Scott Berkun encourages storytelling

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —February 6, 2011
Filed in Business storytelling

My friend Donal O Duibhir keeps an eye out for story-related tidbits for me (thanks Donal). Today he sent me this 5 min video of Scott Berkun describing how to deliver an Ignite talk (sounds just like a Pecha Kucha). He starts with “I think storytelling is everything …” Nice. You have my attention Scott. He then builds on the idea making the good point that we are all natural storytellers. It’s just part of the human make up.

A little bit of context here. I’m half way through Scott’s book The Myths of Innovation, which is a terrific read. He tells some good stories in it so I’m waiting for some stories in this video. I’m waiting, and waiting …

Scott’s advice for would-be Ignite presenters is to tell stories (right on!) and Scott says there are three places to look to find these stories.

1) Things you love and are passionate about

2) Things you hate and despise

3) And if you can’t find a story, tell the story of not finding it. He calls it a meta-story

Still no stories …

I reckon Scott’s advice has about a 50/50 chance of getting stories told at Ignite because you could just as easily share your view on what you love or hate as an opinion as comfortably as tell a story. And because we’re such natural storytellers and they are so ubiquitous many of us don’t really know what a story looks like. Add to that our habit to privilege rhetoric when we get a little formal. Stories suddenly evaporate.

So building on Scott’s advice I would add this idea:

Think about an event, something that happened, to you or someone you know, that illustrates your love or passion for the topic, or the hatred, and tell that. You’ll know you’re telling a story if you start it at some point in time like “just the other day,” “a while back,” “in December 2001…” Here’s a little example (that a grabbed from our story finder) of a story:

Since we started Anecdote in 2004 our local Kwik Kopy in Coburg has printed most of our posters and workshop materials. Kelvin does a great job. Always high quality, delivered when we need it despite the outrageous time frames we sometimes impose.

That was the case up until this Wednesday. We’d created a high-quality handbook to support our Influence Change workshop and I picked them up from Kelvin at 4.30pm ready for the next day. At about 6pm I open the box and my heart sunk. The workbooks looked shoddy. Some of the pages were in the wrong order and all of them had edges that weren’t trimmed and aligned properly. Very unusual for Kelvin. And I needed them for 7.15am the next morning.

I called Kelvin. I could hear the concern in his voice and he came over to my house right away. He apologised, kept extremely calm and said he would set it right. He went back to his store and personally re-did our handbooks and arrived back at my place at 10pm with a perfect set.

And with that little nudge I think you’ll get stories. No need to talk about plot structures, character development and all the wonderful things you can learn from the likes of Robert McKee.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Thanks for these examples.
    Here’s a story about broadcaster Ira Glass’s storytelling structure

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