Go Hollywood to grow your small business

December 24, 2013


In this roundup of advice for small business, you’ll find out what a Hollywood legend can teach you about business, how to make your prospects remember you and how to ensure you’re always at your best when you make presentations.

Read on to explore this edition of The Water Cooler:

Go Hollywood to grow your business

Over the course of my career I’ve sat through dozens and dozens of presentations by people trying to sell me or the organization I was with something—a service, a product, a strategic alliance. I wish I could say I looked forward to these presentations, but I didn’t. Experience has taught me to dread them. Slide shows with numbers, graphs and charts. A presenter earnestly painting a rosy picture of how great his company or service is. I wish they were more fun to sit through, like movies. I like going to movies. I expect to have a good time. To laugh, or feel a thrilling jolt of fear, maybe shed a tear, or bawl—yeah, I’ve done that, usually secretly into the collar of my shirt. So why can’t presentations be more like movies? I’d like them better if they were. Well, they should be, according to story expert Robert McKee, one of the most influential people in Hollywood. You might not know of McKee, but you’ve felt his influence in many of the great movies you’ve seen—The Lord of the Rings and Toy Story to name a couple.

To use the power of Hollywood, you don’t need special effects, famous actors or elaborate staging. What you need is the one thing that makes a great film—a moving story.

The following six-minute clip is a brilliant argument for using the power of story in business. One of the key takeaways for me is that most presenters fail to win the trust of their audience because they focus only on the positives. Trust is broken because the audience knows you’ve left all the negatives out—and they know there are negatives; there always are.

Hear the rest of McKee’s brilliance – as featured in bigthink.com.

How to be memorable

I recently told someone a story from when I was about thirteen. The short version is—my dad took the whole family to a resort for a couple of weeks. One of the companies he worked with was honoring him with a big award at a gala dinner at the end of the two weeks. So it was part business for him and all vacation for us. It was a big deal and my mom took all the kids out for new outfits before we left—me and my two brothers got new suits and my sister a new dress. Problem was, the resort had an all-you-can-eat dessert bar that was open all day, and I liked dessert. On the night of the gala, I discovered I couldn’t get into my suit—not even close. Worse. There was no back-up plan. Except for a tracksuit. So that’s what I wore to the big gala dinner. Every single person was dressed to the nines, and there I was, stuffed into my leisure suit like a little Soprano. Yeah, my mom was a little upset.

A few days ago I ran into someone who had heard this story. I listened to them laughingly retell it to a bunch of other people. The remarkable thing—he told it almost perfectly. I was further amazed when I discovered that he’d heard the story through a chain of two other re-tellers. That totally floored me. When I originally told the story, I only told it once. One straight run-through. I wasn’t trying to make it memorable. I didn’t repeat any details. And yet it had the power to travel from person to person. And there’s a reason for this—our brains are hardwired for story. That’s how we remember things, and share experience. If you want your next presentation to be memorable, something people will pass on to others, story is the way to go.

Here’s a recent article by Gavin McMahon on how and why stories make such an impression on our brains – as featured on blog.slideshare.net

Present at your best

Once you’ve got a good story to tell, the next challenge is to tell it well. If you’re like me, giving a presentation makes you squirm. I’ve had to give many of them throughout my career and I always get nervous beforehand. Over the years I’ve learned some tips and tricks to ensure I’m at my best.

Here’s a short post by Scott Schwertly with three wise tips for your next presentation – as featured on blog.slideshare.net.

More great ideas to grow your business

Discover how to use story to make sure you get paid for your great ideas.


about the author

Former Staff Contributor Donald Cowper is a best-selling author and head of content at ClearFit.