How to tell a great story - two women in pub with bald man

You know how all those business types tell you you have to tell a good story?  Seems to be all the fashion these days.

Well, twas such good weather in Cork last night -  I went to the pub. For all I remember, it might have been the HiB Bar (where I love listening to other people's conversations).

Two women were propped at the bar.
Stout & cider I'll call them. They sounded like they were both from Kerry.

"You won a storytelling competition? What, you're joking?" (Cider)

"Twasn't the first one either. Don't want to be boasting but I'm nearly as good as my mother." (Stout)

"Jeeese that's brilliant. What was the prize?" 

"That's another story.  Have you time for another one?'

"Go on - the ould fella's looking after the kids. So you're the champion storyteller..."

"Well, you could say that - but the prize was a book."


"You might say that, but twas by a bald fella from New York with a degree in Philosophy."

"You know today's Socrates's birthday - the 4th of June?" (Cider)

"Well this fella turns out to be a canoe instructor as well."

Stout left her pint unfinished & started the fresh one.  Cider was only half way down hers. The woman behind the bar was distracted by people from Northern Ireland looking for directions about Cork nightclubs.  I was trying to look uninterested, writing in my white Moleskine Notebook.

"So what's the book?"

Stout took a slim red hard-covered book from her Orla Kiely handbag. Without saying anything, she spread it on the counter & flattened it out. Cider pushed her pint out of the way.

Stout read 

A great story is true. Not true because it's factual, but true because it's consistent & authentic.

Cider interrupted: "don't we all know stories don't have to be factual. Once upon a time isn't factual, girl. Don't tell me your prize was a book about how to tell decent stories - you hardly need that."

Stout smiled as she played with her pint.

Great stories make a promise. They promise fun or money, safety or a shortcut.

Cider got stuck in.  "Fun, money, safety or shortcut... did you get any money with the bald canoe fella's book?  Looks like he made some money himself."

Stout dug into her handbag & fished out an orange highlighter.  She started marking up bits of the book.  I was straining to see what bits she was highlighting.

Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we've got left. 

Great stories are subtle... the less a marketer spells out, the more powerful the story becomes.

Cider stopped her. "What's the name of that book?"

"All Marketers Are Liars - the power of telling authentic stories in a low-trust world".

"Jeeese, he is bald.  Did he shave himself?"

Stout drank her stout: "Look, I'll just show you one more."

"No, I want to know all about great stories. Go on."

Great stories happen fast. They engage the consumer the moment the story clicks into place.

More highlighting...

Great stories don't appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses. Pheromones aren't a myth.

"Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. Average people are good at ignoring you.

"You can say that again" said Cider - as she looked round the pub.

Great stories don't contradict themselves. If your restaurant is in the right location but has the wrong menu, you lose.

They don't do any food in the HiB by the way.

And most of all, great stories agree with our world view. The best stories don't teach people anything new.

I could just see the next bit of the book which she didn't highlight: "Telling a story badly: the plight of the telemarketer." 

The book was shut.  The women were chuckling. I wanted to know what they did for a living. Maybe they were in marketing.  Maybe they were in fashion. But I know if I got talking to them, I'd be so late leaving... I'd be killed.

The Táin is is longer than this.  Isn't that the longest Irish story? 

And who's this Seth Godin guy they were drooling over anyway?

Bloody smartass eh?


The ISBN is 0-718-14865-7