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How To Do Effective Business Storytelling According To Former Prosecutor


Think about your favorite childhood moment. What happened? Who was involved? What did you like about it? How did you feel? You can probably recall the event in great detail. Now think about what you did last Monday. I bet you are not really sure about what you ate, what you did, or who you talked to. That is because there wasn’t a story or any emotions attached to it.  At the end of the day, we remember what we feel.

Stories are memorable because they elicit emotions. The beginning of a presentation is what your audience will remember the most. Your prospects are more likely to remember a fact if you wrap it around a story. And Laurie Gilbertson knows it very well. In this episode, we discuss the power of storytelling and what it takes to be an effective communicator.

160-Laurie Gilbertson (1)Laurie Gilbertson is a former New York City homicide, sex crimes, and organized crime prosecutor. She’s also a television legal analyst, educator, and entrepreneur. A graduate of Cornell University and the Washington College of Law at American University, Laurie is the founder and CEO of Tribeca Blue Consulting, where she helps professionals communicate with clarity and confidence in their public speaking, presentations, trial work, and media appearances. Through one-on-one coaching and group training, she helps people present their ideas in creative and persuasive ways that engage their audiences and make them want to learn more.

What is business storytelling?

Business storytelling is a tool widely used in branding and communication (although it is extremely valuable for any other department) to convey a company’s value proposition in a memorable way. It consists of using the structure and literary devices of a story combined with powerful data and visuals to strike the right balance between the emotional and logical aspects of decision-making.

Storytelling can help you sell to clients, persuade colleagues, engage employees, develop your brand narrative, gain a competitive advantage, and even win a trial in court. It is also used to make presentations more memorable for your audience and to make your product more charismatic to the end-user. And if you are selling to companies, you will need great b2b storytelling to make your product more exciting.

How to prepare a story

Storytelling and persuasion go hand in hand, and Laurie had some excellent advice to prepare for success.

  • Be yourself. It’s OK to learn from others and emulate them, but it’s even more important to be authentic and genuine.
  • Practice and prepare. Think about what specific value you want to bring to specific people. Think it all through in your head, get it out on paper (or screen), and practice it over and over again. Remember that you learn by doing.
  • Work on the beginning and the end of your speech. The primacy and recency and effects are powerful, so make sure you make the most of them.
  • Listen to yourself. Listening to our own voice and watching us on video is usually uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. Record yourself and then use that resource to look at your own speech patterns, pronunciation mistakes, and areas of improvement.
  • Ask for feedback. Actively ask your trusted colleagues, your mentor, or your communication instructor for feedback. They will likely be able to provide you with actionable tips and can be your guiding light in this journey.
  • Remember that it can be fun.
  • Look for inspiration.

Laurie Gilbertson is always on the lookout for creative speakers. Dr. Jayne Morgan is the head of a COVID task force for a hospital in Atlanta. She created the Stairwell Chronicles intending to educate people about the pandemic and providing information and support. Aside from the message she is trying to convey, her communication style is friendly and direct. She takes this serious, scary topic and makes it accessible to anyone, just as if she were sitting in your home on a stairway chatting with you.

Another excellent example of storytelling –and how it doesn’t need to involve a long speech– is Daveed Diggs’s Tony Awards speech. In just 20 seconds, he is able to tell a wonderful story. He describes an aspect of his childhood, why it is important to him, and why it should be important to the audience.

The anatomy of excellent business storytelling

Learning the traditional structure and ingredients of successful stories will equip you with the right tools to craft your own. To maximize impact and design a well-crafted story, you will want to consider the following:

  • 1. Choose the right framing
  • 2. Outline your plot
  • 3. Use the rule of three
  • 4. Appeal to emotions with “Show, Don’t Tell”
  • 5. Add power

1. Choose the right framing

Message framing consists of choosing the context and approach to craft your message. It is about designing a story for a specific person, employing the right tools to convince them. It is not only what you say, but also how you say it. Compelling business stories adopt the right angles to attract their audience: “It contains 20% fat” is technically the same as “It is 80% fat-free”. However, the latter will sound more enticing to those who are seeking to lose fat.

Understand what makes your audience tick and frame your whole story according to it. 

TW Persuasive Writing - Cartier Workshop - Session 1 [June 28, 2021] (2)

2. Outline your plot

Outline your plot structure before your start writing. Start from the end and connect the rest of the narrative to it. Think about the first plot point in your story. What is a plot point? It is a major shift or event in your story that leads to the central conflict, breaking away from the status quo. It should be placed correctly (if it comes too late, your story will sound boring; if it comes too early, it might feel rushed and the audience might not connect with the characters).

To set up your plot point, change your character’s surroundings (how is the situation different from their everyday life?). Make sure you add emotion to it and emphasize how the consequences are urgent or serious. Think about what failure means in your story (what happens if it doesn’t work?), and focus on the emotional aspects of the failure.

In Star Wars, for instance, Luke Skywalker’s discovery that his aunt and uncle have been murdered provides him with an emotional reason to accompany Obi-Wan to Alderaan.

Outline your story following these steps:

  • End. What’s the end of your story? How does that connect to the rest?
  • Plot. What’s the first plot point? Where will you place it? How will you add emotion?
  • Consequences. How will you emphasize the possible consequences?
  • Challenges. How will you describe the challenges? How will you invest the audience in the struggle? And in the outcome?

3. Rule of three

When it comes to business storytelling, your main goal is to persuade, and although decision-making can be heavily influenced by emotion, appealing to logic is crucial. You need to convince your audience by using logic or reason. To make your pitch more memorable, try using the rule of three. 

Rule of Three - Business Storytelling - TalaeraGrouping things in threes seems to almost magically make them more memorable (omne trium perfectum). When explaining reasons, stats, hurdles in your story… Choose 3 as the magic number.


  • Some of our strongest markets are Colombia, Israel, Canada, Brazil, China, and Costa Rica. → Rule of three: Some of our strongest markets are in America, the Middle East, and Asia.
  • To achieve our goals, we will need time. Since it is quite challenging, we will need to make a big effort and be determined.→ Rule of three: To achieve our goals, we will need are time, effort, and determination.
  • We plan to become a more socially responsible firm. For that, we want to be more committed to fair trade and ensure that the energy we use is clean. We also need to be more sustainable.→ Rule of three: To become a more socially responsible firm we want to be more committed, sustainable, and clean.

4. Appeal to emotions with Show, Don’t Tell

Appealing to emotions will make your story more memorable. Once you have selected the right perspective for your audience (message framing), use the Show, Don’t Tell technique to appeal to emotions.

Show, Don’t Tell is a writing technique that consists of telling your story through sensory details and actions, rather than spelling out what is happening. Although telling your audience might be quicker, showing will draw your audience into your narrative and make it their own. To do that successfully, consider the following steps:

  • Consider the surroundings. From “I walked through the forest. It was already fall and I was getting cold” [telling] to → “The dry orange leaves crunched under my feet as I pulled the collar up on my coat” [showing].
  • Look for highs and lows
  • Add sensory words (see image below)
  • Introduce characters through actions 
  • Move from abstract to concrete
  • Mention the effect of emotions.  From “He is sad” [telling] to → “His lips are trembling and he’s got watery eyes” [showing].

TW Persuasive Writing - Cartier Workshop - Session 2 [June 30, 2021]

Gillian Flynn does a very good job at showing. We took a passage from her book Gone Girl, and this is what telling can look like:

  • Telling: “When I woke up, the pillow was warm. I didn’t want to think about what happened, so I tried to think of something else. I could hear that Amy was making breakfast downstairs because she was making lots of noises.”
  • Showing: “My morning breath warmed the pillow, and I changed the subject in my mind. Today was not a day for second-guessing or regret, it was a day for doing. Downstairs, I could hear the return of a long-lost sound: Amy making breakfast. Banging wooden cupboards (rump-thump!), rattling containers of tin and glass (ding-ring!), shuffling and sorting a collection of metal pots and iron pans (ruzz-shuzz!). A culinary orchestra tuning up, clattering vigorously toward the finale.” –Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

No doubt that Dickens also masters the art of Show, Don’t Tell:

  • Telling: “Oliver reached London. It was dirty and crowded.”
  • Showing: “A dirtier or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours. There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the place, were the public-houses…” –Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

5. Add power

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” — Blaise Pascal (The Provincial Letters)

Let’s not forget that we are talking about business storytelling. Your story should appeal to emotions, but it also needs to be powerful and show credibility. Adding power to your story can be achieved through clear, concise sentences. Writing clear, concise sentences will help you communicate effectively with the reader, make your story more persuasive, dynamic, and interesting, and will ultimately show credibility. You can learn more about concise writing here, but here are some hints:

Remove all the unnecessary words

  • It is possible that they decide to hold another meeting to talk about the matter of bonuses at the end of the year [wordy] →They might decide to meet again to discuss bonuses at the end of the year [concise].
  • Neil was looking at his computer with stains on the screen and then moved his back so that it touched the back of his chair, which was rather comfortable [wordy] →The Neil looked up from his dirty computer and leaned back in his comfortable chair [concise].

Use strong verbs

  • They ran quickly. → They sprinted.
  • The robber’s entry into the house was quiet. → The robber sneaked into the house.
  • Their team used our app to make customization faster and more efficient. → Their team used our app to streamline customization.

Do not start with “there” or “it”

  • There was a woman waiting for him at the door → The woman at the door was waiting for him.
  • It was dark when the burglar broke in. → The burglar broke in on a dark night.

Avoid overusing the verb “to be”

  • The team leader is knowledgeable about our new tool being launched soon. → The team leader knows that we are launching a new tool.
  • While it is crucial for us to speak out on behalf of the company, it is important that we do so in a manner that is consistent with our own values. → We need to speak out on behalf of the company while staying true to our values.

Looking for more ways to improve your business English?

Continue improving your communication skills for professional situations with our free resources. If you are serious about improving your business English skills, get in touch with Talaera. We will help you take your professional English communication skills to the next level.

Deliver Impactful Presentations in English - Talaera

More resources on presentation skills:

Talaera Talks – Transcript Episode 43

If you are learning English, including new English words and expressions will help you with effective communication. Remember to check out our other episodes on how to make small talk, how to deliver engaging presentations, how to speak English fluently, and many more: visit the podcast website. Listen to it on your favorite platform.

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Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non-native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co-hosting this show with Simon. In this podcast, we’re going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show!

Simon Kennell 0:24
All right, all of you awesome listeners out there, welcome back to another episode of Talaera Talks. My name is Simon and wherever you are, as always, I hope you’re having a great day. I’m joined today by Paola. Paola, how are you?

Paola Pascual 0:41
Hi, Simon. I’m doing great. How are you?

Simon Kennell 0:44
I’m doing really well. Really well. Just excited about our guest today.

Paola Pascual 0:50
Who do we have today?

Simon Kennell 0:51
Yeah. So we were talking a little bit before this and saying that, because we are communication nerds, this was like the ultimate guest to have on our podcast. I’ll give a little introduction. Laurie Gilbertson is a former New York City homicide, sex crimes and organized crime prosecutor. That’s not we’re not done yet. Television legal analyst, educator and entrepreneur. So Wow. It’s really amazing. A graduate of Cornell American University and Washington College of Law. Laurie is the founder and CEO of Tribeca Blue Consulting, and she helps professionals communicate with clarity in their public speaking presentations, trial work, and media appearances. So in several different aspects, which is really, really cool. I think it’s awesome. She helps people present their ideas and creative and persuasive ways that engage their audiences and make them want to learn more. So yeah, Laurie does engagements, training workshops, coaching sessions, and has a bunch of tips and tricks. We are so excited for you to join us today. Lauri, how are you doing?

Laurie Gilbertson 2:08
I’m good. And with that kind of an introduction? I mean, just a little pressure here. To talk to you all today.

Paola Pascual 2:19
It’s great to have you.

Simon Kennell 2:20
Yeah. And so you’re calling from Colorado on this beautiful morning for you. Yeah?

Laurie Gilbertson 2:26
I am. And I know your audience can’t see it, because they’ll be listening to audio. But I have lots of wonderful sunshine coming in my room. And in typical Colorado way, the sun is shining. And there is our three inches of snow on the ground. It is.

Simon Kennell 2:45
Yeah, so I’m in Denmark, and it’s overcast and a little bit rainy. And just some like sleet and dirty snow on the ground here.

Paola Pascual 2:55
So hang in there, Simon hang in there. Be strong.

Simon Kennell 3:01
Yeah, I’ll try. I’ll try. But Laurie. So we have so many things that we’d love to ask you about and talk about. And I think probably the first one is really if you could just kind of I mean, you’ve done so many things. So it’d be really difficult to give like a short and sweet version of how did you get to where you are now from starting as a prosecutor and then a communication specialists, you know, was was communication, always the kind of guiding light for you and your career.

Laurie Gilbertson 3:33
I love how you say Guiding Light. Communication is definitely a theme that has run through my career. And it isn’t I think it wasn’t until I formed my company, and got started helping people communicate better that I realized that I had really spent my whole career telling stories, just in different places to different audiences. And I had really spent all that time figuring out how do you persuade and engage an audience? How do you tell a compelling story that makes people want to listen and learn. And so that theme really was woven throughout everything that I’ve done from being in the courtroom and talking to judges and juries, to being on live television and talking to audiences about the cases going on in the news to being an educator and helping curate programs where people would get up and present and teach and learn to what I do now. And so that theme has of communication is everywhere in my career. Just as I really believe it is everywhere in life for everyone.

Paola Pascual 4:42
I couldn’t agree more. It’s so vital. Whatever you do, pretty much it’s a very powerful tool. Totally be with you.

Unknown Speaker 4:50
It really is and it makes me a little nuts when people say communication is a soft skill. You I you laughing as if you’ve heard that before, I think it is, you know, it really is truly the most important thing that you can learn how to do, because there is no better way to get your ideas out in the world, to have wonderful personal and professional relationships and to be able to communicate openly and persuasively, and clearly.

Paola Pascual 5:22
yeah. So from from your personal life to your professional life to court, like when in a case like what’s more important than that?

Laurie Gilbertson 5:30
right, I mean, my kids would beg to differ, because often, I will just switch right into cross examination mode, and they don’t like that. But it’s the force of habit.

Paola Pascual 5:40
There you go. We can’t help it.

Simon Kennell 5:43
I’m curious, because you really specifically brought up the concept of storytelling, which we talked about, as well as being a very effective communication technique. But what is it about storytelling for you that you think is so effective? Is it just that that’s how you can sell people on an idea is that what people relate to what what is it about storytelling in particular, that you find so effective,

Laurie Gilbertson 6:12
storytelling is a really broad concept. And it has become such a buzzword these days. And you know, the idea of this storytelling, I think, makes people at least it made me feel like every time I got up to present, I had to tell this epic story and kind of spin this yarn where everybody would be mesmerised. And that’s a lot of pressure. The reason I find it so important is really kind of based in just human nature, and psychology, and neuroscience. Because it we start telling ourselves stories, as soon as we have language to try to make sense of the world. There was a study that a Harvard psychiatrist did when she noticed that her daughter in her crib at night at two years old, was making all this noise. So she wanted to know what it was. And she put a tape recorder in there. And what came out of this hours and hours of recordings was that her two year old daughter was telling herself stories, at the end of the day, to make sense of her world, she was talking about going to the playground and things that happen with mommy and daddy. And so as soon as she had language stories came, and that is just you know, it starts so young. And they call it the crib monologues. And it was really interesting, because about 30 years later, her the daughter, who had been studied, did kind of a rehash and some more study on exactly the same thing, based upon what she had been doing in her crib at two years old. So you know, we all have that. There’s lots of studies in science, that talks about the fact that we remember things more when we hear them in stories, that they really grab our attention. And that’s how you can remember facts, but what it you know, it really comes down to the idea that for something to be engaging and persuasive, you have to want to pay attention to it. And stories, as opposed to just kind of spitting out facts, or just talking and talking and talking are ways to do that. And they’re this incredible tool. And so there are a couple of different ways that you can use them. Right, there are stories you can tell as part of a presentation or part of communication, you know, something that happened to you that day, or a success at work. And those are those little stories. There’s also the idea that every time you present, there’s a theme to what you do. And that’s a story that goes through it. And I’m sure you know, of course, you all are the experts. And you see that in marketing all the time. Right? You want that personal brand, that story of your company. I work with a lot of startup founders, and we really work on what is that origin story? How did things come to be? What is that theme that runs through everything. And so people remember it, because there’s emotion and they can connect with it, connect with it to themselves, connect with it to the world at large. And then you form that that really important connection with the audience, that you’re you’re talking to you whether you’re pitching for money, whether you’re doing marketing, whether you’re in court. So as a prosecutor, you know, every case I had was a story about something, as you know, important as they were being sex crimes or organized crime, or homicides or violent felonies. There was a story there. And in order for a judge or a jury to kind of separate what was in front of them from all these other things I needed to get that across. So every time I walked into court, I had to think to myself, you know, in one or two sentences, what is this a story about, just broken down to as simple as possible. And so that’s where I find storytelling is so persuasive.

Paola Pascual 9:44
It’s fascinating, and, I mean, we it’s important to remember that whoever we’re talking to that they’re they’re human and even if it’s a judge, we hope for them to be as rational as possible. But at the end of the day, we are All humans and we buy into story. So it’s, it’s what you’re saying makes so much sense. And you’re one of the things that you mentioned is that it thinking that we need to tell an epic story every time we deliver a presentation. I think that’s so relatable, I think we can all relate to that. And if people listening, they’re not native English speakers, it can become even more scary and more daunting. What are some ways to break that down into for native speakers, but also for, you know, for whoever’s listening? What is an easy way to start using storytelling in presentations, you know, I’d work in general and your meetings and your, your pitch.

Laurie Gilbertson 10:44
So there’s a few different things, you know, we talked about the idea of it being a theme, you know, so really thinking out, what is your main point that you want to get across. And that’s the story saying to yourself, you know, let’s say you’re getting up in a meeting, and you want to pitch a new idea, you want to talk about doing something differently, and you want to be persuasive, you know, saying to yourself, This is a story about, you know, a new idea that I am putting out there, and the reasons why it’s going to be so great for this company, you know, just breaking it down that way, I encourage people to write things down, write them down, type them up, whatever it is, just take it from your brain and put it on a page. And then you need to hear the words, right. It’s just like editing, you know, a paper that you may be writing, you want to get it all out first, that’s the hard part, get it all out first. And then you can start editing to get to kind of that gem in the middle, that part of it that’s really going to grab people, that’s really the essence of what you want to say. But you can’t get there until you kind of wade through all the MCQ first, because I know very few people, if any who come out with that gem right away, you know that the people who are coming out with that gem right away are the people who have spent that time preparing and practicing and thinking about it. So I encourage people just get it down. Start writing those things out, you’re talking about using stories? Well, we all have successes in our lives, we all had failures in our lives, take three, pick three successes, pick three failures, and just start writing them down. Just start writing them down, writing those stories down. And then I encourage people pick up your phone, and start telling them into your phone, get it out of your head, get those words out of your head out of your mouth, hear how it sounds, and it will start to consolidate, and it will, you’ll start to see what those threads are and what the important parts are. But you actually have to do it, you can’t just get up and think I’m going to tell a great story. Because kind of like you said, call it there’s all that pressure, right to be so epic. And you know whether English is your first language or not. Everyone can tell great stories, that takes a little bit of work. And that’s, you know, that’s the pen to paper part of it just get it started.

Paola Pascual 13:02
I like all those ideas a lot. And also something like when we when we think about stories, we think about novels that you know, that are long or that have such intricate plots. And sometimes we can just start with an anecdote. And that anecdote is a story in itself. And that’s something we can all do, we can tell a story from when we went to the supermarket, and something happens. So kind of like changing that perspective. And taking that pressure off you really helps. We tell stories

Laurie Gilbertson 13:30
every day, write stories to each other, you tell stories when you come, you know, maybe you are home from work and telling someone what happened, you tell stories to your friends, like everybody tells stories. So talking about storytelling in presenting is really just kind of this natural way of moving what we do personally and professionally in a really kind of natural and easy way into a presentation. And so, you know, to take off some of that pressure that you’re talking about to be epic. I encourage people to try to think about it as this is just taking it one, one forum to the next. And don’t change who you are, you know, I I think especially people who may be coming to this as non native speakers. There are so many unique things in language and in life. And someone who can actually speak more than one language has even more to bring to their stories. And I encourage people to kind of bring that in because being yourself and telling stories in the way you tell them best is what’s going to make it more persuasive for your audience not trying to fit into some mold of this amazing epic storyteller because I know that gave me a ton of pressure when I was starting out.

Simon Kennell 14:46
And you know, that’s something that yeah, we I think talk a lot about and I tell a lot of our clients this is like we’re not as interested in you becoming like, you know, an A plus English speaker as we are Are you becoming a really good communicator in English? You know, and that’s really what the the key for us is, is becoming a good communicator? And how do you do that? And I wonder in, you know, in this when you talk about everybody has a story to tell, and they can tell it in their own way, is, you know, what are you looking when you’re telling a story? Are you looking for themes, you talked about wins and losses? Are you looking for, you know, themes that people can relate to, as part of that? Or do these just kind of come out? Like, you know, when we talk about, you talk about working with startups, we, you know, we have our own story with Talaera of our founder, you know, being an immigrant from Germany, coming to the US, and, you know, English not being her first language, but she wanted, she wanted to become really, really good at speaking English in a professional setting. She had that decent level of English, but she is like, you know, I know, there’s another level that I can get to where I can really become more effective. And that was like the impetus for Talaera starting right. So that theme in that story, right? What is that theme? That theme? Is? It’s this striving to be better and improving? Right? Or, or overcoming the adversity in that? Is that just like, do these themes just appear? Or do you look for them, you know, kind of yourself when you’re telling a story, or when you’re choosing a story?

Laurie Gilbertson 16:26
That’s a little bit of both, you just told a great story, I kind of have, like, that’s it, that’s an amazing story. Because who can’t you know, who can’t relate to that. And even if that’s not been your personal experience, who can’t relate to someone pushing forward in that kind of way. So it’s an amazing story, the best stories, I feel the themes come out, you don’t want them to be forced? Yeah. You know, they really just do start to emerge. And if your story doesn’t have a theme, you know, if you can’t say why it’s important to you, and why it should be important to your audience, it’s not a story you should be telling. And you can do that it doesn’t have to be epic. One of my favorite video clips that I use in a lot of presentations is an acceptance speech for an award in a Broadway actor. And he is talking about something from his childhood, and why it’s important to him, and why it should be important to the audience is all about the support that he got from his family growing up being a little different, and got this great support to really pursue his dreams. He tells that story in 20 seconds. And it can bring tears to your eyes. I mean, it has a beginning, a middle and end, why it meant so much to him, and why the audience should care. And, and those themes are so resonant. And it was a story about something that happened in kindergarten, so they can kind of come from anywhere, but the best stories, those themes just pop out. You know, it’s really hard to say, let’s tell a story about striving, you know, that feels a little forced. But let’s tell a story about how you started your company. You know, Where does the name Talaera come from? What made you feel like you know, to your founder, what made you feel like this was really something that you wanted to do? And those tend to fall into a pattern. Right? There’s kind of the humble beginnings part of it, you know, how you got started. There’s the kind of what are you doing now to move forward, and then that vision for the future. And so your story that you just told, which was amazing, had all those things. And that theme just flowed right out. So the stories that are really memorable, that are going to be really engaging? They have that there. That’s what makes them that way. So I’m not sure if I answered your question.

Simon Kennell 18:43
Yeah, no, totally, totally. You definitely did.

Paola Pascual 18:48
It’s so it’s true. It’s so so powerful. And as you said, when you can relate to the story of persuasion is amped by by a factor of I don’t know how much. But so then talking about persuasion Do you have apart from storytelling, storytelling is obviously a pivotal, you know, it plays a pivotal role in when you want to persuade someone, but do you have any other effective advice that people could start applying to their, to their lives, at work, but perhaps even in their personal lives that you’ve experienced that really worked?

Laurie Gilbertson 19:25
Sure, there’s a couple of different things. My number one tip to people, both personally and professionally is something that we’ve already touched on, which is to be yourself. Because if you’re spending a lot of energy trying to be you know, that epic storyteller or the person you saw on TV, whose style you just you have to be just like them. You’re going to take away energy from the part of yourself that’s unique, that’s going to connect with people. So that that’s my number one tip and I think that also can take away some of the pressure. You know, if you know that you can get They’re being yourself, it takes away some of that pressure to be so epic. Right. So that’s the first one. The second thing about really effective speakers is that they practice and they prepare. So people have asked me before, what’s more important content or delivery. And I’m going to say 100% content, people may disagree, delivery is important. But there’s a lot that goes on before you actually open your mouth or start writing or do anything. And that is thinking it all through in your head, and then getting it out on paper and then practicing it. And knowing that the excellent content that you want to deliver is right there. That should all happen for people before you even get up to speak. That should really happen. You need to, you know, really show the people who you’re speaking to the value that you’re bringing, doesn’t often come off the top of your head. And it shows respect for the people you’re speaking with, when you take the time to prepare that content, and then you take the time to practice. So those are two main things that apply to everything. But as for some maybe fun little tips to think about things that can kind of, you know, make your presentations or your speaking shine right away. The easiest way to do that, that you can put into place right away, are making use of two parts of a talk that most people ignore. And that is your beginning. Starting really strong. And your ending, ending really strong. How many people come out and say, I am sure you all have heard this, your audience probably has to, you know, Hi, I’m Laurie. I’m going to talk about presenting today. Here are my slides. Let’s get started. Right? Oh, my gosh, boring, right. So boring. That doesn’t tell anyone anything about me about what I’m going to do. Oh, my gosh, you could just go to sleep. So you know, this concept of primacy, we remember what we hear. First, we make a decision on what we hear first, we have very little time to grab someone and to grab that on it. And so why not make it fun? You know, grab a min, what’s your hook? People don’t do it. I think people are a little afraid to do it. Or they think like you have to introduce yourself first. There’s no other way to do it. We’re in that box. But you know, ask a question. Tell a story like we’re talking about, like you were saying about Talaera? What would be more persuasive. You know, Talaera is a company that helps people, you know, speak better business English or tilera as a company, where our mission started with our founder to help who was an immigrant who wanted to create something better for herself and for other people like her and help people communicate their ideas better. I mean, which is more powerful.

Simon Kennell 22:52
So I am also starting crying, too.

Laurie Gilbertson 22:54
Big difference, right? And you can just hear it. You know, if you want to be really fun to use a prop, I haven’t done that yet. I’m a little too clumsy and terrible with tech on video calls to use a prop. But you could do something interactive, you know, ask your audience a question, have them answer. Use a statistic, you know, 75% of people learn from stories. So today, we’re going to focus on storytelling, something like that, grab them in, and then do the same thing at the end. How many presentations? And with, that’s all I have for you. Any questions? Right? Right, you’ve just given up this huge part of your presentation to leave people with the ideas that you want to leave them with the emotions that you want, do you want them to feel inspired, curious, what action do you want them to take? If you see that control to anyone in the audience who just might have a question or might not? And you might be able to answer it or you might not. Yeah, you’ve just lost that opportunity. So I think those that is the easiest way to make your presentations, or even just speaking up in a meeting or a phone call shine, to start strong, and to end strong. And if you can tie those two things together, kind of bookend a presentation where it has a theme, and you use the intro and the ending together. I mean, that’s super sophisticated, but lots of fun, and your audience will appreciate you He will appreciate the time and the thought that you gave to that content and that you gave to trying it to engage them. So I encourage everyone listening to just give it a shot.

Paola Pascual 24:36
Yeah. And have fun with it.

Laurie Gilbertson 24:38
Have fun with it right like if we’re gonna have to do all this that people aren’t can be so afraid of doing that can be so stressful. Let’s try to have a little fun. So that’s, that’s that’s what I thread I have lots more but I’ll throw that one out.

Simon Kennell 24:52
No, I great. I love that and and so you work with all different types of Have people professionals in many different fields. And so when it comes to like, executives, people that you’ve worked with that are, yeah, high level professionals let’s say, is there a common theme? Like what’s what’s the most common problem that you find that that is like the one that you, you, you see holding people back?

Laurie Gilbertson 25:24
People who get into high levels sometimes often feel that they have to do things a certain way, because they’ve always been done that way. You know, there’s this box of we get up, we say our name, we pull out our slides, we read them, we ask for questions at the end, that’s how a presentation goes, we have five slides, that’s what it is,. You know, and being just very constrained by the idea that you have to present that way. And that if you don’t present that way, you know, you’re not kind of fitting into that mold. To get people who are very successful, to try something new, that is uncomfortable, that’s not in their zone of comfort, where they might fall flat on their face the first few times. I mean, my gosh, if you saw my first 10 trials that I did, I would be terrified right now to even look at at how how badly I probably presented during them, because I was learning. And that’s how you learn, you learn through experience. So I think, you know, people can be very hesitant to put themselves out there in a really vulnerable way. And that is a common theme that I have, you know, and that I see from very successful people.

Paola Pascual 26:37
That’s something that I think I’ve seen that as well with some of our learners that, and it’s quite interesting, because, I mean, they’ve, they’ve clearly done something right to get there. They’ve worked really hard. So they they’re probably, you know, people who like to try and try and try until they get it. But then it’s true that they sometimes feel like all eyes are on them. So it’s very hard to try at that point, something new and fail. And there’s this fear of, as you said, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. But it’s funny, because then when you do that, people tend to appreciate it so much more. It’s very rare that someone would say, you know how incompetent that person is, but on the contrary, it’s like, Oh, I like that, like I feel if you’re a leader, people who follow you, they’re like, Okay, I can relate to this person much more than this other perfect figure that never makes a mistake.

Laurie Gilbertson 27:34
Have you have you seen that with people like they try something new, and then they feel really good about themselves after?

Paola Pascual 27:40
Of course, of course, so. But there’s a key thing that you mentioned a while back that I think is so so so important is the practice, practice, practice. And sometimes when we see something that works out, we tend to think that they are just born with that skill, that that’s innate, but it’s very rare for it to be the case. And so practicing listening to yourself, it’s something so awkward to do. But it’s so helpful that it’s worth it. And I mean, we’ve even learned from when we started this podcast, we started to realize things that we have not heard before, because we had never listened to ourselves.

Simon Kennell 28:20
Laurie, I always make this joke, but like you, you would have been a great coach for me. So I just kept saying the word absolutely every like, every four or five minutes. And it was just like, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And then the worst part, the worst part is that, Paola, you know, for our blog, she she has them all out in, you know, in script form so people can follow along. And then I had to read through just, you know, 5000 Absolutelies. And yeah, so that was a good, that was a good practice.

Unknown Speaker 28:55
It is Simon my word. When my “absolutely” when I started with my television work was “horrific”. Everything I got asked was horrific. And I would come home from these appearances and my husband would lie me like, is every crime that’s committed every action that people take, everything can be horrific. But that was my go to. Yeah. How did you how did you work out the absolute How did you kind of get rid of them? Because I don’t hear them at all?

Simon Kennell 29:26
Well, thank you. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I think it was it was very easy maybe to get very uncomfortable, which which we did and our first podcast had, you know, maybe 150 listeners and for me that was a lot and a lot of people with a lot of Absolutely. And so I think it was the kind of really focusing on it as far as a skill development like thinking about it as kind of hyperfocus when I’m going through and I feel that maybe I’m losing my kind of control of where I’m going in a sentence. And then I kind of, I don’t know, I want to say it’s like mindfulness or something like that. It’s that feeling of, I’m being mindful of what I’m, you know, I’m saying, I’m not just talking. I don’t know if that makes sense. Yeah, it

Paola Pascual 30:17
Makes a lot of sense, right. And the first step was awareness. And sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re doing something wrong, or that could be better. And the moment we see it in front of us, it’s so easy to to criticize other people. But seeing it in ourselves, it’s really hard until you are in the viewers position. So putting yourself in there, allows you to really see, okay, these are the areas that I might be, you know, working on.

Laurie Gilbertson 30:44
Yeah, as my kids would say, It’s cringy, cringy. You also, you know, both of you kind of touch on this theme. That’s another thing I do see with people, and I would imagine you see it too, is that you need to be ready to do the work. You need to be ready to go to that kind of uncomfortable place, and start to get that self awareness so that you can improve. And if you’re not ready to do the work of that, nobody can make you improve, you know, you could listen to 20 podcasts, and you could come to all sorts of seminars, you could even hire a coach. But if you’re not ready, I think communication is one of those things that you will learn it by doing it. And it’s such a practical skill. And the you can’t get better by thinking about it in your head. You just can’t you have to get out there and do it. And I’m wondering, do you see that with people that sit there is that kind of fear or just reluctance to really dive in, because I definitely see that I’ve had people hire me, pay for sessions with me, and then just not do the work. And so, you know, if you feel like you’re wasting your money and your time, I’m sure they got some pointers and improved a little bit. But if they weren’t willing to, you know, do like what you did Simon, listen to yourself, listen to all those episodes, which I’m sure wasn’t fun. If you’re not willing to do that, and kind of take that mindful, deep dive into what you’re doing, then improvement is just not going to come.

Paola Pascual 32:25
Yeah, 100% I also think we have with communication and with English, that was like a school subject, we have all these memories and all these like preconceptions of what an English lesson is going to be or a communication session is going to be that it’s hard to think it’s hard to even wrap yourself around the fact that it can be fun. Yeah. And it is something the same as when you start, you know, when you learn how to cook, it is something for you, it’s something that you are going to enjoy afterwards. And you cannot really learn how to cook. This is where you were saying, Laurie, you cannot really learn how to cook by reading a recipe have to be there, you have to mess it up with the salt and all these different ingredients. And you know,

Laurie Gilbertson 33:11
You got to taste the food!

Simon Kennell 33:12
Exactly. We talk about Carol Dweck’s, like, you know, growth mindset, you know, and that being Oh, you got it right there. There you go. Yeah, and how are you framing this situation? You know, how are you approaching it? And that’s huge. I mean, we just spoke with one of our for one of our who’s still a student with Talaera. And, and the way that she’s approaching learning throughout her life is in that growth mindset kind of view of, yeah, I’m, you know, I’m gonna mess up. And that’s, that’s all part of it, you know, is and that’s, that’s so critical, did you because I’m super curious about how, how did you become an effective communicator? Did you have a mentor? Did you? What were the steps for you? I mean, I’m sure it was a lot of this kind of thinking critically over it, but what were the steps for you? And when did you really see yourself kind of developing as a really effective communicator?

Laurie Gilbertson 34:11
Well, they say that most trial lawyers are frustrated actors. So when I was really little, I wanted to be an actor. You know, I would gather all the neighborhood kids together and put on plays, which of course I had the lead because I was very bossy and and, you know, I also grew up in a family where my father is an attorney, and he’s a trial lawyer. So I learned you know, start to learn from conversations with him how to advocate for myself how to start to put my ideas out there. And you know, I grew up very comfortable with speaking out and with communicating, I not gonna say I was a great communicator in any way, but I was comfortable with it. And I really learned from doing and that was with that separately with my job as a prosecutor, and I was told when I started the job, you know, I mentioned my first 10 trials, I said, You are not going to be comfortable in the courtroom until you’ve done at least 10 trials. And I learned by doing, I had to get up there, I had to be uncomfortable, I had to feel vulnerable, I had to feel the pressure of knowing that I was, you know, even doing, you know, a shoplifting case, one of my very first cases that affected the people who were in the case very much so. So I was doing these things that had an impact. And I had to learn how to deal with all that. And so just doing it and doing it and doing it and being in those situations where, you know, I had to respond to judges, oftentimes, when I couldn’t be prepared, you know, maybe things that I had tried to prepare for, but came out of the blue. And so I had to learn ways of dealing with situations. Up until the point after about 10 trials, I had dealt with so much that I kind of had responses, you know, in my toolbox to be able to use, and then I just started to hone that over and over. And I started to really figure out what techniques worked for me in the courtroom. Now I had friends who, who were you know, male friends who were six feet tall, you know, big guys. And you know, I’m sitting now, but I’m five foot two, not that tall. There were things they could do that I felt were amazing. And I learned quickly from trying that I looked ridiculous trying to do those things and was not going to be persuasive. So I made a lot of mistakes. And I didn’t know about Carol Dweck and the growth mindset back then I wish I had, because I think that would have been a wonderful guiding principle. But that was how I learned to be effective, really just getting kind of thrown right in. I did get training along the way. I did what I do wish I had had some more training along the way to really have some places to practice where there was not as much of an impact, or as much pressure, I should say, as being kind of in court on a real case. But there is nothing like that experience. There really isn’t. And that’s where I started to, I think become more effective. It was really that kind of trial by fire. No pun intended. Yeah,

Simon Kennell 37:15
Yeah. I mean, I can only imagine that that that pressure and and I’m sure, yeah. Yeah, formed under that pressure. Absolutely. That makes diamonds right. So there you go.

Laurie Gilbertson 37:28
And you asked about mentors. And I’d definitely be remiss, if I didn’t touch on that I had some amazing mentors, as a prosecutor, and spent a good deal of time talking with them, talking through things with them, watching them in court. And that was incredibly valuable, you know, to see how people you respect and admire handle things in that situation, to see the strategy that they work out to see how it comes out in the courtroom, and to be able to talk about it, you know, both before and after, to kind of, you know, see how the whole thing works, I would not have become, you know, as effective as I think I did, ultimately, if I had not had those kind of guiding mentors to help me make decisions going in and to help me kind of do some, you know, do a little post mortem after to say like, work, this didn’t work. I mean, ultimately, your jury is going to give you their decision. And that’s going to say something, but often that doesn’t say a whole lot about how you know how you are performing, because cases have facts. And as persuasive as you are, the facts are what they are. And so, ultimately, juries make decisions, you know, hopefully on those facts, and generally, they come to the right ones. Sometimes they don’t, but that’s not necessarily the ultimate arbiter on did I give a good opening? Did I give a good closing? Did I help guide this witness through their story and direct, you know, how was My Cross. So getting that kind of feedback from mentors and from colleagues was an incredibly valuable way to become better. And I still try to do that, you know, every time I do something I you know, do a presentation, I always want to get feedback, I’m always looking to learn. So I guess even though I didn’t know about it, now, I know the growth mindset. Now I still tried to do it.

Simon Kennell 39:20
Yeah, you’re doing it before it was hit.

Laurie Gilbertson 39:25
There you go ahead of my time.

Simon Kennell 39:29
And then so first, for people out there who may be listening and don’t have a direct mentor that they can look at. Are there famous celebrities or politicians or, or just someone that that you could point people to and that that you think of as would you know, being a good communicator, an effective communicator?

Laurie Gilbertson 39:56
I’m always looking for examples of good communication You know, what I encourage people to do, which is something I do is, you know, start with something as simple as Ted Talks. They’re everywhere, and start watching them to see different styles of communication, and see what resonates with you, and see what feels kind of along the lines of something you’d feel comfortable doing. And just start to kind of pick and choose different things of ways you want to better your communication. Some people, you know, I’m just saying not to not to necessarily imitate someone, but to emulate them, you know, to still be yourself that way. And I find that helpful. And in terms of people, I was thinking about this, so Brene Brown, I is one. I’ve watched her TED Talk, which I think it’s been viewed so many millions of times. And I love her communication style, as an example of really being yourself. Yeah, really being you know, it was being vulnerable and authentic. Right before it was cool. And just, you know, so much. So I think she said she had a vulnerability hangover after she did her talk, which is a great way to put it. So her communication, it’s, it’s clear, it’s direct, there’s a theme to it, and she’s fully herself. So that’s one that I love. And, you know, in typical, just kind of things that you randomly see. The current president’s press secretary Jen Psaki, I think, is an amazing communicator. She is direct, she is forceful, she answers questions instead of deflecting them often. And she is fearless. And I so admire fearless communication. And so those are two that I would think of, I mean, there, there are many, you know, those are two different things, you know, two different ways of communicating, but two different two ways that also bring out the authenticity and the style of the speakers. And so I as a communications kind of nerd, maybe like yourselves, love watching press conferences. Yeah. The other day, it must have been a few weeks ago, I was in the car. And there was, you know, there’s so much going on internationally in the world. But this was a while ago, and there was a briefing by a State Department official. And I have to say it was a masterclass in communication. And I kept this on, I mean, for maybe 20 minutes as I was driving. And it just every question was answered directly and forcefully, there was a clear theme coming out about why, you know, this particular department was taking the actions it was taking, and I was just absolutely blown away. So you can find these things in different places. And, in addition to those things, with speakers, and always on the lookout for super creative speakers. And that can be visually, or that can be, you know, orally and how you speak. And there is a woman on LinkedIn, she is a doctor in Atlanta, and she had hosts, she is the head of a COVID task force for a hospital in Atlanta. So I’m not someone who’s necessarily national or super famous. And she started a series on COVID, when it started to give people information called the Stairwell Chronicles, where she sits on her stairway. And she just talks about things. You know, this is what’s going on with COVID. And this is, you know, what we want you to know about the hospital. And here are some numbers, and here are things you need to watch out for, you know, send me your questions. I’ll be back tomorrow, you know, to answer some of them. And it is friendly. It’s direct, and it takes this this very, you know, serious, scary topic. And makes it accessible to anyone, just as if she’s kind of sitting in your home on a stairway chatting with you. And her name is escaping me right now. But I thought that was a fabulous way of communicating that I really admired.

Simon Kennell 44:18
The Stairwell Chronicles Yeah,

Laurie Gilbertson 44:20
Stairwell Chronicles. You have to check that

Paola Pascual 44:22
out into the notes for sure. Oh, yeah. Not to the notes.

Simon Kennell 44:26
No, I loved I love the example. I mean, all of your examples are great. I Jen Psaki was one I didn’t even think to consider but but yeah, I love that that that forceful in terms of giving a direct answer and how valuable that is that? Yeah, that’s I mean, that’s amazing. And then yeah, Brene Brown, I think, you know, I stole one of her tips that I use now where I come home at the end of the day and with my girlfriend and if I’m having a bad day I say listen, I’m at you know, 30% and she’s like, Okay, well I’m at 80%, okay, we can make this you know, we can make figure it out. And I love that, you know that, that open and direct, you know, calm, you know, communication is just Yeah, it’s amazing.

Paola Pascual 45:08
It’s also very refreshing, it’s very hard to find I feel in, especially in the business world everything is. So there’s so many hidden meanings and lots of phrases that don’t really mean what you know. So it’s really hard to to navigate that that world, but when people are direct and fierceful, and I mean, there’s, of course a limit to it, but I think people tend to find it very refreshing.

Laurie Gilbertson 45:32
That’s exactly the word I was thinking of refreshing. It’s like clearing away all the clutter. You know, I think there’s a quote from Mark Twain where he says, You know, I, I didn’t have time to write you a short letter. So I sent you a long one.

Paola Pascual 45:45
I love that. I’ve used that in my sessions before and it reflects exactly what what it is like, because it takes work to to be concise and to communicate things in a clear way. It takes practice. So it does,

Laurie Gilbertson 45:57
It can be hard. And you know, I think listening is also something that’s a bit underrated as a communication tool. You know, just being able to, to stop talking, embrace the silence, although I just did rush to fill some silence, but just stop talking and embrace the silence and listen, is something that everyone can do. You know, it’s something that you can immediately do that’s going to make your communication shine in a way that a lot of people’s don’t, because they’re so quick, with kind of that clutter. We’re talking about, you know, to fill it with words. So I always encourage people to kind of embrace the pause, see what happens (It takes confidence).

Simon Kennell 46:45
Very un-American thing to do. I think I mean, you know, for myself, it’s interesting, we talk a lot about different cultures and how silence the role of silence in different cultures is so profound. If you go to Japan, the the silence between sentences in the conversation is there it is there and you feel it. Versus in, you know, different cultures, especially South America in the US, it’s people rushing to fill those, you know, over and over. And, and yeah, it can be jarring. If you’re ever in that situation to Okay, the silence is there, like, you know, and people are, it’s a it’s a different thing. And yeah, it takes confidence if that’s not something that that you’re used to for sure.

Paola Pascual 47:30
Exactly. Yeah. I feel like we could be talking for like, hours and hours asking, so nice to get to know to get to know you, Laurie. It’s been a real pleasure. I don’t know if there’s anything else you’d like to add or say before we wrap it up for today?

Laurie Gilbertson 47:45
No, I just I have so enjoyed this conversation. I think you’re the people you work with are very lucky to have both of you guiding them in communication, too. I have learned a lot in our conversation too. So thank you.

Simon Kennell 47:59
Well, thank you. And I totally, you know, echo that sentiment right back to you. And you know, for everybody listening, they can find you on on LinkedIn, Lori Gilbertson and then as well with your with your consultancy

Laurie Gilbertson 48:18
Yeah they can find me on LinkedIn. And if anyone wants to continue the conversation, I’m happy to connect. They can also find me at my website. It’s Tribeca Blue Consulting. Tribeca is the neighborhood I used to live in in New York. I work with executives, entrepreneurs, and also trial lawyers.

Simon Kennell 48:36
It was such a treat to have you on today. And I really enjoyed the conversation. Awesome. Well, again, Laurie, thank you so much, and to all of our listeners out there as always keep learning.

And that’s all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it, and remember to 
subscribe to Talaera Talks. We’ll be back soon with more! And visit our website at for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning!

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