Tips aplenty for making a compelling pitch

By Carmine Gallo
Macmillan, paperback/268 pages/ $25.95 with GST from leading bookstores or on loan from the National Library Board under the call number English 658.45 GAL-


Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in September 2013, about 11/2 years after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Fukushima, which is 239km north of Tokyo. That killed more than 15,000 people and damaged a major nuclear plant.

Just how did Tokyo allay the world's safety concerns to clinch this coveted event?

With storytelling, as Carmine Gallo shows in this book of tips aplenty. Among Tokyo's seven storytellers was Mami Sato, a Waseda University student who lost her leg to cancer at the age of 19.

Undeterred, the former runner, swimmer and cheerleader trained for the long jump and won the bronze medal at the 2004 Paralympic Games. Her family later lost everything but their lives in the Fukushima quake but, as she told the Olympics bid-judging committee: "Most of all, I learnt that what was important was what I had, not what I had lost." The judges later credited Sato for "emotion and passion" not seen in any other Japanese bid team before.

In The Storyteller's Secret, Gallo, an American communications coach and author of the bestselling book Talk Like TED, shows how luminaries such as the late Steve Jobs, the late Martin Luther King, Jr, Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francis captivate their audiences to ensure critical messages stick with them.

Gallo is likely a better speaker than he is a writer, though, as he does not connect the dots for his readers well in prose. Nevertheless, this book is a rich, handy resource.


1 To win big and stay on top, you will need everyone else's support, and the best way to gain that is to inspire them with heartfelt stories about why an idea, product or service matters to all.

2 Connect with others by being yourself, sharing your most painful struggles and keeping everything you say simple and succinct. Jobs revolutionised the music industry in April 2003 with a 10-minute speech in which he argued that as most people would spend US$3 on a Starbucks latte, they would pay US$0.99 for an iTune song.

3 People do not buy a good or service because it will improve their lives, but because they believe it will solve a specific, immediate problem. Similarly, donors give specific people money for specific efforts.

4 Here is a failsafe story arc: (1) Introduce your hero and what he has going for him (2) Show what his routine is like (3) Go deep into his conflicts (4) Show how he is trying to resolve these (5) Show how he changes.

5 Give your story sudden twists as that will have your audience hanging on to your every word.

6 Humour helps heaps; people forget what you said or did, but they remember how you made them feel.

7 Boost your storytelling with visuals; the mind retains 65 per cent of words if they are paired with visuals, but only 10 per cent otherwise. Which is why Microsoft founder Bill Gates once drank a glass of water that was filtered from faeces, to get buy-in for a filter.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Tips aplenty for making a compelling pitch'. Print Edition | Subscribe