Customer Reviews: Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact
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I am among those who have praised Annette Simons' previously published The Story Factor and are thus delighted that she has written this book in which she develops in much greater depth many of the same core concepts of the earlier work, one in which she rigorously examines the basic components of effective storytelling when explaining what a story is and what it can do that facts alone cannot. She suggests how to tell "a good story," in process explaining the psychology of an effective story's influence. She offers excellent advice on how to influence the unwilling, the unconcerned, and the unmotivated. Simmons also devotes an entire chapter to "Storylistening as a Tool of Influence," then in the next chapter identifies a number of storyteller Dos and Don'ts. Simmons concludes her book with insights that have their greatest value only if considered within the context created for each in previous chapters.

In this volume, she explains "how to use your own stories to communicate with power impact" and I commend her on the informal, almost conversational tone she establishes and then sustains throughout her narrative. Her focus is on what each of her readers can contribute to all manner of communications with others. Hence the effectiveness of her direct, one-on-one rapport with those for whom she wrote this lively and entertaining as well as informative book.

Appropriately, she shares a number of "stories" from her own life and career when illustrating various key points. For example, in Chapter10, she recalls a situation in which she was meeting with a group of international women in Europe only 10% of whom were from the U.S. When explaining how to be a more effective leader, she used a "I know what you are thinking story" to illustrate her key points. She recalled her need to "feel special" (i.e. to be admired, respected, and especially to be accepted) in school, college, and then as she began her career. Only later when she studied group process did she realize that "groups have patterns, and if you can predict the patterns of the group you can be in the right place at the right time. That sort of knowledge is power. I also learned about how ruthless groups can be to members who are innovative (deviant) or perceived as weak." This is but one of several examples - drawn from Simmons' own life and career - that illustrate how a personal story well-told can establish and then sustain a rapport, especially with those in an audience who may otherwise consider your point of view as dangerous, foolish, or simply not worth it. "Demonstrate how deeply you understand their objections by telling a story that validates them."

In Part Two, Simmons explains how to find and then formulate stories. She includes a series of exercises for her reader to complete...and do so within the spaces provided in the book. She introduces each exercise with brief comments and suggestions before the reader records her or his own thoughts, feelings, and experience when formulating various kinds of stories such as those that explain "Who-I-Am"(Chapter 5) and "Why-I-Am-Here" (Chapter 6). In Chapters 7-10, she then helps her readers to organize material for "Teaching Stories," "Vision Stories," "Value-in-Action Stories," and the aforementioned "I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories." Although Simmons' approach is systematic and comprehensive, I want to emphasize again the effectiveness of the personal tone of her narrative. Many readers will feel as if they are engaged in an extended conversation with her and, as they complete various exercises, interact with her as well as with the specific suggestions she offers.

In the "Call to Action" that concludes her book, she asserts that "every problem in the world can be addressed - solved, made bearable, even eliminated - with better storytelling. At first, initially this statement seemed somewhat hyperbolic to me and then I realized that some of the most influential leaders throughout human history (e.g. Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.) were master storytellers who anchored their most important ideas within a human context "to communicate with power and impact."

Few (if any) of us are worthy of being included among them but we can at least improve the skills we need to be much more effective when clarifying and then sharing with others our own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. That is why Annette Simmons wrote this book...and that is why I think so highly of it.
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on January 16, 2014
I just reviewed The Story Factor, and now I will share with you why Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins is another fabulous guide to building strong leadership through stories. The Story Factor told us the "what" and "why." This book covers that briefly in Part One and goes on in Part Two to tell us "how" and "where." It's a real challenge to find the stories worth sharing and tell them at the right time. Simmons shares from experience the six types of stories and provides a series of interactive exercises to help you! find and develop these stories.

As a fairly right-brain thinker already, I find her book affirming that my instincts in presenting ideas to others are on track. I do think this book will open a whole new world of ideas of people who are more linear and fact-based. I believe that stories are amazing conduits of information that channel deeply into the listener - when they are true at heart. It's a common message when you read through motivational books that you have to have faith in yourself, in your message, and in the moment. A book that really drove that home to me was "Success Secrets of the Motivational Superstars: America's Greatest Speakers Reveal Their Secrets."

So, why should you read a second book by Annette Simmons? Because she is telling the story of stories and making a serious impact on how people communicate today. Read about it today!
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on September 9, 2007
This is a book that anyone who has suffered through one too many mind-numbing business presentations will most certainly appreciate. Storytelling is the antidote to death by Powerpoint. Let's face it, no one ever remembers all the data and information served up in those presentations--or cares, even. What people really want to know is, "What does all this mean? How does this affect ME?" In other words, what's the story behind the data?

As Annette Simmons says in Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, experience is the best teacher--but story is the second best teacher. A story is a re-lived experience. And because people remember what they experience, they remember stories.

Business presentations are not the only place stories can be used to communicate clearly. There's the performance review, the job interview, the sales pitch, the consultation, the water cooler gossip and, of course, the ubiquitous meetings. And a story doesn't have to be a long-winded tale or narrative. It can be as simple as a ten-second analogy or example. But there is an art to picking the right story for the right moment, and the trick is to learn how to "think in story." This is what Ms. Simmons shows us how to do in her wonderful book.

The previous reviewer provides excellent details about the contents of the book, so I won't go into that here--the six types of stories and the places you go to find those stories. What I would like to add is that--much like How To Win Friends and Influence People or The Power of Positive Thinking--those who read this book and consciously apply it's principles will find their lives changed. I know it has changed mine. I'm thinking in story now.
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on November 11, 2007
"This book is actually designed to help you pay more attention to the stories you tell."

Well said, Annette! (from page 22.)


Are you paying attention to what stories are you telling?

Are you paying attention to what stories your company is telling?

As a filmmaker, I am passionate about telling stories from remarkable organizations. Personal stories is the DNA for corporate videos; it's the lifeblood.

We've all seen boring videos from organizations. Have you ever considered why they are boring?

Corporate videos are often boring because they lack a personal story with any emotion.

If you are looking to put emotion back into your life, your work or your presentations, Annette Simmons's new book is a fresh look on an ancient tool.

This new book on storytelling is remarkable for three reasons:

1. It's simple but extremely effective.
Annette's style and approach creates opportunities for anyone to begin re-framing their lives, their work and their future with new stories to tell.

2. It's thought-provoking.
If you haven't given too much thought as to who you are and why you are here, Annette will guide you step-by-step to discovering your personal story.

3. It works. Period.
Our brains are hard-wired for stories so why not consciously learn how to discover, tell and share stories that matter? Annette breaks the code for storytelling so you can implement the results right away.

I have shared "Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins" in meetings and the energy of the conversation instantly changes...everyone wants to chime in and share a story! Now, everyone has a new "frame" in which to proceed.

It's no wonder, then, it has become one of my favorite storytelling references.

Thanks, Annette, for a truly inspiring piece of work!
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on July 2, 2008
I had been presenting a new employee program for about a year with good results, but never feeling like the audience was fully getting the passion and the spirit for the material that I had, and thought it deserved.

After reading "Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins" (which contains several flat-out hilarious stories as well),I added several short personal anecdotes to my presentation, and a full-fledged 3 minute story as a closing to illustrate my point.

The difference was immediate and amazing. There were more tears and laughter in that auditorium than in Oprah's audience. I was the most amazed of all. What a change! Afterwards, many participants felt at liberty to tell me their similar and highly personal stories.

That's when it dawned on me. Everybody DOES have the potential to be a story teller. Every single person there had their own story. The difference was that I knew how to find mine, develop them, and tell them, all because of this book.

Buy it, follow the steps, you won't be sorry. This is the best money I've spent on professional development in a decade.
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Note: The review that follows is of the Second Edition of a book first published in 2000.

In my opinion, no one has a wider and deeper understanding of the art and science of storytelling - notably the business narrative -- than Annette Simmons does. She is convinced - and I agree - that almost anyone has a number of personal stories that they are unwilling and/or (more likely) they are unable to share with others. Her purpose in this book and her mission in life is to help as many people as possible to overcome their self-imposed barriers so that they can share what she characterizes as "meaningful stories" that touch the heart rather impersonal messages "dressed in bells and whistles" of lifeless rationality. As Simmons explains, "This book gives you new skills in story thinking that will complement your skills in fact thinking. Facts matter, but feelings interpret what your facts mean to your audience."

As I came upon those words when reading this book for the first time, I was again reminded of an observation by Maya Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." The power of a personal story well-told is such that the audience could be one or two people or one or two thousand people.

Simmons focuses on six different types of personal stories. What they are and how to use them are best revealed within her narrative, on context. However, I now provide some information about one of them, "Teaching Stories." As she explains, "Certain lessons are best learned from experience and some lessons over and over again -- patience, for instance. You can tell someone to be patient, but it's rarely helpful. It is better to tell a story that creates a shared experience of patience alo0nt wi9th the rewards of patience. A three-minute story about patience may be short and punchy, but it will change behavior much better than advice. It is as close to modeling patience as you can get in three minutes." She explains the skills and process needed to think about, prepare, refine, and then share stories in all six categories.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Simmons' coverage:

o Significant Emotional Event Stories (Pages 12-14)
o Stories as Experience Reconstituted: Stories We Tell Every Day (21-29)
o Choose the Stories You Tell (Pages 26-29)
o Where Do I Find Stories? (37-40)
o Feedback (40-43)
o Brain Training (46-56)
o Don't Expect a Recipe to Make You a Chef (48-49)
o "Who I Am" Stories (59-66)
o "Why I am Here" Stories (67-79)
o Teaching Stories (81-92)
o Vision Stories (93-94)
o Book, Movie, or Current Event Stories (102-140)
o "Values-in-Action" Stories (105-121)
o "I Know What You Are Thinking" Stories (123-135)
o Sensory Experience (139-149)
o Brevity (151-159)
o BIG Stories (161-170)
o Points of View (171-176)
o Secrets of the Design-Thinking Process: Solution and Story Testing (191-195)

I agree with Simmons that every culture "is based on stories and metaphors that aggregate around that culture's preferential answers to universal but ambiguous human dilemmas like how to manage time, authority, safety money, ethics, and whatever else is important. If it is important to the culture, you will find a story that tells you what is important and why." With rare exception, the greatest leaders throughout history were great storytellers. They shared a vision and embodied values with which others could identity. Jesus and Mohammed expressed articles of faith almost entirely with parables and Abraham Lincoln was widely renowned (even by those who hated him) as a master "teller of tales."

Simmons observes, "The key to story thinking is to learn which stories stimulate your own feelings first. Then find the stories that also stimulate the feelings of others. The skills you develop by starting from the inside will help you learn the way stories create feelings that motivate us to action."

I was especially interested in reading the chapter Annette Simmons added, Chapter 16, "Borrowing Genius" (Pages 187-207). She begins this final chapter as follows: "Some of the brightest minds in their fields have aggressively applied storytelling principles, applications, and practices to their own goals with great effect. They now offer more practical insights, creative applications, and experiments than do many so-called storytelling experts. This chapter outlines some of their most innovative applications, along with ideas on how ton transplant them into your own practice of personal story telling."

The "secrets" were contributed from "fields" that include the design-thinking process, the nonprofit world, the legal field, and narrative medicine as swell as from digital storytelling, content marketing, and storytelling podcasts such as This American Life, The Moth, and Serial.

I urge everyone who reads this brief commentary of mine to obtain and then re-read (at least once) this second edition, and do so with appropriate care. Better yet, read and re-read it with a sense of delight. Absorb and digest the valuable information, insights, and counsel that are provided. Meanwhile, I presume to suggest that you highlight key passages and keep a notebook near at hand to record whatever touches your heart and stimulates your mind. Perhaps you will begin to feel that the book is reading you. (That's what I felt as I began to re-read it for the first time.) Let this book be a magic carpet, not to travel to distant lands and ancient times but, rather, to regions of your heart and mind where precious material resides, the material you will need to create and share your own personal stories.

As you begin your journey of personal discovery, I join with Annette Simmons to wish you a heartfelt "Bon voyage!"
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on May 20, 2011
Annette Simmons is a great storyteller and it show in both her books about storytelling. The Story Factor and this book both are good. Different approaches but both are worth the investment in time and money.
The structure of the book and the small exercises at the end of each chapter gets you involved. Even if you don't do the work at the end of chapters. It gets you to think.

I highly recommend this book. I wrote a blog about it at [...]

Waiting for the next book!
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on September 9, 2007
Annette Simmons truly practices what she preaches. She doesn't just tell you how to use storytelling, she shares story after story throughout the book to make her points clearly and convincingly.

What struck me the most was how effectively she conveys how to use story in the business world to be persuasive, show leadership and get colleagues and decision makers to jump on board--or at least stand up and take notice. As an executive coach I frequently work with brilliant scientists, technical geniuses and gifted thinkers who are frustrated when others don't "get it". Their motto is "let the facts speak for themselves" but frequently they are disappointed when no one listens. This is the book that doesn't waste any time trying to convince them to develop their soft side, but makes it very obvious how they can get more mileage out of one good story than another ten facts presented in a pie chart.

And for those who think that telling a story would be uncomfortable, out of character or too difficult, Simmons walks you through such a down-to-earth, non-intimidating simple process, she pulls the stories right from you before you even realize it!

Although this book is loaded with specific strategic information for more powerful communication, Simmons' very conversational tone and her great stories make it an easy read that will have you laughing and smiling inside as you identify with the situations and stories.
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on February 17, 2013
I teach electronics at a Technical College. The author's suggestions for engaging my audience have been amazingly useful.

Effective teaching includes the ability to toggle back and forth between objective and subjective stories.

The same types of stories help us motivate ourselves and deepen our personal relationships with our friends and families. This is an awesome book!
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VINE VOICEon January 20, 2008
We've all sat through far too many painful business meetings and presentations with reams of Powerpoint slides exhibiting little emotion, connection and engagement by the presenter and the audience - and we've all watched the clock drag along wandering when we can get on with the rest of our lives. Annette Simmons explains why a story wins and captivates all audiences and why it is so remembered (a re-lived experience) when other forms of presentations simply vanish from our consciousness.

This is a good "nuts-and-bolts" how-to book on storytelling. The author uses an informal conversational tone that makes the book very readable. Yet I found the book to be listless - the stories and anecdotes to lack energy and punch - a significant "lead-by-example" opportunity left behind on the table.

1) Story Thinking - What does that even mean?
2) What is Story?
3) Training Your Brain
4) Telling Stories that Win
5) Who-I-am-Stories
6) Why-am-I-Here Stories
7) Teaching Stories
8) Vision Stories
9) Value-in-Action Stories
10) I-Know-What-You-Are-Thinking Stories
11) Experience is sensory
12) The Gift of Brevity
13) Brand, Organizational & Political Stories
14) Point of View
15) Story Listening
16) Call to Action
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