And the brain can't get its head around that. So for a start, there is a problem with trying to have an emotional response to make you do something, there used to be a phrase that was bounced around in France, the activists that were wearing the yellow jackets as liaisons and they were talking about, you're worried about the end of the world, we're worried about the end of the month, right? And it's like, you know, you want to save the planet and you want to try and you know, stop for all of these things happening and extinction rebellion and you're going to glue yourself to somebody who's you know, reception and stand on top of a tube or whatever, and try and disrupt but I'm worried about putting some food on the table and paying my rent. And what always happens, certainly in terms of climate activism is often the reasonably affluent, middle class, the lot of white people that are campaigning and the people that are most severely impacted, can't afford to campaign, because they might be, you know, they're scared of losing their jobs. So you have a problem around this to start with. And then you start looking at things like Apocalypse fatigue, you look at what it takes for somebody to act, people are just overwhelmed. And it's about basically making them angry. Anger is a positive emotion. We use it really well in storytelling. If I can make you really angry and pissed off enough, you're going to act. But if I don't give you enough information, you'll just be engaged and interested and maybe like my post, but if I give you too much information on the road, all of your hope, and you end up going to absolutely do nothing. So you've got a challenge with that in itself. So whilst it's really easy to say, if we did a COVID style response to climate, we'd make a massive impact. But you know, is that going to happen? Probably not. But then also, it's so politicised with the response to climate with the numbers, because everyone's got an agenda. There's never technology problems. It's always people problems in climate. And it's like our Coronavirus has been great for the environment. Well, actually, it's not a lot of the data showing that it's not drawing all of this carbon, oh, well, nobody's flying anymore. Yeah, great. But everybody's on Zoom. 2% of global emissions was flying 2% of global emissions is also data centres. So you could argue that actually, now that everybody's online, it's having an even worse impact than nobody, you know, reducing their carbon footprint through travel, for example. And the nuances of those arguments, not only take a lot of explanation, but now we're in an intellectual debate. And that's when as a storyteller, who wants to simplify things and try and still make it fun and engaging for the masses, that's really difficult. And there's very few people that are good at doing that. Which to your point is why we


Francisco Mahfuz 41:48

have a problem. Let me throw something at you. I had, I had a guy called Randy Olson on the podcast a few months back. And he works a lot to scientists trying to teach them to communicate in a more effective way. And I can't remember the name of the writer, but there's a political thinker writer that he quoted right at the beginning of our podcasts, and it was something to the effect of the real, some of the real problems of the world is that all the progressive quote, quote, unquote, progressive causes are, are being pushed forward by Democrats and Democrats are terrible communicators. So you know, the left, they're terrible communicators compared to the right, because the right has no compunction of getting something that doesn't affect your end of the MGS. like immigration, in making it sound like it affects the end of the monks. So the thing you really care about, which is your wallet, or your family, they're making things that are not actually impacting that become a problem for that, in in, they also have no compunction about simplifying language. So you end up with straplines or catchphrases. And then he asked something, which was something like, you know, so climate change is this big problem, where's the jingle? Where's the slogan, whereas the song that we all know and refer to, whereas you can has words you can just about bats, that if if climate change was something that the political right, really cared about, that would exist already? So so it was this challenge of are the people that are pushing the cause too concerned about not going news, Ari to Guardian, and not news of the World enough, when it comes to this issue? And is this why people keep thinking about this as Yeah, but end of the world, you know, big thing, not now. I have bigger, have bigger fish to fry right now. I mean, could this be one of the problems?


Jeremy Connell-Waite 43:41

It's a huge problem, in terms of what are we actually looking to get people to do? Right, which is back to the present, you know, is this an unwanted gift, I'm going to come and talk to you about the climate change, you'd like no, don't talk to me, I've got a million other things. I might care about poverty or education, or I'm passionate about a slightly another topic. And I think it's back to trying to understand exactly who your audience is. And the advice that I was given, I'm driven to want to try and change the world in some way, you know, in a tiny little corner of the world where I've got some influence, I want to try and help people to do their jobs better and make a positive impact. But yeah, not everybody wants to change the world. So then you end up with, you know, sometimes you need to conquer people. So okay, if I'm in front of the C suite of a big company, they've got a huge amount of priorities, and they might really want to care about, you know, ESG, you know, corporate social responsibility, the environment, climate net, zero, that idea of conquering people, of trying to get people to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, is also a communication challenge. It's why communication and storytelling is so powerful. You opened with that statement yourself about, you know, Obama talking about the power of storytelling, but that's also why a lot of storytelling has got such a bad reputation, because you know, you dig deep enough into the archives and you end up talking about rhetoric. pathless ethos and logos you know, we need the emotional response or character based response. And we need the data driven response. Those are the three components of of a good climber argument, but it misses one piece. The bit that makes people do something because I've got emotion I've got character, I've got data when I've got no action action is called Kairos. And Kairos is the fancy Greek word that translates as a supreme moment at which one simply must act no matter how implausible or inconvenient. And Mike Bloomberg talks about that a lot in regards to climate. So often, I look at these kinds of devices that we can use and 10 word statements to try and get attention and things. And people are using rhetoric to manipulate and we say it's come to persuade and influence, but there should be this focus on rhetoric for good for all of their faults and without taking a political stance. So I'd look at say, Joe Biden and his speech writer VNA ready. And vino red is an amazing speech writer, not on social media. He's not on Twitter, he keeps into the radar is behind the scenes, just a brilliant guy. Great background, and, and he just focuses on rhetoric for good and I think that there needs to be a level of obsession with rhetoric for good applied to climate. Now those people I just mentioned, have got it. Katharine Hayhoe Catherine will concern you know, Tom Friedman, people like George Monbiot from The Guardian, but it's understanding what is the little bubble of influence that you have Guardian readership, News of the World, Elvis fans, whether I'm speaking to millennials, is it going to be grads? Is it going to be research scientists having that this is a beauty of while of political strategy, having a stump speech, like anybody running for office, you always have your stump speeches, I imagine it like a TED talk. You have your 20 minute speech, which covers everything. But then, like Dame Jane Goodall and the six different audiences that I talk about a lot commercially. The idea is, how can I tell that story through six different lenses, depending upon who's the audience I'm speaking to? So I actually have maybe half a dozen climate presentations. They're all rooted in the same pub that it all stems from. But what's the lens? Am I going to have more pathos for one audience because I've got to engage emotionally around values, or am I speaking to the scientific community and journalists? So I need more loggers? Am I speaking to C suite? Business leaders? I need my ethos, character based argument why me? It builds high levels of trust JP Phillips would call it oxytocin, the love hormone, generosity, trust and bonding, RMS speaking to young people who need to start an a movement, climb activists, why need more Kairos. In my talk, I might focus on the call to action for 20% Instead of just two minutes and one slide at the end. And I think it's those types of nuances of where do we move the dials and those four elements, in order to communicate to get a response, which is really applying a scientific method, I mean, almost a formulaic approach to story, we still need to bring the emotion. But now we've got a structure that we can do some damage with, I struggled


Francisco Mahfuz 47:57

to to make up my mind about if climate change communication, the major issue is just that it's like in Kairos, by its nature, or by the way it's been communicated. I have a feeling there's still a lot of there's still a distinct lack of Pafos. It's the vast majority of people I speak to, they either don't care, or they just care a little bit. I don't think they really care, but are lacking urgency. Again, maybe those are too intertwined to separate them completely. But But that's when I think as horrible as a lot of the stuff that's been going on in the last couple of years, is perhaps it will become a lot easier to have both pastels and Kyros when it comes to climate change communication, because now we're seeing a lot of the effects. It's difficult to argue if you live in a part of the world that is catching fire on a regular basis that this is not a now problem, it stopped being a problem for 10 for your children, or your grandchildren and in a lot of part in many parts of the world has become a problem that that is happening right now. The other aspect of it is and this is something I this is a good friend of mine that this was his contention, or at least his his question. He said he thinks that one of the issues might be that a lot of the communication, a lot of the big efforts, the whole ESG stuff is considering that the target of the communication is customers or consumers, actually. So consumers so how we buy things, the way we interact with different companies. And what he suggested is that maybe part of the problem is that governments or corporations might be less willing to address the problem to citizens, because the way a consumer is going to deal with this problem is still within the system. Whereas if you're addressing citizens that you're trying to create urgency and outrage, their response is protest the responses more things that might be more socially disruptive, then if you're addressing a consumer now I've no idea if he's if he's Right here, I think it made some sense. So I don't know, your take on this.


Jeremy Connell-Waite 50:06

Now there's definitely while there definitely some truth in that, but you mentioned, you know, path OS is often lacking. Often it is, you know, sometimes you just read in what is a very scientific article and a good newspaper, and it's hard to get emotional about some of that stuff. One of the reasons I love the way that Al Gore communicates and you see it in Inconvenient Truth, when the Oscar, Nancy Duarte created all the slides, I don't know if you know that she created all the slides for Inconvenient Truth, and she's incredible presentation coach and communicator. And then you look at, you know, truth to power, the sequel that he did, and and you see the way that he communicates and all that's going on his paths. I've been sat in front of him in Minneapolis when he showed me photographs of grave diggers in Pakistan, and they're digging the graves, ready for the heatwave that's about to come for their friends and family who are about I'm getting goosebumps thinking about it. Now. They're about to die. And there's nothing they can do about it. And they're having to dig the graves. And you see these really long mass graves at the grave diggers are building. And whenever I present that I cry whenever I've seen Al Gore present it he cries, right? It's, it's really, I mean, that's all pathos. It's all empathy, sympathy, pathetic, you know, it's all of that emotional rhetoric. But then here's the challenge. They're in Pakistan, and I'm in a very nice part of West London. So I might be giving that presentation. And I might cry. And the audience might be, you know, really upset, but trying to make that connection with an incredibly privileged life in West London. So something that's going on in Pakistan, I can get you to care about it. But can I get you to act? And what are the actions that I need? It might be your vote might be used your vote voice, it might be just change some of your actions at home, there's some very simple things that anyone can do. And that's back to bumper stickers. It's why I love Greta, for all the simplicity of her communications, no one is too small to make a difference. Do one thing, you know, one less stake, you know, one less journey in a car or on a plane, change the way that you run your house heating, lighting, washing, I mean, this tiny little things make big differences once you add them up across the


Francisco Mahfuz 52:12

Yeah, I mean, I get the Pakistan example. And I think that the problem might be, this is gonna sound absolutely horrible. But I'm thinking of the Syrian refugee crisis, which is something I referenced in my keynotes, when I talk about the, to me the absolute proof of how human beings are not, we don't make decisions rationally. So it started in 2011. For I think, three or four years, we had all the data we could ever need to know that it was an issue. And no one really did anything about it, at least in the Western world. Nobody cared. And then there was one picture. And you might remember this one, it was hard to forget it. It was a picture of a little boy called Alan Kurdi. He was five years old, and he's just lying down on the beach as if he's falling asleep, face down, because his family was trying to make it to Greece on an inflatable boat, and none of them made it and and that picture went viral. And all of a sudden, now I'm getting goosebumps, everybody was moved. And it is solid little kid and all of a sudden, this was real. And he changed everything. You know, all of a sudden, it's all over the news. Governments start opening their borders, they start throwing money at the problem. And we could argue the same way series very far away, even you know, Greece, but the boy in the family we're aiming to is still far away to a lot of people, a lot of people could have thought that this is not going to impact us at all, we hadn't realised that the impact that refugee crisis was going to end up having all around the world yet. And that's what in a sense, I'm thinking that now that all this tragedy is happening. There needs to be, I think, a very strong concerted narrative of showing all the human impact this is having right now all around the world, because it's no longer it's not the Maldives, which are likely to disappear. Not too long from now it's Spain is but I mean, the volcano, I don't think has anything to do with it. The volcano exploding now in the Canary Islands, but Spain had massive wildfires in plenty of different places. America has had what now 1012 In the last few months. So as horrible as that sounds. I don't know if all what's going to take is for us to see more horrible pictures of children, for people to start realising this is not this is not for our children or grandchildren, the future this is for children right now that we need to be worried about. Because even the small measures that I fully buy into that we need to be doing. People are not doing so easy to not have steak five days a week, you know, seven days a week, it's so easy to to change your electricity provider for one that is sustainable. Most countries have those providers northern are even more expensive. There's so many of these things that are so easy to do. And to so many people that are just Yeah, yeah. It's like working out a little more. Or eating not eating dessert all the time. It's like I know I should but Sorry, yes,


Jeremy Connell-Waite 54:58

it's overwhelming and that's The challenge is so easy to feel completely overwhelmed and people who are overwhelmed end up doing nothing. So to say just do something, no matter how small, you've got to start somewhere, you know, it's that old phrase of do what you can with what you have where you are, like, what, however tiny, that little thing is just just do something just start. And then when I look at an audience, okay, well, how do I want to encourage other people to start? We're painting quite a dark picture here, aren't we? I mean, it could be quite depressing, because there's, we want to change the world. And it's really hard. So okay, let's look at the audience with problem solving for our audience. This is why I love you know, I know that we've looked at this in the past as well, the three and a half percent rule, because when I'm looking at an audience, I'm looking in terms of okay, I'm not going to influence everybody. And not everybody wants to change the world. And some people just don't care, or they've got other priorities. Some people are just selfish, they're just not wired like that. And that's fine. But what inspires me, and this is what always gives me hope, as a communicator. Throughout history, it's generally been about three and a half percent of any given group that's influenced the rest of the group to change whether you're looking at you know, gay rights, whether you're looking at me to Black Lives Matter, civil rights, abolition, anti apartheid, suffragette, women's vote, you know, climate, you move all the way, three and a half percent. And there was a TED Talk that covered some of it by Erica Chenoweth, from Harvard, about nonviolent civil disobedience. And some of that was about, you know, displacement in places like Syria, three and a half percent of any given group have influenced the rest of the group to change when it's using nonviolent methods. Now, if you kind of flip that concept on its head, and you think about it, in terms of story, I might be looking at an audience of 100 people and not getting upset that some people don't care. Some are text in some have switched off, some people are rolling their eyes, some someone's walked out the room, I'm thinking of that group of 100 people who are the four, that might make a difference, who am I actually speaking to that might this it, this might be that call to action that they needed that kick up the ass, that encouragement, that kind of look, we're in this together, we can do this. So who are those four people. And now, as a communicator, there's something incredibly exciting about that. Because now you feel like you're starting a movement, you know, you're turning your campaign into a cause. And I love that. And I think that's probably one of those little devices that any communicator can take heart where, especially if they're dealing with more sensitive topics, like we've just discussed, here are your three and a half percent, who are the three and a half percent that you want to inspire to go on this journey with, where maybe we can change the world just by sharing our story.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:34

Right on that. On that more positive note, I think we should, we should wrap up before before we go into some, some darker, darker realms again. And I still had about three pages of notes, we didn't come anywhere near. So I have a feeling we might have to do this again at some other point. But in the meantime, if people want to get to get more familiar with your work, where where do you want to point them to Now


Jeremy Connell-Waite 58:00

the easiest place is going to be LinkedIn, I have very mixed feelings about LinkedIn just as a platform, there's a lot of noise on it. I've been very careful that I don't want to just add to the noise. But I've started doing these three or four minute videos. I'm posting one every couple of days. And I'm probably going to keep doing this for the foreseeable future. It's about all of the stuff we've chatted about today. But usually one idea in a little three minute video. That's the best place. I've come off social media almost completely, because it helps keep me sane. And it gives me more time to read and write. So yeah, so reach out to me on LinkedIn, if there's comments, you've got stuff you agree with don't like stories you want to share. That's probably the best place to find me. I have a little blog called Jeremy dot earth that I update from time to time as well. But yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best place.


Francisco Mahfuz 58:43

Perfect. I'll link that in the show notes. Thank you very much for coming. And Jeremy, this has been this has been fantastic.


Jeremy Connell-Waite 58:49

Oh, you're welcome. Thanks for having me. And thanks for allowing a deep dive as well. We don't do this often enough. This is such important stuff. And thank you so much to the audience that's still with us at this point. It means a lot. We really appreciate it.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:00

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



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