Book review, Peter Guber, Story Telling

Tell to Win, Peter Guber

Tell to win : Connect, persuade and triumph with the hidden power of story

Peter Guber 2011, @PeterGuber ex Chairman of Sony pictures, Ceo of Mandalay entertainment group

It may seem obvious that the better the story you tell, the more likely you are to engage with the people you are trying to convince to give you what you want. And yet.

Thing is, we often want to charge in and tell people why our product is great, rather than why it might be useful to the people you are talking to. Much like blogging, rather than me telling you about what I had for breakfast, and how this reminded me of … yawn, yep you’re gone already.

Instead we, as readers, want to read about things that educate, inform, enlighten us. Therefore thinking about the stories we are about to tell our next audience, and how they might be of use to them is actually a really smart thing to do.

Guber, naturally illustrates all of this via a series of stories, or rather pitches that involved stories. There is also a basic human physchology to be recognised here too. As an audience and a listener, when I sit at an event, or even on a panel, I’d far rather be entertained, than bored by facts and figures. I can handle the stats, but the thing is I’ve also seen some terrible pitches where the screen is full of numbers, too small to read. The speaker goes on about the market being worth 50 billion, and 0.1% of that will still make them all millionaires. As Guber illustrates time and time again, this is the wrong way to go about it.


Far more effective is to reach out with a story that matches the audiences own interests, hopes and fears. The book is an enjoyable read because Guber also covers the times where he got it horribly wrong. The opportunity to build a fantastic new cinema on a really cheap site of land in Berlin. Until … Until he discovers the reason the land is so cheap. It was the site of Hitler’s final Berlin bunker. Sony, from a Japanese perspective had not considered the wider implications of  this detail of the ‘story’ that would emerge if they built on this site.

In hindsight these may seem an obvious factor to consider. However many business decisions have been taken without thinking through how their actions might be perceived by their core customers. Switching the Coke flavour for example, is the hilarious example of the company thinking they know better than their customers. Similarly Digg lost the bulk of their online community to Reddit, due to the company believing the knew what was best for their users.

The book is a useful good read. A heads up to remember to keep thinking about who your audience will be, and what the best story to tell them is. Not to simply entertain them, but convey the right values and message to them. You might think this is an obvious statement, but having sat through a number of awful death by powerpoint presentations even now in 2014, this book is still worth a read.



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