Reviewed by Susan Fader, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fader & Associates, Teaneck, NJ
Communicating better has become a major focus of CEOs at leading companies. Jeff Bezos has famously banned PowerPoint presentations from all Amazon executive meetings, which now start off (according to Bezos’ 2017 annual letter) with everyone sitting silently reading a “six-page memo (written in Word) that’s narratively structured with real sentences, topic sentences, verbs, and nouns.” After everyone has had time to absorb the information in the memo, they then, and only then, discuss the topic.
Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, is moving Google away from a PowerPoint bullet point presentation format to a more visual storytelling process, and he has instituted a training program to get Google employees up to speed on this more visual and less text-heavy approach.
Bezos and Pichai have different approaches to attaining the same goal of improving how people in their companies communicate. Their actions also spotlight the increasing importance and need of improving one’s communication skills and becoming a skilled storyteller. A storytelling approach is a much more persuasive way to communicate than a fact-based PowerPoint presentation because our brains are hardwired for narratives.
Carmine Gallo’s well-written and interesting book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, provides you with the tools and multiple diverse examples of how to become a skilled storyteller. He also provides, through a myriad of interesting examples, the context of why Bezos and Pichai and many other CEOs are changing the way people at their companies communicate. To emphasize that communication skills can make or break your effectiveness, Gallo points out that Jeff Jordan, a partner in Andreessen-Horowitz, a venture capital firm that has successfully invested in many high-tech firms, believes “every great founder can tell a great story. If a founder doesn’t have it, it’s harder to get funding, attract employees, or get attention.”
Gallo, who is a storyteller/communication specialist, advices CEOs on how to deliver presentations and share inspiring stories. He is also the author of Talk Like Ted and The Storyteller’s Secret, and he shares some of the effective Ted Talk techniques in this book. He named the book Five Stars because it is a term he feels “describe(s) the unique leaders, entrepreneurs, business professionals, and brands who stand out, who occupy their own universe…(and) as a metaphor. For example, you’ll learn how business professionals who occupy top jobs in their fields were average or good communicators and transformed themselves into great ones.”
A good storyteller creates sticky communication where what is shared is fully absorbed, processed, used, and retained by others. Gallo points out the objective of communication is usually to persuade someone to a certain point of view and “in the next decade, your ideas—and the ability to articulate those ideas successfully—will count more than ever. Persuaders are irreplaceable.”
Five Stars is different from other storytelling books in that Gallo focuses on how and why you should become a better communicator and more effective persuader rather than just techniques to improve as a storyteller. This book is full of actionable ways to turbo-charge your communication skills including: why you should focus more on “out-of-sights” than insights; how using the three-act storytelling structure used by successful screenwriters will enhance your storytelling skills; why choosing to focus on one main idea is a more winning strategy, even if there are many important ideas to share; there is no one right way to tell a story; brevity is better; and why you really have to practice, practice, practice if you want to improve your communication skills. Also, it doesn’t hurt to read speeches by great orators such as Lincoln and Churchill.
While Five Stars does provide many storytelling how-to tips, it really is a book about how to better communicate, inspire, and persuade people, and that is what makes this a standout book. If you want to become a better communicator and persuader, Five Stars is a book you should read.