The spare part storyteller

The spare parts storyteller

The spare part storyteller


A friend, a Volkswagen enthusiast and restorer, held us captive at dinner one night on the joy of a car parts swap meeting.  Who would have thought?  His story about ferreting out the exact match for a missing windscreen wiper was completely captivating.

He was communicating his passion for renewing style and beauty, his delight in his successful search, and retelling his amusing observations about his fellow enthusiasts.

Had we taped his story telling at the time, it would have amused and delighted you all.

Imagine he owned a VW parts business and we’d ask him to commit his stories to writing online about Volkswagen spare parts.  Most likely his tone would change as he felt compelled to report it all as a series of facts. The spark extinguished.

But, what if he became the spare part storyteller.

VW enthusiasts would love his stories, as we did.  They’d share them on social media.  He’d became the ‘go-to’ person to speak to on any VW spare part issue.

It’s one thing to list the facts or attributes of a spare part, and quite another to tell a story about it.   The former disconnects, the latter engages and boosts recall.

What’s your VW spare part?  Can you tell stories about them?  If not, it’s a craft and can be learned.

If you would like to find out how to tell your stories, I’d be delighted to have a chat.

Curiosity and keywords

Curiosity is clarity’s best friend

Curiosity and keywords

Curiosity, the key to clarity

To find your purpose you must pursue clarity.  Curiosity is its best friend.  Curiosity is the willingness to keep asking questions to get to the whole truth.

A good storyteller must be in pursuit of the truth, because then they can be impartial, make the right decisions and be willing to serve not sell.

Curiosity builds a personal university of everything you need to reach and connect with your people.

It’s profound research, and it’s at our fingertips.

I’m not a knitter, so when in 2009 I started the charity www.knit-a-square, I had to find out a lot more about what made the knitters tick.

Using keyword research, I discovered tens of thousands of people who were not only dippy about their craft, but desperate to make a difference with it.

Their problem was not having enough outlets for their work.  Did I have a solution for their busy hands and compassionate spirits? Hell yes!

I could ask them to knit a square, send it to South Africa to my co-founder and aunt so she and her volunteers could make blankets to warm orphaned and vulnerable children.

This knowledge dictated the stories I shared with them. To date, she has received over 2 million squares.  The power of story.

Let me inspire your curiosity so you can tell the right stories to help you build your community?  Contact me at


Personal storytelling

Becoming a personal storyteller

Why would you become a personal storyteller? What would be in it for you to do so?  Because personal stories can pack powerful messages and if you listen they can create your life’s purpose. Surprising events often unrelated, can open your eyes to why you should be doing what you do.  They don’t always slap […]

‘Why’ not ‘how’

why not how


During one of our PowerPitch training days, a young man described his research work on the capabilities of bamboo.

His knowledge of its attributes was vast. The outline of his ‘how’, his study methods and protocols, was meticulous.

But the purpose for his research, how ‘why’ — the Eureka moment we hoped would reward him and the world for his painstaking study — remained a mystery to us.

The more he spoke about his method, the less we understood. So we kept asking him why it mattered.

Finally, he told us a personal story.  He revealed his deep distress about the millions of tonnes of toxic plastic waste in landfill from vehicle interiors.

He explained if he could prove his thesis that bamboo was shatterproof, it had astonishing potential for the transport industry to replace petro-chemical derivatives as the primary material for vehicle interiors.

It was a light bulb moment. He saw how he could explain the impact of his research through ‘why not how’, and this personal and purpose driven story.

So much bigger than the properties of bamboo and ‘how’ he was researching them, his ‘why’ as a quest to rid the world of unnecessary plastic waste made for a much more compelling pitch.  Who would not want to get behind it?

What’s your why? How could you shift your personal story from how to why to more powerfully articulate it to engage, connect and boost recall of your key messages?

If you would like to find out, contact me for details of our latest  PowerComms training.

Storytelling through the ages

What goes round comes round

Decades ago, two people ran a services business. Work was plentiful and based on a need for their expertise. They worked hard and were successful. Back then, clients were clients.  You serviced their requirements and sent them the invoice.  If you did a good job they came back.  If they didn’t, there were others. That’s […]

PowerPitch training

There is never a better time to pitch than now



I heard this definition of procrastination recently, as related to perfectionism.

‘It’s psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.’

For many I meet, putting together a compelling pitch that succinctly communicates why they do what they do for who is a mighty task.

After all, your pitch is about you, your ability, and your work and its impact, so even for a non-perfectionist the possibility of it falling short on performance would be challenging.

The temptation would be to put it off until you had to pitch.

But the opposite holds true.  There is never a better time than now. It doesn’t matter if you have no immediate need to pitch. 

Your pitch is a living, breathing document

Your pitch is a living, breathing document, a representation of you that can flex in many directions. 

That means once you have the core of it bedded down, your day-to-day challenges, triumphs, and insights will add stories, colour, and depth to it.  It’ll grow as you grow.

Your pitch starts work for you the day you start work on it because just getting started on it persuades you there’s less possibility you’ll fall short.

The more you work on it the greater your reassurance, the more convinced you are about why you do what you do, and for whom.

We know that others are attracted to those who have a core belief in themselves and what they are doing.  This is the work a good pitch can do for you.  No better time to start than now.

PowerPitch & Presentation communication training is for academics; professionals and entrepreneurs to help them pitch and present the impact of their work based on purpose and contextualized storytelling. You can find more details here.

How story helps our evolving brains

Are our brains evolving to cope with our hyper-connectivity? 

A Microsoft study from 2015 is quoted as saying, The brain’s cognitive functioning shifts in response to regular, intensive use of technology resulting in development of new cognitive talents that better suit a more digital lifestyle.’

The idea that our brains are developing neural pathways to better process our constant use of technology and the incoming stream of information is comforting.  Far preferable to the concerns of many, that it is harmful to our brains. 

The questions might be then, can we learn to adapt and process better? And, how do we communicate effectively so that others’ newly developing, digital cognitive talents are attracted by what we have to say.

Research shows us that ‘watching the world go by’ doesn’t much alter our brain activity.  Whereas character-driven and emotionally charged story not only alters our brain activity, but introduces elevated neuro-chemicals that focus attention and increase empathy. 

What better way than story then to gain our attention as we deal with the digital deluge, and as our evolving brains develop the cognition to match our digital lifestyle?

Telling contextualized story is a craft.  You can find out how stories support our evolving brains through PowerPacked Pitch and Presentation communication training. 

A discourteous world

Surviving a discourteous world

A discourteous world

Dealing with a discourteous world

My brain went AWOL for eight days early one New Year and it wasn’t pleasant.   Nor was the virus I had rampaging around the rest of my body.

On the eighth night at 10pm, it returned. It had a lot to tell me.  It spoke in urgent tones for four hours.  There was no shutting it up and the message was clear.

Life is precious.  My brain said, ‘You must not in anyway deal any longer with dross’.

The baggage of regret unearthed by ingrates and their discourtesy is ‘inertia.’

Time to take up the cudgels against discourtesy in business, because I believe that no one should have to do business with another who doesn’t want to know, or worse chooses not to see an exchange of value.

Such behaviour is mischievous, driven by the need to pay little, less or even nothing.

Old fashioned as it might seem, courtesy remains the lynch pin of decent business behavior and transactions.  It was once a normal way to conduct any value transaction.

The pace of our digital world – emails, mobiles, SMSs, an over supply of self promoting consultant specialists in every field, and a plethora of grudge purchases, —yes, I know I must have a website, safety review, exit strategy, marketing campaign and the rest— may have all contributed to its demise.

In its wake, what’s left is much more pervasive than a dose of the dreaded scarcity virus.  It’s the equivalent of business Ebola.   People languish in anxiety, depression and despair in its path and if they recover, the effects are long lasting and destructive.

Six steps to survive and prosper in a discourteous world

To survive and prosper you must immunise yourself against the virus.  It’s not enough to inoculate yourself with your talent, experience and expertise.

Get clear

Nothing you do will work to elevate you beyond the dross if you’re not super clear about why you do what you do and for whom.

Without that clarity, no matter how good you are at what you do, discourtesy will envelop and unpick you at the seams, because it speaks of a much greater problem.  You are not where you should be, doing the work you should be doing.

Lose the delusion

‘If I ‘m honest, work hard and bring my talents and expertise to bear, the client will value me and pay me accordingly’.

No.  They won’t.  That is a delusion.

Without complete clarity around what you deliver in what timeframe and for what cost, they will come to distrust you and your offer.

Even if you’re creative and work in a field that is as hard to pin down as a forest full of feral cats, you must be an absolute stickler at defining the exact value and cost of the work you are going to do.  Then review and update your progress consistently and without ambivalence.

When there is scope creep as there usually is in any complex project, make sure you communicate it directly.

Don’t do what you are bad at

Herein lies the rub for most solo-preneurs.  It’s the Peter Principle.  Good at what ever it is that you offer, that doesn’t necessarily make you a whizz at admin or rigorous with attention to detail.  Chances are that if you’re creative, you’ll suck at the latter.

Find your yin.  Find the person who relishes what you don’t and do this business together.  Or employ them.  Don’t spend your life trying to do what ever it is you’re bad at.

The client will end up spilling bile, even if what you’ve delivered is fabulous. They will stick on the typo, or the extras or that you didn’t reply within the same day.  No point railing about it.  It just is.  Don’t do it.

Say no

Every business development person, every business blogger, every workshop on how to run your business rolls this mantra out until your eyes swivel and disappear down the back of your throat with I KNOW, I goddam KNOW.

I KNOW, I must say NO.

But sure enough, along comes a client.  Along comes the instinct that says, this doesn’t feel right; they’re not right, my product is not the right fit, they don’t have the budget.  Running in tandem comes the desire to make the money, because you have bills to pay, retirement to plan for, a life you want to live.

So you don’t say no, and they’re always right.  If you don’t say no when your gut tells you, you’ll lose money and worse, you’ll be scarred by the discourtesy.

Your life is precious.  It’s not worth the dollars.  It’s not worth the scarring.  It’s not worth a single cell of your energy.

Partner, don’t supply

You’re not a supplier.  You’re not a service provider.  You’re a collaborator in helping others achieve what they need to succeed.   Real partners are not discourteous.  They’re respectful and caring.

How many clients who would love and value you, and want to have you as a partner to their success, do you need to earn what you need?

You best work then is to find these people.

Then offer them a brilliant solution for exactly the problems you know they have to become their trusted and desired business partner.

Tell your stories

If you’re clear on why you do what you do, you should also be clear on your principles for delivering it and the stories that support your value.

When you know why you’re telling your stories to whom, and for what intention, your listeners will engage, connect, listen and recall your key messages.

A good storyteller rarely invites discourtesy.

If you would like some clarity counselling about any how to deal with a discourteous world, please contact me

great stories evoke compassion

Great storytelling evokes compassion

great stories evoke compassionHow not to present

A while back I heard about a seminar for pregnant women on how an unborn foetus might be affected by a women’s mental wellness. I was keen to learn about this to help a pregnant friend going through a tough time.

The expectation in the room suggested a high level of interest in this emerging and valuable topic. We seem more aware, but not necessarily more knowledgeable, of how much can affect growing babies from conception to birth.

Two keynote speakers took the stage; one an eminent professor of paediatrics from a leading maternity hospital, the other credentialed too, but as we were to discover, driven more by passion than academic rigour.

Death by PowerPoint

The professor who spoke first, put up her PowerPoint display. It came up in tiny type, with her whole address, page, after page, after page.

For most of her presentation she stood with her back to the audience and read it. Delivered from that position, her speech was mostly incoherent for her audience.

We were a room of amateurs, not aspiring pediatricians, so we couldn’t understand the jargon, acronyms, and other slide-borne presentation mysteries.

She had misread her audience.  It was a missed opportunity, as she did not elicit any emotional response in her audience, either for the unborn or its mother.

Stories build trust and empathy

The second speaker took the stage. For 40 minutes he held us captivated. He enrolled us in story after story about pregnancy, unborns, mothers, depression, and anxiety, which evoked in his audience concern for the foetus and compassion for its mothers.

He demonstrated the science behind his stories, tying everything back to the central topic of the mother’s mental wellness during pregnancy. This was good communication and it was riveting.  

In today’s fast and information-overloaded spaces, purpose driven storytelling is a vital skill, we’d all benefit from, both as presenter and audience.

Here are some simple keys to turn a sleep-inducing, dull, and possibly, insulting presentation (you can read blog or proposal here) into one that leaves your audience leaning in, wanting to know more.

5 simple keys to powerful communication

Know your purpose, your audience and your intention. What is your purpose? How is your presentation delivering on it?  Who is in the room. Your words are much more likely to land if your message is addressed to their problems, issues, or interests. What do you want them to think act or do as a result of your presentation?

One topic, three key messages. You have a wealth of information and value to impart.  To often, presenters make the mistake of including everything, cramming it all in, at speed, or in minute type on a slide presentation. Your audiences will catch nothing, not even the one vital point you are so qualified to make.

Become a story teller. Stories that are emotionally charged and character-driven engage and reduce the gap between you and your audience, creating intimacy and trust. We are all designed to learn from them. The science proves that key messages will fall on receptive ears when carried by a tale.

Think about cadence.The rhythm of language and its delivery can move people to think entirely differently about what they’ve heard. It’s no surprise that Shakespeare continues to influence people with his poetic prose centuries after it was written.

Become a critic.You’ll enhance your communications if you learn to listen carefully to others. What moves you, what doesn’t? Why does one speaker engage you and another not? Why do you remember a lot about one presentation and recall little or nothing from another? When do people tell stories and how does it work for you?

Becoming a great storyteller so a better communicator, whose words matter to make a difference requires clarity of purpose and intention, self-awareness, empathy, and a desire to serve others rather than to grandstand, sell or promote. You’ll never regret the shift, or the work to do it.

Asking for and listening to story

Ask for, and listen to story. It’s a skill

Asking for and listening to story

Very often I’m fortunate to be in a position to ask for, and listen to story.

Recently, I met a man dedicated to ridding the world of polystyrene packaging for perishable goods.

After seven years in the game, he’s invented an organic, temperature-stable, recyclable, packaging product, which has trialed effectively to transport fresh fish and temperature-sensitive cancer drugs.  Now, he’s just short of a million dollars toward eliminating one of the most toxic waste products on our planet.

Then there’s the organization that’s developed a bulk process to manufacture a critical component of a substance one atom thick. It’s been shown to create a membrane so fine it can filter seawater directly into potable water.  The road to a global market is full of jaw-dropping opportunity, but which way ensures nine billion people will always have drinking water?

These are the stories that fill you with awe at the brilliance and tenacity of people to fulfill a powerful purpose.

Why you should ask for, and listen to story

Asking for and listening to a story is a skill.  But if by doing so, you can make the right connections, provide the right service, plug the hole, or stop the pain, then you too have played a part in changing our world for the better.

PowerPitch & Presentation communication training helps academics, professionals and entrepreneurs to present the impact of their work based on purpose-driven contextualized storytelling.  It is also about why and how to ask for, and listen to story. 

The training starts with understanding the context for telling your stories, why, to whom, your intention and your value.

The same goes for when you ask and listen to stories.  You have to have a context for doing so, and be in a genuine position to assist, for it to work to engage others, to build trust and recall of your key messages in return.

If you would like to know more about how the training can work for you, please contact me at