How short a story can be

How long does a story actually need to be to get an audience emotionally invested? According to Hemingway, six words was more than enough:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Read more on why stories don’t have to be long to be powerful.








Great stories happen to those who can tell them.
Ira Glass.


There are just three basic ingredients that make up all great speeches and presentations in history. These three were first written down more than two thousand years ago by the Greek philosopher Aristotle and form the basis for nearly every public speaking book, article and blog published since. Understanding what they are and how to use them is key to transforming your next presentation into an opportunity to inform, convince and persuade your audience.

1. Logos (Greek for ‘word’) appeals to the audience’s sense of logic. It is the basic ingredient, namely the information you present combined with your logically structured argument. Investors, analysts and scientists love this stuff, but don’t be too heavy on it with a general audience. Not incorporating enough of it, however, will leave your idea sounding empty at best, more often unrealistic and irrelevant. Things you can use to reinforce your logos: facts, data, graphs, figures, stats, examples and best of all, demos. Ever wondered why Steve Jobs went to the risk and trouble of personally live-demoing each single product?

Persuasion is clearly a sort of demonstration, since we are most fully persuaded when we consider a thing to have been demonstrated.”

Video: watch Steve Jobs presenting the first Mac in 1984.

2. Ethos (Greek for ‘character’) appeals to the audience’s sense of honesty and/or authority. It is about being trustworthy and credible. No matter how much information you share and how good your argumentation is, if you score poorly on this one, your audience will leave the room unconvinced. Ethos makes the difference between informing and convincing, between meh and yeah! Sometimes your idea, data or strategy are great but you are just not the right person to tell the story. Things you can use to reinforce your ethos: your stage presence, tone of voice, referencing and crediting others, display of professional achievements, academic titles.

“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character, when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”

Video: does this meeting look familiar?

3. Pathos (Greek for ‘emotion’) is about appealing to the audience’s feelings. Pathos describes your ability to evoke the audience’s emotions and strategically connect these emotions to elements of your speech. By making such emotional connections, your audience will be more likely to agree with your argument and respond to your call-to-action. Things you can use to reinforce your pathos: vivid storytelling, a more engaging delivery, humor, looking for common ground, strong visuals, quotes, using metaphors to convey complex concepts, sharing a vision.

Persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions.

Video: one inch at the time.

Inform, convince or persuade: which will it be?

Additional information. Aristotle’s Rhetoric is an ancient Greek treatise on the art of persuasion, dating from the 4th century BC. It is considered the single most important work on persuasion ever written.

All visionary stories start with the same powerful question: what if…

Transcend reality

This simple question allows us to transcend the restrictions of reality and carries us to the realm of the possible, if the circumstances were different. Instead of simply describing a problem and offering potential solutions, we experience, if only briefly, a world where the problem has already been solved. There is no easy fix, but hey we understand the need and we have seen what it would mean to change things. What if…


The good people of Google are exceptional story tellers and they understand how visionary stories work. For 2 out of every 3 people on earth, a fast, affordable Internet connection is still out of reach. What if there was a way to light up the entire globe and finally make all the world’s information accessible to all of the world’s people?

Enjoy project Loon, a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space.


If I had to choose one description of what stories are and how they work, this short video would be my pick.

Three curves
Kurt Vonnegut, one of America’s most significant modern writers, presents the three curves that represent probably all stories ever told. And he does so with the style and flair of the great story teller he was.

It so happens, he says, that “this Cinderella story is the most popular story in our Western civilization. Every time it’s retold somebody makes another million dollars. You’re welcome to do it.”

Read more on writers and stories.

What type of communications expert are you?

Whether they like it or not, communications specialists are no longer the only ones who can make radical contributions to the business and the world. True, formal training, higher degrees and decades of field experience are still very much appreciated and open many doors. However, our world is changing fast, particularly since social media and mobile devices have enabled everybody to broadcast their message to the universe.

New types of communications experts have emerged that are able to connect with our emotions in ways that trained specialists cannot dream of. Some of them are experts in other fields, and use their expertise and knowledge to create messages that resonate with the audience by helping understand things. One example: Hans Rosling and his beautiful stats. Tip: make sure you don’t miss the grand finale. 

Others became great communicators because they found a mission that requires them to speak up and change the world. Countless times I have watched Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on how schools kill creativity and I still get touched by the story of Gillian. 

Some have faced difficult situations, survived  terrible ordeals or emerged from suffering, and  want to share their experience with us. Their message has  a strength that only a life-changing experience can generate, and brings us to tears by showing what we are capable of if we just set our mind to it. Just listen to Nicholas James Vujicic’s incredible story, no further comment needed. 

Real communication experts do not need to show an impressive CV. What they show us is a world we never knew existed.