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Tell To Win

By Peter Gruber

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

January 11, 2013

Tell To Win is entertainment executive Peter Guber’s exploration of the role of stories in persuasion and business communications.

In the process of illustrating his thesis of the role of stories, Peter Guber shares many stories from his connections in the worlds of motion pictures, recordings and sports. He is a former studio chief at Columbia Pictures, co-chairman of Casablanca Records and Filmworks, CEO of Polygram Entertainment, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures, and current chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group. He is also a longtime professor at UCLA.

According to Mr. Guber, many business presentations fail because the presenter fails to touch the heart of the audience. Our business education system favors teaching future business leaders to make factual presentations using PowerPoint. People don’t tend to act unless they are emotionally involved, and the shortest road to emotional involvement is through stories.

Mr. Guber shows that responsiveness to stories is hardwired into our DNA. Before we had a written language, our culture, religion and skills were all handed down through stories.

The basic components of a story are a problem, a struggle, and a resolution.

Stories don’t have to be long to be effective. They can be suggestions that elicit a story in the audience. For example, Pat Riley, coach of Miami Heat, told his team to only bring one change of clothes for the final games in the 2006 NBA Championship series. The message – the team would win the title in the next game (six) and there would be no more games.

A story needs to be carefully chosen to harmonize with the “back story” of your audience. What life experiences have they had that you can elicit? For example, an individual who overcame a legal challenge may be sympathetic to the story of an individual who had or is having a similar experience.

What are the prejudices of your audience? The film Seven Years In Tibet was a “hard sell” to U.S. audiences because a teacher for the young Dalai Lama was a Nazi who wore a swastika armband. Even though the individual was a sympathetic character, the imagery elicited a huge negative response, including condemnation and a boycott from the Jewish community.

Peter Guber’s book is fascinating to read because he includes stories of many contemporary celebrities, including Magic Johnson, George Lopez, Michael Jackson, Gene Simmons, Lynda Resnick, Wolfgang Puck, Deeprak Chopra, and others.

By studying how others have used stories to more effectively communicate with their audiences, you can find models for developing this valuable skill. In the right circumstances, you can even use stories in this book yourself. I highly recommend that you read Tell To Win.

Buy it on Amazon: Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story.

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