Everything I know about the behind-the-scenes deals in Hollywood comes from watching Entourage. In other words, I don't know much, but I recently had a chance to chat with a very successful Hollywood producer and find out the secret to his success.
The big secret? Telling good stories. Here's the column I did for Gannett/USA Today...
A successful Hollywood producer of movies such as The Color Purple, Batman, and Rain Man, says stories such as these are what employees and job seekers need to evoke when trying to get a raise or a job.
While producer Peter Guber doesn't expect you to drive a Batmobile or enlist Tom Cruise to work in the cubicle next door, he says that learning to tell an entertaining story can help you achieve your goals.
"When you tell a story, you go into the emotional transportation business," Guber says. "You want to warm people up and create an emotional connection. Whether you're talking to a child or asking your boss for a promotion, you want to aim at the heart."
Even for the most analytical workplace beings, such as engineers or high-tech information workers, you still must tap into an emotional connection to get what you want, Guber says.
"The truth is, we're all wired the same," he says. "We all read books, laugh, cry and go to movies."
Merely providing a spreadsheet of facts and figures isn't going to move others to act.
"But if the information is bonded with emotion, then that's what makes it powerful and memorable," he says.
For example, if you're in a job interview, don't just list your qualifications for a hiring manager. Instead, "tell a story of one person you sold a product to and how you created a relationship with this person," Guber says. "Talk about how they felt, how you felt. Tell the story of how you were a steward for that company."
He also advises building a more emotional connection with a potential employer or hiring manager before an interview by doing your homework. Maybe you can learn through online research that a hiring manager has a certain hobby or that the company is involved in some community efforts.
"You want to have a dialogue, not a monologue, so look for areas of interest that engage them," he says. "Look for the emotional connection. Approach the interview through that lens."
Even with online communications, Guber says stronger connections can be made using storytelling techniques.
"In 140 characters on Twitter, you can make an emotional connection. Talk about how you're looking forward to meeting someone and include a smiley-face icon. Or, talk about how someone's latest photo on Facebook looks like the person has lost 20 pounds," he says.
In his new book, Tell to Win, (Crown Publishing, $26), Guber gives examples of how he's made very successful deals through the years by telling stories — and how he failed when he focused only on facts and presentations.
Still, Guber warns that storytelling "is not a guarantee" of success.
"It's not snake oil. You've got to be authentic," he says. "Authenticity and energy can't be faked."
To sway others through storytelling, understand your own intentions; recognize your goal; and be unafraid to express vulnerability, which can often capture an audience's attention.
"Be sure to know what your audience is interested in, rather than just trying to be interesting," he says. "Turn the process from 'me' to 'we.' Hits are born in the heart or gut and then migrate to the mind. Aim there. Only then will your listener own your goal as theirs and act on it."