Why I do what I do? Business storytelling at its compelling best


Business Storytelling‘In July 1985, 5 year old Eve van Grafhorst was banned from attending her local kindergarten in Kincumber, NSW.  Eve was HIV positive and had contracted HIV from a blood transfusion when she was born.  This was the time of the grim reaper ads about AIDS and families in the town of Kincumber would cross the street to avoid Eve and her family.  Completely ostracised Eve and her family migrated to Hastings, New Zealand where I met her while working for the newspaper. 

One day in New Zealand Eve decided to raise money for AIDS awareness by selling hugs for $1.00 at the local mall. Everyone was giving her a hug and helping her raise money except for this one man who was watching from a distance.  I asked him if he planned to give her a hug and he told me ‘I am scared to give her a hug as I might catch something’.  I told Eve and she went over to the man and gently talked to him for nearly an hour at the end of which he gave her a hug and $1.00 and there wasn’t a dry eye in the mall.  When I saw how this little girl could work for an hour to raise $1.00 to make a difference I realised how much I could do to make a difference. 

This was my turning point and I decided to set up my company m.a.d.woman, committed to encouraging, inspiring and enabling people to make a positive difference in the environment, community and to the lives of people who need support.  Eve died peacefully aged 11 in her mother’s arms. She remains one of the most inspiration people in my life.’

Melina Schamroth

We recently had the privilege of hearing this story shared by Social entrepreneur Melina Schamroth, on why she set up her business.  We were also so delighted to learn that on on Friday night m.a.d.woman was named the National Winner of the 2011 Telstra Business Awards – Yellow Pages Social Responsibility category. GO Melina!

What every presenter can learn from TED?


Business StorytellingWhat every presenter can learn from TED?

I love TED Talks and can spend many a pleasant hour (ahem) watching different speakers.  I am also always trying to dissect what makes the talks so exceptional.   One of my favourites is Benjamin Zander and as soon as you watch him, you realise he has a passion and enthusiasm that is immediately infectious.  He obviously knows and loves his subject (classical music), but don’t let the subject put you off.

Benjamin Zander is able to connect with people by using humour and personal stories.  He seems to genuinely believe that his audience loves classical music too, except they might not know that yet!  Which is a brave premise, but it works!

How about if this is not your style and you are presenting on a topic that most people might know very little or even nothing about?  Rajesh Rao’s presentation on the 4,000 year old Indus script is an example.  At each step Rajesh Rao creates a modern context to help his audience understand and engage with him.  He almost immediately refers to the Indus script as the ‘mother of all crosswords’ – and you can sense the audience laughing and relaxing.  Even when he is talking about the structure of language (which is quite complex)  he is able to give us an everyday relatable example, but most importantly he uses self disclosure to tell us why this is his passion and why it’s important.

Recently, I discovered another reason why the speeches are so good. TED’s organisers send upcoming speakers a stone tablet, engraved with the ‘TED Commandments’.

Here are the Ten  TED Commandments that every presenter could benefit from:

1.     Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick

2.     Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before

3.     Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion

4.     Thou Shalt Tell a Story

5.     Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy

6.     Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.

7.     Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Disparate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.

8.     Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.

9.     Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.

10.  Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee

Now we know how Ted can claim its by line ’Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world’.

Do you have another Presentation Commandment that you think should be there?  As always please comment and tell us what you think.