Book: The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

The Storyteller’s Secret explores the various methods, techniques and ideas of telling a story by narrating the stories of well known orators & leaders like Winston Churchill, Oprah Winfrey and events like Ice Bucket Challenge.

The Storyteller's Secret

The Storyteller’s Secret explores the various methods, techniques and ideas of telling a story by narrating the stories of well known orators, leaders and public figures like Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and events like Ice Bucket Challenge. The book dives deep into these methodologies employed by the people who are expert in this craft by dissecting their stories or events to understand their techniques.


Carmine Gallo has divided this book in to five broad sections namely:

  1. Storytellers who ignite our inner fire
  2. Storytellers who educate
  3. Storytellers who simplify
  4. Storytellers who motivate
  5. Storytellers who launch movements

Each section contain group of stories loosely structured around the broad theme of that particular section.

Storytellers who ignite our inner fire

The first section opens up with the story of Steve Jobs and investigates into how he was able to motivate so many before finally coming to conclusion that ‘One cannot inspire others unless one’s inspired himself‘. One of the memorable lesson of this chapter is summarized in the following line:

Passion is contagious. Passion is irresistible. Passion fuels the inner fire

Page.14 : The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

Other prominent stories of first section bring home the point that one has to belief in her strength of ideas and great storytellers are not born rather they achieve the status through consistent hard work. Another important storyteller from first section is the Tony Robbins who emphasizes to re-frame own back story to positively influence the life.

I always say, change your story change your life, because whatever your story is will become the shaper of your life.

Tony Robbins, Page.36 : The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

The author explores the classic narrative technique which is employed expertly by Oprah Winfrey in her various speeches. This technique of story telling has 3 parts namely trigger or event, transformation and finally lesson. The last storyteller in this section is Peter Guber who also emphasizes a 3 step storytelling technique, first grab the attention by question or unexpected challenge, than lay out the struggle/narrative through a story and finally emphasize a resolution or call to action (CTA).

Storytellers who educate

The second section of this books opens with story of Bryan Stevenson, in the first chapter write emphasizes the use of 3 keys of persuasion namely emotion, logic & evidence in right balance to achieve the objective and from thereon he moves on to using Expectancy Violation Theory to violate the expectations in order to grab the attention of audience and there by educate them on a topic.

Author also effectively emphasizes the use of analogy to explain the complex topics. Apart from analogies, effective educators serve up the serious stories with the side of funny and this humor makes their stories attention grabbing for their listeners. From here on author explains the use of stories within corporate world by the various businesses to educate their employees about the values and behavior that they are expected to model.

Storytellers who simplify

The third section begins with the story of Richard Branson and his emphasis that persuasive storytelling must be confident, clear, and above all concise & simple.

Say what you mean and mean what you say and preferably in as few well-chosen words as possible.

Richard Branson, Page.114 : The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

The next lesson is the use of Rule of Threes, the rule emphasis using maximum of three points in a story, 3 is minimum number of units that makes up a pattern and humans are attuned to getting influenced by a pattern much more than a non-patterned story. Other important points for simplification are use of simple language, use of analogies and pictures to express the complex topics or event.

Simple can be harder than complex.

Steve Jobs, Page.136 : The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo

Storytellers who motivate

The first story in this section brings home the point that inspiring storytellers reframe their personal narratives to give their lives purpose and meaning. From here on, writer moves on the use of storytelling to build culture within great organizations and businesses, as successful leaders are able to bring a company’s purpose to life through the use of stories.

To motivate others, one has to be strong within and that entails appreciation of one’s own roots no matter how humble they may be. Inspiring leaders embrace their past and have the courage to share the lessons they have learned.

Facts and figures in a power point presentation inform but its the stories that move people to action. This hold true for an individual leaders as well as successful movements like the ice bucket challenge wherein story form the core inspirational fuel for the movement. Lastly, author emphasizes that stories that motivate need to be simple & concrete without any abstractions. Last storyteller of this section is Winston Churchill who was able to motivate a nation through the use of simple and straight forward language as his disdain for long and complex words is well documented.

Storytellers who launch movements

The last section of this book opens up with the story of Martin Luther King, the emphasis of first chapter is on the hard work and preparation that goes behind the honing of this craft for example it is revealed that TED speakers are known to rehearse up to 200 times before final presentation. Other tools of master storytellers highlighted here are use of metaphors & anaphora.

The story of Sheryl Sandberg highlights that its not data which inspires rather it is the authenticity and connection built with audience through the use of personal examples. Facts are necessary component of persuasion but it is the use of narrative that moves the listeners. Presentation software serves to illustrate the narrative; but the story always comes first.

Storytelling Lessons & Techniques

  • Story Structure & Layouts
    1. Beginning – Middle – End
    2. Trigger/Event/Fact – Transformation – Lesson
    3. Problem – Struggle/Narrative – Resolution/CTA
    4. Backstory – Emotional hook – Resolution
    5. Protagonist – Balance – Conflict – Struggle – Climax – Moral
  • Emotional Layout
    • Pathos (Emotions) : 65%
    • Logos (Logic) : 25%
    • Ethos (Evidence) : 10%
  • Use Analogy to describe complex topics, events
  • Use Anaphora (repeating phrases) to add impact
  • Brevity & Simple words (Flesch-kincaid grade level < 8)
  • Laughter to retain attention
  • Rule of threes
  • Use Metaphors
  • Practice & Hard work

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