If an infographic is worth a thousand words…

Over the past five years I have written over 150 articles on this blog, accounting for nearly 70,000 words. If the statement that a picture is worth a thousand words is true, the content of this site could be reduced to, say, a few tens of images and its reading time dramatically shortened.

Studies like the one by David Hyerle show that up to 90 percent of the information that we remember is based on visual impact and, from experience, I know that infographics can make complex information more appealing and better digestible. Providing your audience with compelling handout material that they can share with others, also helps spreading your message and increases the impact of your content.

This gave me an interesting challenge – and a creative way to spend some (tautology alert!) free moments during my summer holidays – in crafting a set of 4 infographics that summarize some of my old compilation posts:

You may download the resulting files by clicking on the image below (or hitting the download tab on top of this page).

If you like my artwork, if you think the infographics are useful, and if you want more of these, please share this post on social media and/or give me a thumbs-up via the “leave a reply” box on this page.


Five stories of art

This is a compilation post that brings together my views on closely related topics, collating articles that I published earlier on this blog. It doesn’t contain new content, although part of it may have been slightly reworked. Knowing that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts, I hope this update provides you with a bigger picture, a more complete list of good practices, or a better grounded opinion.

The attentive reader of this blog may have noticed that I love travelling. At frequent times, my wife and I take off on a city trip. These short holidays often provide a great occasion to visit the world’s most renowned museums and discover some of the stunning art collections they hold. A number of our excursions inspired me to write blog posts about the masterpieces themselves, the emotions they evoked, or an adjacent topic. Here’s a selection of 5 (plus 1 bonus) articles I published on this blog about a famous (or infamous) work of art.

1. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

When my spouse and I spent a long weekend in Paris, we explored the Louvre museum, the City of Light’s gargantuan temple of arts.

It is said that all roads lead to Rome, but inside the Louvre all signs seem to direct you to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. And what’s more, a significant part of the visitors inside the museum look as if they have come in (only) to follow these signposts and troop together in front of the famous portrait.


As there are about 35,000 other art treasures exhibited in other (and less frequented) parts of the 60,000 square meters large museum, I have often wondered why exactly this Mona Lisa painting is the most attracting object for so many tourists. Have they been inspired by perception or by suggestion?

My guess is that it is the story that is guiding them. The secret behind Lisa Gherardini’s mysterious smile. The lady’s eyes that seem to follow your around. The quest for the model’s real identity. The fascination for Leonardo’s intriguing personality.

In business it’s often the same. People just love stories. They like to be guided towards products and services that are interesting, compelling, intriguing… But as in the Louvre, there may also be lots of other hidden treasures to be discovered by the audience (and promoted by you). Each of them with its own story that’s waiting to be told…

2. Rembrandt van Rijn’s Night Watch

Another day we went visiting Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, and the Night Watch.

For the unhappy few who are not familiar with the world’s art heritage: the Night Watch (or de Nachtwacht in Dutch) is a group portrait of a local shooting company, painted by Rembrandt in 1642.


Our youngest son, who had been on a school excursion to the Dutch capital a few months ago, complained afterwards that the time they could spend at the Rijksmuseum was “barely enough for a meet and greet with Rembrandt’s famous painting”. So, he absolutely wanted to get back to the museum and spend more quality time with the works of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and his Golden Age fellows. A good reason to return to the city of Amsterdam, isn’t it?

It may come as a surprise to you, but Rembrandt’s world renowned painting is competing for the spot of the number one tourist attraction in Amsterdam with… a modest terraced house. The Anne Frank House is frequented by more than one million people each year. When we got there (following our visit to the Rijksmuseum), the waiting queue at the front door had already grown to over 100 meters long.

Now, ask me what makes all these visitors come to visit the Anne Frank House and wait in line for more than one hour, and I will tell you that it’s her story. A story that appeals to people’s emotion. A true story told by a 15-year-old girl. A story about war, suffering and human courage. A story that is still relevant today, 70 years after the end of World War II. And – although the young girl’s history did not have a happy ending – possibly also a story of hope for millions of refugees all over the world. Each of them may be looking for a 21st century Achterhuis (aka Secret Annexe) where they can find a safe shelter from all sorts of persecution, terrorist aggression, separatist unrest, missile attacks, air strikes and ground offensives…

3. Hendrick van Anthonissen’s View of Scheveningen Sands

The online conversation following my “Moore’s law… and beyond” blog post revealed a fundamental discussion about data visualization: when we create and deliver a presentation, should we stick to the hard facts and figures, or is a presenter allowed to “filter”, “frame” or “massage” certain data?

Here’s my opinion. First of all, you should never, never lie to your audience or present them with facts and figures when you definitely know they are incorrect. There is nothing wrong, however, with omitting unnecessary details, or framing the content to better align with the message you’re trying to convey.

A good example of this is the use of (financial or industry) analyst data in your slides. Although most of these analyst guys are to be considered trustworthy sources, in my blog post about “the incredible lightness of numbers” I illustrated that the figures they give may sometimes vary by a large factor. Of course, as a presenter, you’re allowed to quote only the sources that ― depending on what you want to show or prove ― mention the smallest of the largest numbers.

As a presenter you can also influence the audience’s perception of objective data. The case (by Garr Reynolds) I have outlined in my post “the duck and the rabbit” shows how a table may be (mis)used as an alternative to a bar chart to display hard numbers in a less dramatic or emotional way.

And, finally, sometimes you may assume that a theory or statement is true, until somebody proves you it’s not. Take the anecdote of the 17th-century Dutch painting “View of Scheveningen Sands,” created by Hendrick van Anthonissen (hanging in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, UK.)

Until recently, the whole world assumed that the people on the painting were actually staring at a deserted seascape… and then the restoration of the artwork revealed a beached whale on the beach!


4. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica

Last November we visited the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, renowned as the home of Picasso’s Guernica. The famous mural-sized, black-and-white painting was created in 1937 after the devastating bombing on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, and is considered one of the most powerful visual political statements ever made by an artists.


The painting was impressive indeed. Its visual message overwhelming. Undoubtedly the work of a genius.

After intensively and extensively admiring the masterpiece, a series of small black-and-white photographs caught my attention. Posted on the wall opposite the canvas, they depict the making of Guernica. The snapshots were taken by Dora Maar, Picasso’s muse in those days, and show the consecutive development stages of the artwork.

Thanks to these historical pictures I could witness how some key components of the composition, like the bull, the horse, and the (light bulb) sun, were created, destructed and recreated by the Spanish painter.

While observing the metamorphosis of Guernica, I had to think of Dale Carnegie’s quote about delivering a presentation:

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

Just like Picasso’s masterpiece evolved during its inception, conception and creation, your presentation’s messaging, storytelling, and visualization may change over time – although an act of destruction is seldom required.

5. Giacomo  Puccini’s Tosca

Of course, there are other forms of art besides painting, such as theater and opera.

In my past posts I have written many times about ethos, pathos and logos. The three persuasive appeals, as described by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. If you think about it, ethos, pathos and logos are present in almost every area of our daily lives. And more than we realize, they determine how we experience situations, interact with people and make decisions.

I witnessed this recently myself on a trip to Budapest, where my wife and I spent a night at the opera, watching and listening to Puccini’s Tosca. I am not that frequent opera visitor nor a lifelong opera lover, but this performance really hit my sweet spot, thanks to ― what I interpreted afterwards as a ― perfect mix of ethos, pathos and logos.


  • Ethos: a more than a century old institution that opened in 1884, the Hungarian State Opera House has a very good reputation. The operaház’ acoustics are considered to be among the best in the world. From the moment we entered the venue, we were impressed by its gold-decorated interior and its red velvet seats.
  • Pathos: written by the late 19th century romantic Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, the opera Tosca is filled with emotion. With love, lust and jealousy. A review review by a Washington City Paper describes Tosca’s antagonist Scarpia as “the 19th century’s Darth Vader.” Almost two months after our night at the opera, Scarpia’s words “Beware: this is a place of tears!” (in Italian, “Questo è luogo di lagrime! Badate!”) still echo in my mind.
  • Logos: apart from the wonderful setting and the touching story, my wife and I enjoyed an outstanding interpretation of Tosca. The orchestra and the lead singers delivered a rousing performance. This music would have sounded great on my iPod too!

Lesson learned: as for so many other things in life, the whole of Aristotle’s rhetoric is greater than the sum of its three parts. It’s neither about ethos OR pathos OR logos, but all about ethos AND pathos AND logos

Bonus. Cecilia Giménez’ Potato Jesus

And finally, there was the story of the elderly Spanish lady who made the news by restoring a fresco in her own unique way? She did such a remarkable job that the mural painting by Elías García Martínez, originally known as Ecce Homo (“Here’s the Man”), got nicknamed Ecce Mono (“Here’s the Monkey”) and Potato Jesus.

But in the meantime her infamous artwork in a church near Zaragoza has turned out to be quite lucrative…


After one year, the bespoke restoration had attracted 40,000 visitors and raised more than 50,000 euro for charity. Cecilia Giménez, the 81-year-old artist, has even had her own art exhibition and signed a deal with a local council to share profits from merchandising the image.

A somewhat unexpected conclusion from this fait divers: even questionable graphic material may (sometimes) generate good business — or yield good presentations. Take for example Tom Peters, a bestselling author who is known as a great business person and an inspiring public speaker. Even though the PowerPoint slides he creates are often overcrowded, with an eye-hurting mix of exotic fonts and striking primary colors (see e.g. one of his “Excellence Now” presentations on SlideShare) most of his presentations are simply excellent…

Why storytelling is the new black

This is a compilation post that brings together my views on closely related topics, collating articles that I published earlier on this blog. It doesn’t contain new content, although part of it may have been slightly reworked. Knowing that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts, I hope this update provides you with a bigger picture, a more complete list of good practices, or a better grounded opinion.

“Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form.” – Nancy Duarte

2013 study carried out by the French ManpowerGroup identified three emerging job profiles for the future: the Protector, the Optimizer and the Storyteller.

They describe the latter one, the Storyteller, as a “craftsman of engagement”. He or she gives meaning to (or renews) the company’s engagement in times of crisis and communicates with all stakeholders through dialog and social media. In today’s organizations we often find these creative people in marketing and communications functions such as “Content Marketer”, “Digital Brand Manager” or “Community Manager” and in business supporting roles, including “Innovation Valorization Managers”, “Business Evangelists” and “Cultural Engineering Consultants”.

Although I have met only very few people with “Corporate Storyteller” on their business card, storytelling has become a new gospel for business presenters. And those creatives who can create compelling stories, get their message across, and inspire audiences’ passion will stand out in our new era of content and meaning.

It’s the story, stupid

Not so long ago, I had a discussion with a friend who’s active in business consulting. He’s used to creating and delivering long, dry and factual presentations and doesn’t feel very comfortable with the concept of storytelling.

Though not all content is equally suitable for storification, I am convinced that storytelling techniques have a real value. Even (or should I say particularly?) for management level presentations.

  • We’re all human beings, and –let’s admit it– most of us love stories. As Robin Dunbar states in Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, 65% of the time we are speaking informally, we’re talking about “who did what to whom”.
  • Listening to a story is cooperative (and most of the time interactive) learning. A story can put your whole brain to workIt helps make the complex simple and make the message more memorable. We tend to forget figures, lists and bullet points. Stories help to persuade where facts can’t.
  • Storytelling is a way to create a tension with the audience, get them engaged beyond the rational and make them connect emotionally and/or ethically. Stories produce mental images. They are a means to stimulate higher level thinking and let the audience come to a conclusion on their own.

Of course there are different kinds of audiences that may need different styles of presentations in different situations. And some content and/or circumstance can make you decide not to tell a story, e.g. for financial reporting or in cases of crisis communication. As a professional presenter it’s your call to go for a storytelling approach or not.


From storytellers to storydoers and storymakers

Lately, I also came across a few articles about the need to complement storytelling by storydoing. The idea is simple and straight forward: great companies and great leaders don’t just tell stories, but they also take action on them.

  • Storytellers are companies or individuals, that convey the story of their brand, business or product by telling that story. As I stated above, storytelling is a powerful tool to engage audiences and create worth-of-mouth buzz.
  • Storydoers consciously work to convey their story through direct action. Storydoing companies put the narrative in action and use stories to drive product development and enhance their customers’ experience.

Storydoing should however not be considered as a black-or-white alternative to storytelling. In fact, both practices go hand in hand. Storytelling is mainly driven by marketers, while every company employee can contribute to the doing. Research by storydoing.com suggests that storydoing companies are better performers, as they tend to spend less money on advertising and paid media, but rather invest in customer engagement and execution.

As a marketer in a fast-moving technology sector, I would tend to add a 3rd category:

  • Storymakers are the real market innovators, entrepreneurs and changemakers. They build a whole new story for their product or their company, or even a completely new brand.

Only great personalities are able to combine the three roles above. The Mark Zuckerbergs, Elon Musks and Richard Bransons of this world. They not only have great ideas, but they also have the capabilities to execute them and engage their audience – and as such create or change an industry.

(this compilation post has been published earlier on Business2Community and on LinkedIn)

Keep your audience coming back for more

In the era of content, communication, conversation and customer experience (coincidentally all starting with a “c”,) a marketer’s or sales person’s capabilities to create a decent message house, translate it into a captivating story, craft a compelling presentation, and use it to engage with a specific audience are essential.

As Richard Branson once said in Entrepreneur magazine:

“Good speakers aren’t just talented or lucky – they work hard.”

This is why, over the past 3 years, I have written 127 articles about the principles of storytelling, and about mastering the 3 P’s of presenting: your pitch, your preparation and your presentation.

You’re currently reading my last contribution before the summer holidays. And, as I’m getting short of inspiration – some would call it a writer’s block –  it may be also the beginning of an extended period of lower activity on this blog.

As I have done for the past two years, I have bundled all the pieces I wrote between September 2014 and June 2015 in an e-book. You may download PDF compilations of all past B2B Storytelling posts by clicking on the images below.

eBooksSo, well, here’s a final advice from your humble servant:

“Each time you deliver a presentation (or in this case write a blog post), ask yourself at the end if you left your audience wanting more.”

To all followers of this site: thank you for reading my posts, and please come back from time to time. Because I will occasionally (but probably less often than before) publish a new story when something worth writing about comes to me (so feel free to suggest topics I could or should blog about via the contact tab on top of this page…)

Happy reading and enjoy your (and my) vacation!

The triggerfish

I have just returned from a relaxing vacation on the Azores, the beautiful green Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. One night, my wife and I went for dinner at a small seafood restaurant on Faial island.

When we asked for the menu card, the young waiter told us: “My father-in-law went out fishing this afternoon. What about trying his catch of the day? Have you ever tasted triggerfish?”

Then he started talking about local fishing practices. So we learned that Azorean coastal fishery is still mostly artisanal and carried out by family crews, with 90% of the boats less than 15m long.

And finally, he dug up a small book, the “Consumer’s Guide to Azorean Seafood,”  that visualized the local fish species and provided us with some welcome information about the fresh peixe-porco or grey triggerfish on offer. On each page of the guidebook there was also a colored icon, that labeled the endangered species with a red fish and the sustainable-to-eat ones with a green one.


As you may expect (otherwise I wouldn’t bother writing this blog post), we ended up ordering triggerfish fillets for two. Of course combined with a nice glass of local Frei Gigante wine. Let me tell you that this was the freshest and most tasty seafood dish I have eaten in years (and the green icon in the book assured us that local stocks appear to be healthy.)

And while we were enjoying our meal, we noticed that the waiter repeated the same process with all new customers that entered the restaurant — probably until there was no peixe-porco left to recommend.

Our experience in the fish restaurant was yet another proof point of the power of a good story. By introducing us to the catch of the day, and visually documenting it with the guidebook, our restaurant host truly created a win-win-win situation for his business, for his father-in-law’s, and a for couple of hungry Belgian tourists too.

Yes, went back to the same place the following night. For more peixe do dia.

A new year’s cocktail recipe

“If you want an interesting party sometime, combine cocktails and a fresh box of crayons for everyone.” ‒  Robert Fulghum

May 2015 be a wonderful year for business storytelling! I wish all readers of my blog a persuasive cocktail of ethos, pathos and logos and a shiny box with three hundred sixty-five bright crayons for coloring outside the lines.


Four storytellers about storytelling

I have been blogging about storytelling in business for the past two years and written more than 80 posts about the topic. If you still wonder what storytelling is all about, and why it’s so important in today’s business environment, then listen (or read) what these respected entrepreneurs, businessmen and storytellers are saying about it.


Richard Branson (@richardbranson), founder of the Virgin Group, is certainly one of today’s most influential thought leaders. With more than 4 million followers, he is the most-followed public figure on LinkedIn. His blog posts, opinion pieces and interviews are putting him in the spotlight as a great communicator, and an inspiring storyteller.

“Whatever you are trying to sell, storytelling is the most powerful thing you can do. Most of the best business ideas come from personal experiences.”  (from Jack Preston’s blog post about Virgin Media Pioneers’ Pitch to Rich competition)

“If you want to stand out from the crowd, give people a reason not to forget you.” (from Richard Branson’s blog post on virgin.com)

“What I soon learned was that practice made all the difference. The more prepared I was, the less I stammered and stumbled. Good speakers aren’t just talented or lucky ̶ they work hard.” (from an interview with Richard Branson in Entrepreneur magazine)


With “only” 218,326 Linked followers, Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) is a little less known –which doen’t mean less talented– storyteller. A Belarus-born author, investor, and founder of VaynerMedia – and a famous wine connoisseur.

“No matter what you do, no matter what your profession is, our job is always and forever to tell our story. And that is never going to change. The way you make real money, the way you make real impact, the way things get changed is by great storytelling. It’s always been that way, and it always will be that way. Because we’re f***ing human beings, and that’s what we like.” (from a 99U presentation by Gary Vee)

“My ability to tell a better story than my competitors became the reason we had a successful company.” (from an Entrepreneur video in which Vaynerchuk tells about his wine business)


Also Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), author, entrepreneur and former chief evangelist at Apple, stresses the importance of storytelling in his talks and writing. I am a big fan of Guy’s book “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions”, about influencing people and delivering a powerful brand experience.

“You need to tell a story. Most people, particularly ad technology, are horrible at telling stories. You need to tell a story. Why did you start eBay? Why did you start Google? Why did you start Apple?” (Guy Kawasaki in a presentation at Stanford University)

“The art of branding requires creating something contagious that infects people with enthusiasm, making it easy for them to try it, asking them for help in spreading the word, and building the community around it.” (from “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki)

“Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers… When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.” (from an interview with Guy Kawasaki in Forbes magazine)


And finally, there’s the obligatory Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Computer (and Guy Kawasaki’s ex-boss,) who I still consider the archetype of a born storyteller, storymaker and storydoer.

“We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.” (from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs)

“People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.” (from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs)

So this was my last blog post before summer holidays.Thank you for your readership, for following my blog, and for your comments and reactions. Let me close in beauty with a memorable video clip of the MacWorld 2008 keynote by the late Steve Jobs, in which he introduces a MacBook so thin that it even fitted inside a brown envelope…

Whole lotta ROSI

What’s the ROI of storytelling?  That’s a good question… (which is actually a good phrase to use when you need to buy time for formulating a satisfactory response too).

A better answer might be: “When storytelling gets the message across more effectively, its incremental cost is close to zero, but its ROI may be massive.” Unfortunately, there’s no single metric or a formula that will give you an exact number for the money you can save or gain by telling stories.

Of course you could try to calculate how much dollars or euros your business is wasting by preparing, delivering and listening to poor Powerpoint presentations – which may add up to a mere $250 million per day worldwide, as (conservatively) calculated by Dave Paradi. But isn’t there more than that?

Measuring your ROSI (guess what the abbreviation stands for) using metrics similar to pay-per-clicks, page impressions, search ranks, social-media-shares, or any other content marketing KPI won’t give you a complete picture either.

Here’s the bottom line. The positive effects of storytelling can’t and shouldn’t be measured at all. Neither by how many people came listening to your talk. Nor by how many questions you got a the end. Nor by how many purchase orders you received immediately afterward.

Because storytelling is all about:

  • Adding relevance and meaning to your brand, your company and their products.
  • Getting your audience engaged beyond the rational and making them connect emotionally and/or ethically.
  • Building awareness, impact and intimacy with your customers.
  • Initiating interaction to better address their individual needs (and to discover unidentified ones.)
  • Enabling a great customer experience.
  • Inspiring your listeners to take action or to drive change.
  • Making them want to come back for more and/or stay in touch.

And if, through your storytelling investments, you manage to achieve (even a few of) the goals above, you may still find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


More reading:

The joy of presenting naked

In my previous post, I wrote about a situation in which I was confronted with a broken projector, and as such (almost) forced to present “nakedly”. For those who might get wrong thoughts: naked presenting is delivering a presentation without slides (and without hesitation.)

It’s nothing new. The art of storytelling dates from long before PowerPoint and the projector were ever invented. But nowadays, too manypresenters hide themselves behind their slide deck. Although some of the best public speakers I know don’t need (and a few of them don’t use) any visuals to deliver an outstanding talk.


Naked presenting lets you concentrate on your audience and on your message instead of on your Powerpoint-style presentation tools (see also my reasons for not using Prezi.)

For a naked presenter, less is more!

  • When you need to invest less time in graphic material preparation, you can spend more time on building your story, and practicing and rehearsing it.
  • When you’re relying less upon the laptop in front, you have more space to move around the stage and face the people in the back of the room.
  • When you count less on the sexiness of your slides, you may discover the expressive power of your voice and body language.
  • When you give them no slides to read from, people will more attentively listen to your words.
  • When you put less energy in trying to impress your audience (don’t confuse a naked presenter with an exhibitionist!,) you will probably establish a better emotional contact with them.

If –after all these convincing arguments– you’re still too shy to go full monty in front of your customers, you can leave your hat on... and use a flip chart and a few markers to cover your nakedness.

A final note for those in the audience: things may not always be what they seem. It’s a known fact that even Barack Obama uses a teleprompter on the sly.

If you have some spare time, read the revealing Presentation Zen post about presenting naked by Garr Reynolds, as well as these other articles:

Enthusiasm can be contagious

“From the glow of enthusiasm I let the melody escape. I pursue it. Breathless I catch up with it. It flies again, it disappears, it plunges into a chaos of diverse emotions. I catch it again, I seize it, I embrace it with delight… I multiply it by modulations, and at last I triumph in the first theme. There is the whole symphony.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Maybe you remember an earlier post that I published on this blog, titled: “Playing at a theater near you“. But last week I actually delivered a presentation in a real, authentic, former-GDR movie theater (as shown on the photo below).


Although I have given quite a few public talks for quite large audiences in quite nice auditoriums before (I once presented in Henry VIII’s bedroom – without losing my head), this cinema location gave me a very special kick. And although I talked (as usual) about a technology related topic, in this theater environment I felt more visual storyteller than ever.

Sure I am aware that I’m a rather enthusiastic speaker by nature, but this special place probably boosted the passion in my talk even more. It is said that enthusiasm is contagious, so it was not a (very big) surprise to me that the audience shared my mood, and even reported this on their feedback forms.

QED – a cinema is a place for stories, and as a B2B storyteller I am already looking forward to presenting in such an inspiring place soon again!

Read also these blog posts: