Episode: 354 |
Philipp Humm:
Corporate Storytelling:


Philipp Humm

Corporate Storytelling

Show Notes

Philipp Humm is a storytelling coach who teaches how to apply the fundamentals of storytelling to sales, marketing, management, and connecting with your business audience.

Philipp on LinkedIn or learn more from his website, power-of-storytelling.com

Key points include:

  • 03:41: Why storytelling matters to consultants
  • 06:03: What makes a compelling story
  • 07:24: Six elements of story
  • 13:33: Who approaches Andrew and how he helps them
  • 15:27: Situations where storytelling can help
  • 16:59: Tips on creating, preparing, and practicing storytelling


One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:02
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman and we’re here today with Philip home. That’s h u m. m. Philipp is a storytelling coach. He’s a Columbia MBA. He’s former Bain. He’s former Uber. And he’s here today to tell us about his firm, the power of storytelling. Phillip, before we get into the power of storytelling, and you know why stories matter? And how do you create a good story? What’s your story? How did you? How did you decide to start a firm that helps coach people on how to tell good stories?

Philipp Humm 00:44
Yeah, love to pay. First, thanks to all for pronouncing my name, right. It doesn’t happen that often. But yeah, let me quickly tell you about myself. And you probably already tell right now by my accent, I’m German. So some things may be pronounced a little bit wrong. But let me give you some context about myself. I followed more or less the classic corporate way corporate story, which was I was working in investment banking at Blackstone, and then I moved into consulting at Bain. And in this last function, I was working as a product manager. And luckily, I had the chance to see quite a few places. So South Korea, Chile, Brazil, and for the MBA than New York. But in the end, I would have probably gone on with this path of, of corporate career if it hadn’t been for an event in 2016. And that was back then I was in New York and my sister, she signed me up for this improv course in New York. And at first I thought, I’m definitely not going to do this, right. This terrible I’m, I’m afraid of public speaking, I don’t want to be on stage. But in the end, I forced myself and actually went there. And yes, terrifying. At first, it was everything about it was out of my comfort zone. But every time I forced myself to go there, and with every week, I started to enjoy it, I started to enjoy it more and more. And after the Emperor, of course, I liked it so much that a sign up for another one. And since then, I have been exploring this entire space of performance arts much more. So after that, I went into acting, storytelling, improv comedy, all of these spaces in the end, very related, but very comparable. And at first, I always try to keep these two worlds separate. So one for more the corporate world. So I was just doing my normal job at Uber. During the day, and at night, I would rehearse and practice then. And at first I tried to keep these two worlds separate. But then at one point, I realized these two worlds actually not that different, right? And then both, you need to connect with an audience, you need to convey emotion, you need to, you need to tell stories. And with the more I applied my storytelling as well at work in my old job, the more positive feedback I got, the more people reached out to me and asked me Hey, can you teach me Can you tell me some concepts around improv storytelling? And I did that I taught more and more people. And at one point, after I got very good feedback, I thought, Hey, why don’t I do a business around this, I get much more energy around this whole piece of coaching people on storytelling than actually doing the corporate job that I have been used to for the past 10 years. And that’s my story. It’s today, I give workshops, coaching sessions, to managers, salespeople, and nonprofit fundraisers, and so far, very excited about the venue that I’ve been exploring.

Will Bachman 03:41
That’s fantastic. Tell me a little bit about just why stories matter. So if some might think oh, yeah, facts, figures, conclusions, right. But what’s what’s important about stories? Yeah, in a corporate context, like why do they matter so much? To consultants?

Philipp Humm 04:01
Got it. Yeah. Um, let me potentially some of the audience has already heard about this experiment. But let me tell you about one experiment. In 2009, Glenn and Walker, they run a little experiment, experiment in which they bought 100 items on the flea market. These are ordinary items. On average, they paid 129 for an item. So in total 100 items $129. This is like a jar of marbles, or use pen, very, very average items. What they did differently this time, they asked volunteers to write short fictional story on each of the items. They after that put the items on eBay together with this little fictional story. They sold it on eBay. After five months, all of the items were sold. Well, now you can think how much were the items sold for right? Originally, they paid 129 for all of them. Now, they were sold for $3,600. That’s a massive increase. And why only because they included this short fictional component around that. And that’s fascinating to me, right? It’s so fascinating that only through stories, you can create this additional value. And I’m not saying that any consultants need business consultants or whoever offers a cheap service, right. But if we’re honest, at the end, most of us, we offer a service that is pretty replaceable. And a lot of competitors are offering similar service. So storytelling allows you to make that connection with the customer allows you to build this edge versus others. And so this is why it matters. And anywhere that you need to sell a service or product.

Will Bachman 05:54
Okay, what, how, what makes a compelling story?

Philipp Humm 06:03
a compelling story, I would say, it needs a couple of components. First, it probably needs the foundation. Right? Right. And that’s usually around the story structure. What’s the story arc that you’re choosing for the story that you’re telling? And maybe you’ve heard of it, but usually, it’s very much you’ve heard of the three act structure, scitex, pyramid principle, or the hero’s journey? These are all good story structures. But if you’re in the business setting, you probably have to think a little bit about what can I communicate in the most effective way. And there’s sometimes a story structure of 12 steps is a little bit too complicated, right? This is why in my work, we’re working together with my coaching clients, we have come up with a six step story structure that focuses on the essentials, but yet make it applicable for the audience. So I would say a first step is to get this story structure, right? And after that, you can go much more into these elements of what specific elements make it more compelling, and more spicy. And these are usually around emotions. These This is around how do you act out deliver certain things? And how do you then deliver it in person? Actually, how do you how do you pass? How do you use your body? And all of these things?

Will Bachman 07:24
What can you walk us through? What are those six elements of the story that that you’ve that you use with your coaching clients?

Philipp Humm 07:32
Yeah, I would love to that six elements, the first element, or let me take one step back, actually, in this one, before we move into the six elements, everyone that tells the story should be clear of two things. Number one is, who’s your audience? And what’s your message? If you don’t have that clear, you don’t need to go into storytelling. Because Who’s your audience? You need to know who these people are? What do they want emotionally? mechanically, what do they want in life, you should structure your story accordingly. And the second one, what’s your message, and you can pick from a lot of different messages, right? But what’s the one message that you want to communicate? And after you’ve done that, so you’ve defined your message, you have picked your audience, you can then move into the story structure. Okay, and on the story structure, it’s number one is set the scene number two is begin the journey. Number three is face the challenge. overcome the challenges for five is get the result and six applied to the audience. And then I’ll pray especially for the audience right now. It’s difficult to follow. But let me quickly walk you through each of the steps. So on set the scene, it’s pretty much giving context where and when does it take place. It’s usually time and place when and where it’s not very complicated. And I know beginner storytellers often go into great depth of defining every single detail that is out there, they will tell you about how they brush their teeth, the teeth, how the toothpaste smelled, and all these things are going into all of these senses. It’s not necessary for business story. So you want to say when and where? Number one, who’s the protagonist. So you want to pick a character that is relatable, that people can identify with? So boss, a co worker, whatever it is, and then what does this character want, right? hopes, dreams, fears, whatever it is. This is for set the scene. The second one is begin the journey. This is the moment where the hero the protagonist departs into this new world a little bit when we call it and it’s very much about beginning the journey and going into again, what is the person want in life, what is the goal of this person and then make This person, make the audience aware of what are specifically, the desires fears of this protagonist, the more we can relate to the dialogue of this person, the inner dialogue, the more memorable it will become. After that, let’s face the challenge, and that’s the part where the hero encounters the obstacle. It’s where you usually go big before, it’s always very, very concise, right? You shouldn’t tell much more than one or two sentences. But this is the part where you go deep in the emotions, you tell the audience Exactly. What What is the challenge, it could be a mental challenge, a physical challenge, a personal problem, whatever it is, can be anything. This, this is the part where you go deep, this is also the most important part of the entire story. After that, it goes into overcoming the challenge, which is more How did things turn out at the end? How What did I do to overcome this challenge? And you just want to be aware that you don’t skip that step, right? If you skip that step, and you don’t tell people what exactly happened to overcome the challenge, people will think that person just got lucky, right? How Why would it relate to that? So be sure to include this step very well. So you tell the people what the hero did to overcome the challenge. And then get the result, which is very much around how did things turn out? Tie up all the loose ends? How did this does the story end? And then the last one is apply to the business audience. And this is very much around. This is very much around how do you make it more clickable to the audience? Because right now, you can use that story in any personal setting as well. You can tell it at a story slam in the mouth in New York, you can tell it in at a family dinner anywhere. But how do you then make it applicable? Right? And this is where you turn it back to the audience you tell? What have you learned from your experience? Ask the audience as well about their experience. How do you feel about that? When was the last time that you’ve experienced this type of emotion or this type of situation? And there without you tied up all in the end with the business audience as well? Yeah, that’s a flavor of the six steps that we’re following.

Will Bachman 12:34
Right, fantastic. That’s, I love those six steps. Can you give us an example of a business story maybe sanitized from, from example, you’ve worked on with one of your clients that kind of follows that paradigm? Mm hmm.

Philipp Humm 12:48
I probably have a hard time right now recounting a business story of, of a CEO that I engage with, it’s usually more that I’m more of a coach in the sense, right? It’s people coming with their stories to me. But it’s not that I’m let’s say this ghost writer that defines exactly how the story should be and tell. Yeah, well, I would probably have a hard time if it wasn’t the story. I for myself, I’ll probably have a hard time telling it. All right.

Will Bachman 13:15
Well, well, let’s I’d love to hear a little bit about your coaching practice of how that works. Can you give some examples of just like how you engage with a client, you know, sanitize it as necessary, obviously, but like, what would someone come to you with? And how do you work with them? Absolutely.

Philipp Humm 13:33
Yeah. So, so far, I would say it’s very diverse. I’ve on purpose, not try to limit myself too much. So right now I have three groups that I’m focusing on. Number one, it’s managers, as a broad group, probably the biggest one number two salespeople. And the last one is nonprofits. And mostly, how I approach these clients at the beginning, when I just started, I started off with a bunch of free workshops that I did at companies, where I still had very good connection with either from my own personal life, or from people that are working there. So did a bunch of free workshops at these companies. And from there, usually, I got a bunch of requests. So it was always a went there, I get gave a workshop and after that the people asked me, Hey, can we do one on one coaching after this? And after that, we went, Okay, let’s go deeper into each of the topics. First, obviously, understand, what does this person want. So a little bit like self assessment, but also my assessment. Then what are the things that we want to focus on? And usually, it’s always a combination of practice and technique, but then do some technique and practice rounds each round, and then develop this skill a little bit on the parallel, but then as well make sure that we use any ad hoc storytelling opportunities. So mostly it’s people coming To me with a concrete with a concrete option where they say, okay, in three weeks I’ll have this presentation in front of all my staff, can you help me craft a story, then it would be very ad hoc to, to think through the story, what are the important points? And how can you tell it in a more compelling way?

Will Bachman 15:19
Yeah, what are some of the situations where you should be thinking about, you know, using using a story?

Philipp Humm 15:27
Absolutely. So the use case that I’ve seen the most was new manager, joins, joins a company joins his team is promoted. And he has this speech that he wants to deliver in front of a bigger audience. It’s gonna be a small, smaller audience. But it’s a bigger audience, and he wants people to see that, hey, besides being this big CEO type of person, this person is still relatable, this person still, you can trust this person. And so it’s very much about picking the situations that are very high stake, and then defining a personal story around that. And that’s usually, I know, part of business storytelling is telling also very average story. But my focus has been mostly about telling vulnerable personal stories. So it’s very much about showing the human side and each one of us to create sympathy within the staff that you’re working with.

Will Bachman 16:24
Okay. What sort of tips do you have for listeners who want to take away and to work on their own storytelling? You know, maybe it’s just sort of as you’re giving a final presentation on a project that you’ve been working on? How to make, you know, bring more storytelling into that to make it more memorable? What would some tips that you have on, you know, creating the story, preparing for it, testing it out? practicing it? What are what are some suggestions that you would have people take home?

Philipp Humm 16:59
Absolutely, yeah, I would say, I know, my including myself, we are super pressure driven, right? We think on two weeks, I have this big presentation coming up. Let me define right now this beautiful story. Sure, you can do that by like that. But usually you make your life pretty miserable if you always work like that. And at the end, I don’t think that anyone is born as an extra storyteller. But it’s a skill that you need to develop. And so my biggest advice to the audience would be to start practicing. And that’s not a lot. It’s start practicing everyday. And I’ll I can quickly go through some of the exercises there. And I would encourage everyone who looks forward to going more into storytelling, first read maybe one or two books that are extremely relevant for storytelling. My favorite ones, actually, number one was story worth, maybe some of the audience have already heard of that. It’s by Matthew Dix. It’s one of the most famous storyteller, at least from the math. And the second one was the theater method, which is more around storytelling in business. But I would encourage you read one or two books, look up which books you like most, read them through, and then actually apply whatever you’ve learned, and then try to make it a habit every day. So what I did at the beginning, and I still try to do it consistently, is every day a block, let’s say half an hour or an hour to practice that. And I do some improv exercises. So it’s, for example, I go online and pick a random topic, you can just generate some online, right. And then I would just improvise a story on the spot following the story structure that works for me, and trying to use some of the elements that I feel most confident about. And that I tried to do pretty much every day. And anyone that is more serious about storytelling has to try to make a habit out of that. Because in the end, sure, it’s nice that you can deliver this one big speech once in a time. But it’s much nicer if you can do that relatively quickly, right, so that it doesn’t take you two weeks of preparation. But if you are now asked to do that, you can just do it on the spot.

Will Bachman 19:06
I love that idea of just taking random topics and working on crafting a story out of them. Philip, for people that wanted to learn more about your firm, where should they go? You want to share some links or websites or Twitter or any other places where people can find you online?

Philipp Humm 19:26
Yes, right now, all via LinkedIn, or my website, and my website is power of storytelling.com. And in between everything is there’s hyphens. So power hyphen, off, hyphen, storytelling.com. And, you know, check out my website, add me on LinkedIn, and I’d be more than happy to provide any advice in whatever capacity.

Will Bachman 19:51
Fantastic. Well, we’ll include those links in the show notes. Philip, thank you for joining us today. Hey,

Philipp Humm 19:58
my pleasure. Well, thanks for Having me

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