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Hone Your Skills With Master Storyteller Dr. Ivan Misner

This episode features an interview with one of my favorite raconteurs, Dr. Ivan Misner.

 

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • the difference between a fact and a story
  • the four steps that transform a fact into a story
  • the amount of preparation he puts into his spontaneity
  • the value of practice and adjustment
  • how much time to put into a one-hour presentation
  • how his perspective on slides helps him use them effectively in his presentations
  • how one can be an engaging speaker even with being an introvert
  • the value of not just telling a story but reliving it
  • how reliving how you felt draws people into your story
  • about his latest book Who’s in Your Room? may make you look at things differently

 

Resources from this episode:

 


 

Peter
Welcome to The Speaker Station podcast. I’m glad you’re here. Each week our guests share their knowledge and experience so you can more effectively speak in front of others. Whether you’re speaking on stage, presenting in meetings, or selling to prospects. I’m your host, Peter George.

 

My guest on this episode is Dr. Ivan Meisner, the founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. Founded in 1985, BNI now has over 8,800 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world. Called the father of modern networking by CNN, and one of the top networking experts by Forbes, Ivan is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on business networking, and has been a keynote speaker for major corporations and associations throughout the world.

 

Ivan is a New York Times bestselling author who has written 24 books, including his latest, “Who’s in Your Room?” Among his many awards, Ivan has been named Humanitarian of the Year by the Red Cross and was recently the recipient of the John C. Maxwell Leadership Award. He is also proud to be the co-founder of the BNI Charitable Foundation. Ivan and his wife Elisabeth are now empty nesters with three adult children. Oh, and in his spare time, he is an amateur magician and a black belt in karate.

 

Welcome, Ivan. Thanks for being with us.

 

Ivan
It’s great to talk to you again.

 

Peter
You know, I … I know that you travel quite a bit, speaking at events around the world. Are you traveling now, or are you spending some time at home?

 

Ivan
Well, I’m home this week. I leave next week for France and Italy, where I’m speaking for BNI, in both of those locations. And then I head to Brazil and then India and Poland. That’s my … that’s my … some of my trips. I have several in th U.S this year.

 

Peter
That’s amazing! You get your frequent flyer miles in I’m sure,

 

Ivan
Oh, I have 2 million miles … 2.1 million miles on one airline, and I have over 1 million miles on two different airlines. So, I’ve got 4 million miles on three airlines.

 

Peter
Absolutely amazing. You know, I’m sure if I ask most people what comes to mind when they hear your name, Ivan Meisner, they’d say things like, entrepreneur, accomplished business person, and of course, master networker. The first words that come to my mind, are captivating, charismatic storyteller. I’ve had the opportunity to see you speak on many occasions. But I got to ask you this … when you started being I back in the mid 80s, did you have much public speaking experience at all? And if you did, could you ever have imagined that it would play such a role in your business life?

 

Ivan
Well, you know, that’s a great question, and your crystal ball is as good as my crystal ball. But I can’t say I’m shocked, because I did have some speech training, and I appreciate your kind words. I certainly don’t mind, you know, having the reputation of being a raconteur — you know, a storyteller. I did have training in high school. I had as a freshman in high school, as a fluke, go to a speech class that I just loved. And I ended up doing three and a half years of speech class, just because the teacher was amazing. Mr. Tavner, was his name. And, and I did a little bit in, in college, I loved presenting. I loved doing presentations. So, did I think that it would become a major part of my job? I didn’t know, but it doesn’t shock me because I love doing it.

 

Peter
Yeah, that’s different from most of us. Most of us tried to avoid all that speaking, especially in high school and college. So I give you a lot of credit. I know I did. I did everything I could do to avoid those classes.

 

Ivan
I think I’m maybe, just slightly — I never really had aspirations to do this — but maybe slightly, you know, a borderline stand up comic. I love telling stories and making people laugh. I never had any, any desire to do stand up comedy, but, you know, getting people to laugh from the stage just makes you feel good.

 

Peter
You have a line, actually, about speaking and telling stories that I just love. And it’s let me make sure I have this right. A story is a fact. Wrapped in emotion. Is that correct?

 

Ivan
Yeah, it’s a fact wrapped it in an emotion. It compels people to take action that transforms them in some way. Four steps. It’s a fact, that’s wrapped in an emotion that compels people to take action. It transform them in some way. And you know it … that’s not mine. I heard that years ago. You know, I’ve altered it slightly, but it … it’s a … it’s an old concept that I think it holds up today. You know, a fact wrapped in an emotion is basically a joke. It’s just you know, it’s a story. There’s nothing, there’s no point to it.

 

Peter
Sure, an anecdote.

 

Ivan
Yeah, it’s an anecdote and I, you know, I’m not particularly keen on telling anecdotes, I want to tell stories to change people’s lives. And in order to change people’s lives, you have to compel them to take action. So that story has to have somebody go, “I need to do … I need to do that.” Or, “I need to change something about myself.” And that change or that doing, transforms them. And when you can transform someone through a story. You are a master storyteller.

 

Peter
And that does not come easy. I think a lot of people think they can just get up and speak on stage and … and they’ll have an effect. like this in someone’s life. But this is … this is well planned and well thought out.

 

Ivan
Oh yeah, my … my presentations … I plan my spontaneity. My talks are well choreographed. They’re time. They’re practiced, including, you know, things that are supposed to look off the cuff and feel off the cuff. They’re planned and practiced and … and listen, that doesn’t mean that I don’t do something the cuff and and if they go over well then then they get incorporated into my presentation next time. But, you learn what works when you’re talking to an audience. You have to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. And then you have to adjust, adjust, adjust. So, as you are practicing your presentation, sometimes it’s in front of people but not a full audience. For example, my poor wife probably hears every talk before I ever get it. She usually hears it in pieces … ah… over time, and … and then I, you know, I give the presentation. But the first time I do it is not … it’s not a whole lot like the 10th time I do it. There generally will be a lot of changes by the time I do it the 10th time because I learned what works and doesn’t work. And I adjust. You gotta adjust your talk. And here … this is … this is really important. To do a one hour keynote — before I ever get up and do that one hour keynote — I spend at least 40 hours — four zero — preparing my talk.

 

Peter
I think that’s a point that a lot of people miss is how much preparation goes in.

 

Ivan
Yeah, you got … you got to prepare. And there’s a lot of things that you got to prepare. You got to prepare your talks, your stories, you got to prepare your information, your content. I also believe in preparing my PowerPoints. And I use PowerPoints, and I know there are people who who don’t like PowerPoints and use them really badly. Here’s how I use a PowerPoint.

Each PowerPoint slide, for me, is a character in my presentation. It’s not verbiage. As a matter of fact, if you see my PowerPoints, you see very few words. Sometimes slides have no words. They’re just an image. And my PowerPoint slides, each slide is a character in my presentation. Sometimes I’m leading up to a point, and then I show the next slide and there’s no words. Just the photo makes people laugh, because I’ve laid up the topic. And then … and then I just show the picture and people laugh like crazy. And so my PowerPoints are … are … I’ll give you an example. I talked about one of my presentations is called networking up. And … and I talk about the fact that I’ve gotten pretty good at networking up . And the reason that I’ve gotten pretty good — by networking up I mean, you know, you’re networking above your weight class, you’re networking with people who are more successful than you.

 

Peter
Right.

 

Ivan
And I talked about the fact that I’ve gotten pretty good at it because I screwed up a lot. I mean, one mistake after another, trying to network up, and it has the back of a plastic chair, over their head, they obviously shove their head through the … through this chair. And they just look like a doofus. And you know, I just show this picture. I don’t need to say anything. All I all I say before I show the photos, sometimes I missed up real bad. And then I showed this picture and everybody laughs and … and, you know, it makes me … to the audience it makes me feel real. It makes me feel honest. And it gives them a good laugh. So my PowerPoints are character in my presentation, and if you use PowerPoints that way, you’re using them effectively. If you use it with a ton of content, you’re doing a training, not a not a keynote.

 

Peter
I think a lot of people use that incorrectly. So to your point of using it as a support to foster what you’re saying, is really a craft and so many people use it poorly. And you’re right, turn it into a training or, unfortunately, they just destroy their own presentation.

 

Ivan
They do. There’s a book that I recommend. It’s been out for many years. It’s called “Presentation Zen” — Z-E-N — “Presentations Zen.” And I recommend that book because it’s a thin book, it’s not very big. It’s color. It gives good examples of how to do PowerPoints that are content-based not … not … that are … that are graphically-based, not … not verbiage-based. I recommend that.

 

Peter
“Presentation Zen.” All right, great. I’ll have to take a look at that. I read where PowerPoint … you think of it like a flash card or a billboard that you’re going by at 65 miles an hour. It’s got to get to the point so people can get back to you because you’re the presentation, not the slides. Would you agree with that?

 

Ivan
I would agree with that. And it’s … it’s your content. Your material is what drives the presentation, and that’s why I say the PowerPoints just a character in it in the sense that it supports what you’re saying. And the more people have to read, the harder it is for them to follow what you’re saying. And that’s why I tend to have very little verbiage in in my PowerPoints.

 

Peter
Hey, one of the things you said once that surprised me, and I believe our listeners who have the same … well arer the same as you … would find it interesting is that you’re introverted. And a lot of people would think that someone who speaks as much as you do, who is involved in networking, all these things, that you just wouldn’t be introverted. How do you reconcile those two things?

 

Ivan
Well, you know, first of all, I’d have to say I didn’t really recognize that for a long time. It was probably about 10 years. years ago that I was at home and with my wife and our kids were at some school theater program up … a rehearsal. And so we didn’t have to be there, and it was just my wife and I, and we had very little time, you know, just us for an evening. And we’re having dinner …very nice … it was fun and relaxing. And I was talking to her. I don’t remember what you’re talking about. But I said to her, “Well, you know, me, honey, I’m such an extrovert.” And she looked at me and she said, “Umm … no.” And I said, “What do you mean I’m not? Of course I’m an extrovert. I’m a keynote speaker.” “Okay, you know, all right, honey. That’s what you think that’s fine.” I’m like, “No! What do you mean, ‘If that’s what I think.’? I run the world’s largest networking organization. I am not an introvert.” “Okay. Okay, sweetie, if that’s … if that’s what you think.” “Okay, stop that. You know, I … I’m a speaker. I run a network. I am … I am not an agent.” And so she said, “Well, I just started reading this book called ‘The Introvert and Extrovert in Love.'” And she said, “Here are some of the things that I have read about what an introvert is.” And she starts naming off this stuff that’s an introvert. And I’m like, “Yeah it’s a little like me, okay, that’s like me.” And then she actually just nailed me. She said, “Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone. They … they don’t, you know, going out and being with people does not recharge their batteries. It … it takes … it takes energy away from them. And so they have to come home and be alone or be with just family. They don’t want to be around people.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s totally me, but I am not an introvert.” And so now I’m annoyed. And I go into my office, and I get on the internet, and I find a test that I could take because I’m going to show her. I’m not an introvert. I take this test, and it pops up. This it says Congratulations, Ivan Misner. You are an introvert who is a situational extrovert., which, yeah, and so now go apologize to your wife.

 

So situational extrovert is somebody who, under certain situations, comes across as an introvert … as an extrovert. Those situations are when they’re talking about their area of expertise. When they’re … when they’re doing something that they’re passionate about. They come across as an extrovert. Otherwise, generally speaking, they come across as an introvert. And that made a lot of sense for me. As starting with the organization I created, I mean, think about BNI. BNI allows one person for profession, small group get together. Every week, it’s about building relationships. I could have started a network that was about parties, big mixers, tons of people, but I felt uncomfortable in those situations. And I never really added two and two together. BN,I in and of itself, is really aimed at people who want to go deep and build relationships. And that’s not necessarily an extrovert And it hit me why I was in fact the situational extrovert. Basically an introvert …

 

Peter
Makes perfect sense.

 

Ivan
My wife was gain … was again, right?

 

Peter
Isn’t that amazing how that happens?

 

Ivan
Yes, it is.

 

Peter
Yeah, that happens here, too. When it comes to speaking in front of others, what’s that one piece of advice you would give either an aspiring speaker or someone who’s even speaking out in the world now? What’s that? What would you offer to them?

 

Ivan
I think one of the most important pieces of advice is something I’ve given to people a lot and they generally say they’ve never heard this. And that is to relive a story. Don’t retell the story. Don’t just retell it; relive it. So when you’re on stage and you’re telling a story, I want you to visualize where you are. Visualize the people you’re talking about. Try to create that image in other people’s minds, and do it in a … in a creative, interesting way. For example, I tell one story — I call it the Football Story — about my early days as a young man in high school, and I was playing football. And we had an opportunity to see the Rams practice — the LA Rams. And, you know, I explain … I try to tell this story, but how do you explain how big these men are? You know, they’re huge.

 

Peter
Yes, they are.

 

Ivan
When you see them in … in full pads, these men are giant. And so you know, you go … you do a little hyperbole. You talk a little bit about how … the way you felt. So when I saw these men and they walked past me, and these were the greats — Merlin Olsen, Rosie Greer, Jack Youngblood — they were giants. And so I want people to get that sense of how I felt. And so I maybe exaggerate a little, you know, I say these men … I point to the largest door in the room, and I say, “Imagine that doorframe with a helmet. They had one eye in the middle of their head hair on their teeth. These were big men.” And people laugh. But they get this vision of what I experienced, because I look at … I looked at these men, and I thought they were medieval giants — they were so big. And so you relive that story. You know, you could say I saw these, these football players are really big, and they came by. But that’s not the same.

 

Peter
No, not even … not even close.

 

Ivan
No, not even close. And … and so by reliving it, I mean, you talk about how you felt. And so you can give a description that explains how you felt. Then you’re reliving the story. And people are there with you. They see these big men. They visualize these big men. And you then become a better storyteller.

 

Peter
Great advice, and that’s something we can all use. So don’t just tell stories. Relive the story.

 

Ivan
Yeah, pretend you’re there. Pretend you’re experiencing it again. Every time I tell the story, I … I visualize myself in that situation and try to relive it, as much as possible. Yeah.

 

Peter
And that transports us right along with you.

 

Ivan
It does. It does. And you know what? Some of the best stories are stories that at the moment it happened, when it took place, you were horrified. You were … you were embarrassed. The Football Story is not a good example of that. But … but you know, I tell a story about a time where I almost lit a television studio on fire. Imagine. And I almost lit the entire studio on fire with this magic trick. And at the moment, it was like the worst moment in my life. I was so horrified — so embarrassed at what I did.

 

Peter
I would think.

 

Ivan
And yet, when people, you know, when you tell people a story like that, and you … and you relive it with them, first of all, they look at you and they think, okay, here’s a really successful people, a person who did something incredibly stupid. Maybe I’m not so bad. You know, I mean, I’ve done dumb things, but I’ve never done anything that dumb. And I think it… it makes people feel like you’re … you’re a real person, even though you’re on stage, you’re the quote-unquote expert. It makes people feel like you’re a real person. And … and so I find that some of my best stories are some of my most embarrassing experiences.

 

Peter
I can understand how people would get into that. And like you said, You’re … here you are, the expert. You’re the guy up there. Abd you’re one of us, which makes that engagement, that connection. Hey, along with being a talented speaker, which you definitely are, you’re also a prolific writer. You authored how many books so far?

 

Ivan
Well, I just had the 24th book come out last weekend. It was co-written with my wife. It’s her story about healing cancer. But my … 24 books. But, who’s counting?

 

Peter
Wow! What’s your latest one?

 

Ivan
My latest book is a book called “Who’s in Your Room?” And I just came out a few months ago, and … about five months ago. I love this book. It’s … it’s one of my favorite books. It’s my … it’s my first self-help book — self-development book. I wish I had this book when I was 17 years old. I think it would have … it would have helped me a lot, and I urge people to check it out. It’s … it’s a quick read — two hours. Let me … let me give you 60 seconds on the concept.

 

Peter
Sure.

 

Ivan
Imagine you live your life in one room. And that one room has only one door. And that one doors is an enter only door. So the people who come into your life or into your room are there forever. You could never get them out. Now, luckily, Peter, this is a metaphor. But if it were true, would you be more selective about the people you let into your life?

 

Peter
Ah, definitely … look at it completely differently than I do on a day-to-day basis.

 

Ivan
And that’s what virtually everyone says. So, then our question is, then why aren’t we? Why aren’t we more selected? Because I would argue that it’s more than a metaphor. I’d like for you to think for a moment, and if you’re listening to this podcast, I want you to think with us about somebody who is out of your life. You got them out of your life, but when they were in your life, they were toxic, they were difficult. They were problematic. You did not like being around them, and you got them out of your life. Peter, do you have somebody like that in your mind?

 

Peter
Oh, yeah, I do.

 

Ivan
You don’t have to share it. I’m not … I’m not going to make you share it.

 

Peter
But I do.

 

Ivan
You got it, okay. So here’s the deal. Okay, and can you remember what they did that made you mad?

 

Peter
Oh, yeah.

 

Ivan
Okay. So if you’re listening to this, I want you to think the same thing. We can think about what it was that they did that really frustrated you. So here’s the deal. If they’re still in your head, they’re still in your room. Because they have impacted you for the rest of your life. You will make decisions based on your experiences with this person — good or bad. They could be good experiences. They could be bad experiences. But you’re going to make decisions for the rest of your life because of the experiences that you’ve had the people in your life. And so why not be more selective about bringing people into your life that are the kind of people that you want in your life? And that’s what the entire book is about. It’s about being careful on … it’s about creating your best life by surrounding yourself with people who have values that are resonant with yours.

 

Peter
Boy, that seems like it would make life so much more enjoyable.

 

Ivan
I agree. It’s an easy read. It’s a great book. I think… I’ve written a lot of books. I honestly think this book will have a bigger impact on people’s lives than any book I’ve done. And I’m doing a lot of speeches on this talk. So it’s … it’s a … it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great talk to … it’s a great topic to talk about.

 

Peter
Where can our listeners get a copy?

 

Ivan
You can get it on Amazon, and it’s available at bookstores. But it’s also available at Amazon. com. It hit a number one on self-help a few months ago.

 

Peter
Congratulations, Ivan. That’s quite a feat.

 

Ivan
Oh, thank you. It’s … you know what people asked me I got, I don’t know, 16 … 17 best selling books. And people ask me, how do you … what’s the secret to getting a bestselling book. Make it a book a bestseller is easy. What’s difficult is having 252,000 clients. That’s difficult. You get 252,000 clients, then you can make a book a bestseller. The hard thing is getting the clients. So you know, we have 252,000 BNI members. So, it’s reasonably easy to get … to get bestselling books. So anybody that wants to follow my content, I’ve been writing a blog for 12 years. Go to IvanMisner.com and, of course, BNI is BNI.com.

 

Peter
Ivan, it’s been a pleasure to have you with us. All the best. And of course, safe travels.

 

Ivan
Thank you, Peter, and thanks for this interview. It’s good talking to you again.

 

Peter
That brings us to the end of another episode of the Speaker Station podcast. If you’ve got a question about public speaking or delivering presentations that you would like answered on the air, send an email to questions at TheSpeakerStationPodcast.com. If you’d like to hear yourself ask that question on the air, record it as an mp3 and send it to questions@TheSpeaker StationPodcast.com.

 

Join Next week when another guest shares, tips, techniques, and ideas that will help you be a more compelling, more effective, more confident public speaker. So you don’t miss an episode, be sure to subscribe, rate, and review The Speaker Station Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. Until next week, be happy and healthy, my friend.

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