803: How to Write Like the Greatest Masters of Persuasion with Carmine Gallo

By September 26, 2022Podcasts

 

 

Carmine Gallo uncovers the communication secrets of masters like Jeff Bezos that help you write more clearly and concisely.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The basic grammar lesson that makes all the difference
  2. The easiest way to simplify complexity
  3. How a single sentence makes your data more impactful

About Carmine

Carmine Gallo is a Harvard instructor and program leader in executive education at the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Design. A “communications guru,” according to Publishers Weekly, Carmine coaches CEOs and leaders for the world’s most admired brands.

Carmine’s bestselling books, including Talk Like TED, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, and The Bezos Blueprint, have been translated into more than 40 languages. 

His latest, The Bezos Blueprint reveals the communication strategies that fueled Amazon’s success and that help people build their careers.

Carmine is one of the most influential voices in communication, business, and leadership and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Success Magazine and on MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, and ABC’s 20/20. He has built a global reputation for transforming leaders into powerful storytellers and communicators.

 Resources Mentioned

Carmine Gallo Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Carmine, welcome back to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Carmine Gallo
Thanks, Pete. Nice to see you again and thank you for inviting me back. Now, did I read or hear that you have now recorded over 800 episodes?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true.

Carmine Gallo
That couldn’t be right. I thought that was a typo. I thought somebody had said maybe 80 and had accidentally added a zero.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, 800. It adds up.

Carmine Gallo
Congratulations.

Pete Mockaitis
We had three a week then two a week for six plus years. Mathematically, that’ll get you there.

Carmine Gallo
Congratulations. That’s excellent.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.

Carmine Gallo
Good to hear.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, I’m stoked to talk about your latest The Bezos Blueprint: Communication Secrets of the World’s Greatest Salesman. And what I’m intrigued, Carmine, hey, we love lifelong learning here at How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Carmine Gallo
I know you do.

Pete Mockaitis
You’ve written some books and you’re an expert at communication but my understanding is you went back to writing class prior to writing this book despite having written other books already. What’s the story here?

Carmine Gallo
I’ve written books on how to deliver better presentations, like Talk Like TED, which was a book about how to deliver TED-style presentations, one of my earlier books was The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. A lot of what I’ve written is on communication with a lens on presenting. So, this was the first time that I took a deep dive into the art of writing because Amazon, one of the big things I learned, is that Amazon and Jeff Bezos have created a real writing culture. In order to advance at Amazon as a professional in your career, you have to be a good writer.

Well, in order for me to write about the art of writing, I’d better learn a little bit more about this frustrating art that just scares so many people, and it scares me when I’m looking at an empty page in trying to start a book, and I know it scares a lot of other people. So, I did kind of go back to class. I not only took writing classes again, I’ve been working on this for about three years, but I also interviewed a lot of experts and professionals who have written some of the best writing books so that I can just not write a writing book but distill the essence of what you need to know to be a better writer and a better communicator.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got you. And so, I’m curious, if some of us want to sharpen those skills, any particular books, courses, resources, that were really awesome for you?

Carmine Gallo
Believe it or not, there is a YouTube sensation, her name is Gill, “English with Gill.” And Gill is a British grandmother who has like a million subscribers on YouTube, which is just unbelievable to me, and she teaches English as a second language but she takes a deep dive into why some words are more powerful than others or why some writing is more effective than others. So, if you just look at Gill, Gill teaches English on YouTube, you’ll be able to find her.

So, I went back to school and I talked to her and I’ve talked to other language and English experts, and it’s interesting because they do tend to come back to the same strategies, and they’re strategies that we’ve all heard before and maybe it brings back some bad memories of English grammar class, but they’re very effective when it comes to writing and communicating in the workplace.

And one of those in particular, if you don’t mind, I’ll dive right into something actionable that people can take away, and that is the focusing on the active voice versus passive. Almost every single – even Stephen King – every single great communication writer, everyone who writes about communication, always goes back to this idea of writing in the active voice, and it makes sense from a business perspective as well.

So, just to remind people, subject-verb-object is the active voice. “The girl kicked the ball,” that’s active where the subject performs the action, not “The ball was kicked by the girl.” So, now, if you look at…start looking at headlines. Look at, like, newspaper headlines in print where they only have a certain amount of space, it’s all active voice.

“Last week, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates.” The subject is the Fed, and what did they do? They raised interest rates. That is so much more simple, understandable, concise than saying, “Interest rates went up today because of action taken by the Fed in yesterday’s meeting.” There’s not enough space for that.

So, if you just think about writing more in the active voice than in the passive, your writing will improve substantially in emails, in memos. And when I reviewed 24 years of Jeff Bezos’ shareholder letters, which are apparently, among business professionals’ models of clarity, 94% of the writing and the sentences fell into the active voice. Out of 50,000 words, 94% are active, “Amazon achieves record revenue,” “AWS does this.” So, if you just stick to the active voice, it’ll make writing a lot easier, and your reader will find it more understandable.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I totally agree that active voice is strong. And I recall an assignment I had in high school in which we – I always use the passive voice right there – we were forbidden, our teacher, Judy Feddemeier, forbade us, not we were forbidden, there is a subject. Judy Feddemeier forbade us to use any form of to be verb. No is, are, was, were.Just none. It was hard. It stretched your brain. It’s not like, “The glass was on the table”; “The glass sat on the table.”

Carmine Gallo
But, Pete, we forget these things because I remember that as well from the classes that I took. But we forget that these are basic writing strategies and tools that will make us far more persuasive as communicators in the workplace. Imagine if your emails stuck to a more active type of sentence, everything would be so much more clear and understandable, and people appreciate it when you get to the point.

I was just thinking of some examples the other day when it comes to emails. I would rather see an email with a subject line, if I’m an employee, that says, “New hybrid work policy requires three days in the office.” In one sentence, I get it. I may not even have to read the rest of the email or I can file it away for later. I know that the subject of this email is the new hybrid work policy and what does it require.

So, at Amazon, they call it BLOT, which is bottom line on top, which they sort of copied from the US military. The US military has a writing code called BLUF, bottom line up front. The point is, and I think this applies to every business professional listening, is that if you want to come across as more understandable and concise and clear when you’re writing emails especially, start with the bottom line.

Give me the big picture, like you always ask. Give me the big idea, you ask guests all the time. Give me the big idea. Give me the big picture up front and then fill in the details. That’s called bottom line on top at Amazon. Again, they’re teaching people how to be more effective communicators through the written word.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And it’s funny, as I think about the copy I see on Amazon pages, copy meaning the words for sales, they’re excellent and it really stands out when you’ve got some sketchy overseas supplier of a thing and their English isn’t on point, like it stands out even more against the backdrop of other Amazon writing, and it’s tricky.

And, for me, it’s like, “Well, if I can’t trust your writing to be good, and you’re highly financially motivated to have the writing on your sales page be as excellent as possible, I don’t know how much I can trust that you’ve gone through other quality control steps in producing your product.”

Carmine Gallo
Good point.

Pete Mockaitis
But, then, I think, “Well, Pete, maybe it’s just not fair. Like, English is not their first language but maybe engineering is, and so it’s just fine.” But it does, emotionally, make me a little skeptical, like, “I don’t know if I can trust this product if their English is askew here.”

Carmine Gallo
Pete, you brought up a good point, and this is not necessarily something I was going to mention but it really was a catalyst for the book. I wrote an article about three years ago for Forbes, which is one of the platforms I write for, and it had to do with Jeff Bezos banning PowerPoint, and that turned out to be a very popular article, and now a lot of people, some of your listeners may already know or have heard that, that he banned PowerPoint within Amazon.

He replaced PowerPoint with the written word. In other words, when he has a meeting, now he’s no longer at Amazon, but let’s say he’s at Blue Origin, his space company, when he has a meeting, he doesn’t want people to come in with a PowerPoint because he says, “PowerPoint doesn’t really teach me anything. It doesn’t tell me that you’ve really thought through this idea. Anyone can throw bullet points on a slide. I want to see full-written narratives that have sentences with nouns and verbs and subjects and paragraphs.”

And when I talked to a few people, one person in particular who had to tell the team that they no longer can use PowerPoint in the next meeting, and he said a lot of the engineers came back to him and they were very frustrated and upset, they said, “Well, I’m an engineer, that’s what we know is PowerPoint, and now you expect me to be a writer?” And Jeff Bezos said, “Yes, I expect you to be a writer. And if you want to succeed in this company, don’t pitch me with PowerPoint, pitch me with the written word,” a writing narrative is what he called it.

So, again, it kind of comes back to this idea, Pete, that people are not necessarily going to tell you that your writing needs improvement – I don’t think a lot of people will say that – but it makes an impression, and it leaves an impression. Every time you send an email or write a memo, anything in the written word, if it’s not clear and concise and understandable and gets to the point quickly and is easy to read, it leaves an impression, and it’s not always a positive impression.

Pete Mockaitis
It absolutely does. Well, it’s funny, and I come from a strategy consulting background so PowerPoint really is like our means of expressing ourselves. And I think it’s true that it’s easier to…well, I guess both artforms or communication media can be done well and they can be done poorly, but I think it’s more glaringly obvious to people if the written words alone are bad than the PowerPoint is bad because I think a lot of people don’t even know what a good PowerPoint looks like in terms of, “I have an action headline that says what the slide says.”

Instead of saying, “Sales over time,” it says, “Sales have declined dramatically since we introduced this product.” It’s like, “Oh, okay, that’s the point. And then I see a picture of data which shows me that point,” as opposed to, “Here’s a bunch of data pictures. Yup, that’s my business update.” It’s easier to maybe, I don’t know, stay by there.

Carmine Gallo
I would also argue that everything starts with the written word even when you’re creating a PowerPoint slide. I write my texts into the note section of PowerPoint and then I practice it, and I reduce it, and I cut it down, but almost everything is going to start from the written word somewhere. So, if you can be a stronger writer, it’s going to dramatically improve everything you do when it comes to communication.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Carmine Gallo
But writing is hard. Writing is hard. I’ve written ten books, and you’re staring at these blank pages, I know it’s tough, I know it’s hard, and I think people are intimidated by it as well. That’s why I try to make it understandable and, at least, approachable.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, you did mention that I do ask for the big idea. So, lay it on us, what is the big idea for The Bezos Blueprint: Communication Secrets of the World’s Greatest Salesman?

Carmine Gallo
Well, Jeff Bezos turned an idea that most people said could not be done. People forget that. But in 1994, most people said, “What’s the internet? Oh, and you’re not going to be able to sell books on it.” So, he turned this bold idea into one of the world’s most influential companies. And we could argue, I can make the point that it touches your life each and every day.

So, the big idea, Pete, is that the communication and leadership strategies that Bezos pioneered at Amazon to turn that vision into a reality is something that any one of our listeners can adopt today in their career to move from where they are today to that next level or that next step in their career, the step that they imagine themselves to be.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thank you, that’s clearly stated, and it’s like you’ve been practicing, Carmine.

Carmine Gallo
You know where that came from, Pete? I’ll be honest with you. I’ll tell you exactly where that came from. I like to read The New York Times’ book reviews, and when they talk to an author, there’s a great exercise. This is a fantastic exercise. They want that author to be able to identify the book’s big idea, like you say, in 50 words or less, and that’s one of their first questions, “Tell us about this book in 50 words or less.” So, they place a limit on it.

And I have found that what a great exercise that people can do even in a professional setting. Before you walk into your CEO’s office to talk about this idea, before you send out that next email, can you express your idea in 50 words or less? That’s hard to do so you have to think through this. What is the most important element of that idea that you need to get across?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. Arbitrary limits and constraints certainly can help with clarity and concision.

Carmine Gallo
Hey, with TED Talks, 18 minutes. That’s an arbitrary limit. 18 minutes. When I wrote my book Talk Like TED, the most common question I get is, “Well, how can anyone say everything they know in 18 minutes?” And the answer is exactly what the TED conference organizers tell people, “You don’t. You can’t. You have to select.” So, good communication is an act of selecting your best ideas and not compressing everything you know in a short amount of time.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely agree there. Well, so we’re going to talk a lot about great things that Jeff Bezos did in terms of strategy, tactics, principles, processes, practices that cascaded on through the organization. But just in case we got some Jeff Bezos haters amongst the listeners, I’ve got Marshall Goldsmith in my ear right now. I’m thinking everyone who’s successful, they succeed because of something, and they succeed in spite of some things.

So, I’m just curious, before we jump to conclusion that everything Jeff Bezos said or did was brilliantly perfect, are there any things that we should watch out for and not be so keen to model?

Carmine Gallo
That is a good question. When I decided to focus on Bezos, it wasn’t so much everything he did, every perspective from a management perspective, it wasn’t that at all. It was actually something that Walter Isaacson had said a few years ago. And Walter Isaacson, the great biographer, was asked, “Who of today’s contemporary leaders would you put in the same category as some of the people who you’ve profiled, whether it’s Ada Lovelace or Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs?”

And without hesitation, he said, “Well, Jeff Bezos. He’s like the visionary of all time.” And it’s interesting, when you ask people, if you ask ten people about their opinion on Jeff Bezos, you will get ten very different reactions. Some people are very critical, some people want to learn more about him, some people are fascinated by him, but you get ten very different reactions.

When you speak to people who works side by side with Jeff Bezos, I believe you had somebody on your show, Ann Hiatt. When you talk to people who actually worked side by side with Bezos, they all say exactly the same thing, they use almost the same words, which is demanding, yes.

but also someone who raised the bar on excellence. So, he had a commitment to excellence, demanding excellence. And almost every single person I spoke to ended with the same thing, “I never would’ve traded it for the world.” And those people took what they learned from Bezos and started their own companies using many of those methods, especially when it comes to communication, that they took away from Bezos and Amazon. That’s what I’m focused on.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, Carmine. So, lay it on us, what are some of the most killer practices that we should adopt or abandon when it comes to our communication? And I’d say, ideally, I’d love things that are surprising, lesser known, counterintuitive, and generate a huge return on our investment in terms of, with a little bit of effort, we have huge impact. So, no pressure, Carmine, but give me your greatest hits, succinctly.

Carmine Gallo
Yeah. The first part, and we’ve already touched on it, so I won’t go further into depth, but that’s the writing. Because Amazon is a writing culture, go back to class, understand that the written word is foundational to your success and to your career’s success. Communication itself is foundational, and that’s a big lesson that we learned from Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos, when he first started Amazon, before he had hired one employee, put out a job posting ad, and it was for a coder. He needed a software coder, which would make sense, he’s starting an e-commerce startup. And in that ad, he said one of the most required skills, other than the basic coding knowledge, is top-notch communication because he understood early on that in order to communicate something that had never been done, or something that people felt uncomfortable with, that it would have to be communicated simply, very simply.

So, this whole idea, my first chapter in the book is “Simple is the new superpower.” I’m fascinated by people, not just Bezos, but a lot of other professionals as well, who can simplify complexity. Bezos did it well, and I think that it is a foundational skill now for anybody, how to get your point across in a complex environment in a way that is clear but also understandable.

If can give you one example, Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, is now on the board of Amazon, and she said that her ability to simplify complexity was her go-to skill, which is really interesting to me because she’s crediting communication skills as one of the foundations and the pillars for her success, of rising through her career at PepsiCo, because people would say, “Wow, this is really complex and it’s really hard to explain and understand. Oh, send it to Indra. She’ll be able to analyze it and then explain it to us.”

And she said, “Be known for a go-to skill. Find that ability to communicate things in a way that is simple and understandable.” So, the biggest takeaway, I’ll give you one huge takeaway from the book and from the research that I think is counterintuitive, that the more complex information that you have to get across, use simpler words. Remember, I mentioned Gill teaches English? She took me back to 1066 when, during the Norman invasion, when the English language began to change from simple words to more complex Latin-based words.

When you want to get your point across, you have to go back to the ancient words, which are simple, one-syllable words for the most part. The more complex your topic, the simpler you need to keep your word choice. To me, that was so fascinating, and once I heard that, it made sense. And I was writing part of this book during the COVID pandemic, during the shutdowns, and I’ll never forget reading about healthcare communication.

Healthcare communicators learned that when there’s an urgent message to get out, you go back to simpler words. So, for example, “Wear a mask.” One syllable, “Wear. A. Mask.” Three words, all one syllable. Not, “In order to increase protection against COVID, the recommendation is that you wear appropriate facial coverings to reduce the transmission or airborne viruses.” No, it’s, “Wear a mask.” And what I learned is that, in healthcare communication, that’s what they’re taught.

Now, of course, there’s endless debates on that, but the point is when you have an urgent message to get across, simplify the message. And you simplify it by using simple, short words. And Grammarly is a perfect example of this. I’m sure a lot of your listeners, maybe you, have used Grammarly.

Grammarly will study your writing and make it better. That’s the whole point of the software, they make it better. And they try to strip out words, or they rearrange sentences, that’s what the software tells you to do, but it also gives you a rating. And that rating is based on what level or grade level that language is appropriate for. So, what do you think is the ideal grade level for good writing?

Pete Mockaitis
If we mean good, like it’s understandable such that folks can take action on it, it’s pretty low as a whole. And salespeople see this all the time with copywriting, like straight up, easier words make more sales. So, it might be like seventh grade or even easier, you tell me.

Carmine Gallo
It’s eighth grade.

Pete Mockaitis
Eighth grade, okay.

Carmine Gallo
It’s eighth-grade language. And here’s something fascinating that I learned. I was analyzing all of Jeff Bezos’ 24 shareholder letters. The first ones had a lot of great wisdom in them but they were…they didn’t register an eighth-grade level. They were a little higher than that, some were even college level. As he wrote more complex information in the years that followed, the grade level got lower. It got lower.

So, pretty soon, in the last part of his tenure as CEO, they were most eighth and ninth-grade level language if you run it through a software program like Grammarly. And that, from what I learned, was intentional. He got better over time. He was aware that the more complex and bigger Amazon got, he had to become a better writer and simplify it more for the audience.

So, the conclusion I came away with is that by simplifying language, you’re not exposing yourself as someone who’s not competent. It’s actually just the opposite. You’re not dumbing down the content, you’re outsmarting your competition. Simple. That’s why I call it simple is the new superpower, and that’s very counterintuitive, but I think it’s an important concept to get across.

Pete Mockaitis
I totally connect and resonate with that. That’s huge. And Grammarly is a cool tool for that as well as Hemingway. I also like the writing.

Carmine Gallo
I use Hemingway as well.

Pete Mockaitis
To me, interrupting phrases or too long the sentence length, that’s tricky. So, those are some easy ways we can get some more simplicity. Any other pro tips for boosting our simplicity?

Carmine Gallo
Speak in metaphors. Use metaphorical language and analogies as much as possible. Two people in particular, Jeff Bezos uses metaphors constantly, as does Warren Buffett use metaphors. So, when you have complex information or information that’s new or maybe unfamiliar to your audience, great communicators tend to rely on metaphorical language more often than not, and that’s an advanced skill.

You really have to think through the metaphors that you use. But what I’ve noticed is that I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are in the startup community or in Silicon Valley where I live, and they use a lot of, in conversation, they use a lot of metaphors that they don’t even realize came from Jeff Bezos and Amazon. One in particular is called two-pizza teams. And you may have heard of that, the two-pizza team.

The two-pizza team means, “Let’s break down these projects into smaller teams of people who can…” And they say, “Well, how big should a team be?” Jeff, many years ago, and he said, “Well, when we started at Amazon, we could feed an entire team on two large pizzas, so let’s call them two-pizza teams.” And that stuck, it stuck and it pervaded the organization, so there’s two-pizza teams. And people who I’ve talked to who have left Amazon, who now are in higher positions or even CEOs of other companies, still use those. They use the metaphors that they learned from Bezos and other communicators.

Pete Mockaitis
So, sixteen tiny people are two large pizza is what I’m getting. Is that right?

Carmine Gallo
The other one is day one, the day-one mentality. Jeff Bezos is famous for calling everything day one, which is simply a metaphor, it’s a shortcut, which is exactly what metaphors are. And it’s a shortcut for thinking like an entrepreneur, “If this were day one of the startup, how would we be looking at this project?”

You can write an entire book on what it means to have a day-one mindset, that’s kind of a growth mindset, well, there’s a whole book written, like Carol Dweck on the growth mindset. But this whole idea of just day one, have a day-one mindset kind of took hold, and people understood intuitively what it meant.

And then it became a symbol, and that’s another fascinating area that I studied as well – symbolism as communication. So, day one not only became a mantra but it became a symbol. So, now there’s the Day 1 building, or the Day One Awards at places like Amazon. So, you can turn metaphors into symbols as well, again, which I think is a very fascinating aspect of communication, but those are advanced skills.

You really have to think through metaphors and the stories you use ahead of time. It’s not as easy as just putting up a slide and throwing up some bullet points on a PowerPoint slide. These are advanced skills but it makes a difference if you want to advance and flourish in your career.

Pete Mockaitis
And I hear you that a metaphor can simplify something complex. Although, if what you’re saying is already simple, metaphor might actually get in your way, “Customers are mad because they have to wait too long to get stuff.”

Carmine Gallo
That’s exactly right.

Pete Mockaitis
“The customer is a pot on the oven, boiling over.”

Carmine Gallo
The kind of metaphors, though, has got to be Warren Buffett. Jeff Bezos is good, he’s pretty good, but Warren Buffett is the king of metaphors because I watch CNBC, like in the background. Every single day, I hear a stock analyst say, “Well, we like this company because it has a moat around it.” Yeah, where did they get that?

Well, that was years ago, about 40 years ago, Warren Buffett said, “I look at investments as economic castles. And if they have a moat around them, which means it’s hard for competitors to enter the industry, that’s a great investment.” So, this whole idea of, “Oh, yeah, economic moat. Does it have a moat?” it catches on.

Pete Mockaitis
It does.

Carmine Gallo
So, that’s the fascinating thing about metaphors is you start looking at language and what catches on and what resonates with people, more often than not, it’s a metaphor or it’s some kind of an analogy that allows people to think very differently about a particular topic but it also cuts through everything and gets right to the point.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, totally. A moat is much clearer to internalize than a proprietary competitive differentiator that gives us a strategic advantage likely to preserve long-term profitability.

Carmine Gallo
Did you just come up with that because that sounds like pretty much every press release I hear?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I mean, that’s what a moat is. It’s like you’ve got a patent, you’ve got huge market share, you’ve got screaming loyal fans, you’ve got a novel design that you just can’t copy, you’ve got the best lawyers who are going to sit in defense of, there’s something but moat sort of captures all that, like, “Yeah, it’d be harder to take over a castle if there’s a big body of water around them,” and so that’s cool. So, metaphors, simplify, low-grade levels. Beautiful. Tell me, any other top takeaways you want to make sure to gather here?

Carmine Gallo
Humanize data. Again, I spent years getting into data. Your listeners probably know about data visualization. They’ve heard of data visualization before. But this whole idea of taking data and making it simple to understand, how do you do that? Not just in the animation, but how do you do that when you explain it? And it’s actually a very easy technique, which is simply add one sentence that puts the data into context. People will remember you for it.

But let me give you a very quick example. True story, I was working with a country manager, this was several years ago before I started researching this book. But I was working with a country manager for a big company that every one of our listeners knows and probably consumes their products daily. Big company, one of the biggest in the world.

So, he’s in the middle of the totem pole, maybe upper level, and he had aspirations to grow within the company. He was preparing a yearly presentation to the rest of the managers, which was simply an update. They’re just a simple update, “Here’s what we’ve been doing this year.” One of the big things was they launched a big tree-planting campaign for environmental reasons. Obviously, everyone has to talk about, “What role are you taking to solve environmental issues?”

So, on a bullet point on one of his slides, like the last slide, “And we launched a tree-planting campaign this year, and our employees loved it. They found it very satisfying.” A little bullet point, I said, “Wow, okay, that must not have been much but you probably just threw that in.” And he goes, “Oh, no, no. This was a major thing. We planted like 200,000 trees.” I’m like, “Well, hold on. That sounds like a lot. Now, I don’t know. Is that a seed? Is that a seedling? Maybe it’s more than I think but it sounds like a lot. How can we put that in perspective?”

So, we started brainstorming, we started being a little bit more creative rather than just putting up a bullet point, and we came up with a solution that, or the idea, because the presentation was being given in New York near Central Park, we did some quick calculation, and he said, “We planted the equivalent of one Central Park every month in my region. That was all because of the employees. Because Central Park is 18,000 trees, we did the math.”

“Hey, take a look outside. After you leave the conference, after you leave the event, take a look at Central Park when you walk back to the hotel. We planted the equivalent of one Central Park every month this last year, and we’re really proud of that,” and then show a PowerPoint. Then you can show a PowerPoint with faces and people planting trees.

That particular country manager was recognized for delivering a great presentation. He is now second in line to become the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, and I’ve kept in touch with him for years. So, he gives me some credit, which is interesting, because he realizes that you can be really good at your job, and this is the big takeaway for everybody now, you could be really good at your job, you can be very competent, but it’s your communication and your presentation and your storytelling skills that will get you noticed. That’s the takeaway.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now let’s hear about a few of your favorite things. Can we hear a favorite quote?

Carmine Gallo
I’m going to go to a Daniel Kahneman quote and one that I used in this book that applies completely to what we’ve been talking about. So, Daniel Kahneman, a great behavioral psychologist, Nobel Prize winner, “If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Got it. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Carmine Gallo
Anything Daniel Kahneman. Go back to the book Thinking, Fast and Slow which is the great behavioral psychology book. But one piece of research that I think really applies today, you can look this up, it’s a scholarly research paper, and it’s got a fun title called “Bad is Stronger than Good.” And it’s one of the most quoted and cited research papers of the last decade.

And “Bad is Stronger than Good,” by a guy named Baumeister – Baumeister is an Australian scholar – explains almost everything that’s going on today. And it simply talks about the negativity bias that we all have. So, we do tend to skew toward the negative, which explains why, in our social media feeds, we tend to get things that make us angry or frustrated or anxious. It explains why, before you give a presentation, you get nervous because you’re focusing on the bad outcome rather than the good, because, as we evolved, it was more important for us to focus on threats than the positive, as a species, so it makes sense.

But now, those very same things are used by social media companies to keep us in a constant state of anger. They put a lot of pressure on you, they make you nervous when it’s public speaking. So, just understanding that bias that we have toward the negative is actually very empowering if you can learn to kind of reverse-engineer that and start focusing on positive. It’s hard to do but you got to start somewhere.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And a favorite book?

Carmine Gallo
My favorite book. The other day I did a TikTok. Believe it or not, Pete, I’m doing TikToks. I love TikTok. I’ve become a monster on it. I love it. But I talked about a book, I love history books. So, this is called Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And the reason why I like it, it’s one of my favorite public-speaking books, and it doesn’t have public speaking in the title.

Because she looks at great leaders throughout history, obviously, it’s a US history book, but she looks at all these great leaders, mostly US presidents, and she talks about them through the lens of mostly communication and leadership. So, you learn why Lincoln was a great storyteller, or why Franklin Roosevelt was a great simplifier. So, it’s my favorite public speaking book that’s not a public speaking book, if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. I got you. And a favorite tool?

Carmine Gallo
I’ve got several but, recently…I love Canva now. Canva makes design so much simpler. And I’ve interviewed Melanie Perkins. She has an amazing story, an entrepreneur behind Canva. So, I like Canva. And, recently, I’ve been using Vid Studio which kind of makes video editing easy. It’s kind of like the Canva of video editing. It makes it very easy for anybody to quickly edit things that then you can send out via email or other platforms.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Carmine Gallo
Because I have ADHD, diagnosed ADHD, which is a blessing and a curse. Blessing because I have so many ideas. Curse because it’s hard for me to stay focused, even during these interviews, you probably have noticed. But the habit is a lot of ADHD people know the Pomodoro technique, and I found that, I think, a lot of business professionals use it, which is if you’re having a hard time getting started on something, set aside 20 or 25 minutes. Pomodoro technique, technically, is 25 minutes which is too long for me, so I start with 20 because you can do anything for 20 minutes.

And, as a writer, when you’re staring at a blank sheet of paper, that really helped. I’m just going to set aside 20 minutes today as that task. And before you know it, you’re writing for more than 20 minutes. But if that’s all you do is just write 20 minutes that day, that’s success. So, it kind of breaks down bigger projects into these smaller timeframes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Carmine Gallo
There is. I wrote a line in a previous book called Talk Like TED, and I started that book by saying ideas are the currency of the 21st century. And I get that requoted a lot, and I think it’s more relevant now than ever because you’re only as valuable as your ideas. So, you need to become the best and the most persuasive person you can because you can have a great idea, but if you can’t get it across in a way that’s actionable and convinces people to join you on whatever your initiative is, then it doesn’t really matter that much that you have a great idea.

You have to be able to communicate it as well. And so, I think this whole idea of ideas are the currency of the 21st century, use that currency and become a more powerful communicator, I think, it’s an important subject.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Carmine Gallo
CarmineGallo.com. Just go to my website. But if you’re on LinkedIn, look for a good Italian name, like Carmine Gallo. I think I might be the only one in California. So, LinkedIn has been a very engaging platform, and if you contact me, connect with me and send me a message. I get back to everybody. I like LinkedIn. But CarmineGallo.com if you’d like to learn more about my books or get in touch with me.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Carmine Gallo
Communication, public speaking is a skill. And like any skill, you can get better at it if you apply yourself to it and you practice it. So, I get a little frustrated when I hear, especially clients say, “Well, I’m not good at public speaking.” Okay. Well, I can show you people like I’ve written about – Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and many others – who, early in their career, were not very good at public speaking either.

Public speaking is a skill, and like any skill, you can improve, and you can become one of the top speakers in your company and in your field if you apply yourself to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thank you, Carmine. This is good stuff. I wish you much luck in all your communications.

Carmine Gallo
Thank you. Thanks for inviting me back, Pete. Appreciate it.

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