Transcript of Convert Your Ideas and Messages Into Memorable Narratives

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John Jantsch: Can a little deck of cards help you tell better stories? I think it can. We’re going to talk to Ron Ploof, creator of “StoryHow Pitch Deck”. Check it out.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Ron Ploof. He is author, speaker, consultant and I suspect he will also want me to say storyteller. He is a creator of the StoryHow Pitch Deck, a deck of playing cards that helps business people convert their ideas, messages and presentations into memorable narratives. So Ron thanks for joining.

Ron Ploof: You’re welcome, thank you for having me on.

John Jantsch: I’ve been writing about storytelling in business for at least 15 years. But man, is it hot all of a sudden. What you suppose it is?

Ron Ploof: I think there are a lot of subjects that become hot and as we’re starting to see more and more information, more and more say content marketing that people are trying to figure out a way to get their messages to stick and that I think that they’re starting to turn away from all of these new tools and all of these new digital mediums, if you will. And maybe getting back to some basics, how do humans communicate? Humans communicate through story.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I think the human word is, as you said, with the tools and the digital experience. I think people are craving the human experience maybe more than ever. There’s a great book called “Sapiens” that is pretty popular. Maybe you’ve heard of it but essentially kind of follows the whole your path of how human beings as we know them came to be and one of things I found really interesting was  that you know that we were always the highest on the food chain, meaning humans. I mean, a lot of animals out there that hunted and ate us and our ability to tell stories and to craft a story that made people dream about a shared vision that I couldn’t see was really the difference. I think that that probably goes as much to kind of the anthropologic nature of storytelling.

Ron Ploof: Absolutely. It’s really popular for people to say that hey, storytelling is wired into our DNA and things like that. I’ve been real interested in digging into and finding out how? One of my favorite writers and friend is I Kendall Haven and if you’ve read any of candles stuff. But he actually has done brain research work he’s put leads on people’s heads and did EEG ratings of people as they were listening to stories. And some great research but what’s really interesting in there is he said that one of its conclusions, the only way that we learn is through story structure. The only way that people is through story structure. So if there was a big bad wolf or monster that was hunting us down, the best way for us to learn how to avoid him, would be to tell stories.

John Jantsch: And tell stories about how we can gang up on the big bad wolf. I think that that was kind of led to it. So let’s go to businesses. If we are accepting this idea that businesses need to tell more stories and get better storytelling, can you routinely say, yeah, here are the 4 core stories that every business needs to have, that structure?

Ron Ploof: No, I hate that. That’s why I think a lot of people when they’re talking about storytelling or they’re trying to understand storytelling that they get all wrapped up around. The concept of story that’s like big. It’s really big and it’s epic and you need to know all of these things. What I’ve tried to do, as a storyteller, is just break down into. Look there are some little tiny things that you can do, little tiny things that will help when you say something help people remember it. Help them apply it. And to me it’s those little tiny things. Now if you start to use these tiny things, over the course of a full story, you’ll have a story. But to meet there are  little tiny things. Let me give you an example, because I don’t think a story needs to be huge. I think that the story is about delivering a piece of information that makes somebody wants to learn more. Example I like use is “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”. Okay that’s a fact. And the fact stands on its own. That’s a piece of narrative. No one really cares about just the fact. However, if I change it around just a little bit. And I said, “Quick brown fox wanted to jump over the lazy dog.” I’ve not used what I call a story statement. I’ve given you a piece of information but it also probably places a couple questions in your mind that you want to know more. What questions popped into your mind when I said the quick brown fox wanted to jump over the lazy dog?

John Jantsch: why did he want to? What was stopping him from doing it?

Ron Ploof: Exactly. Did he make it? So just by changing and putting that like that one word that he wanted to jump over the lazy dog. There is a biological response. There is nothing you can do about it. I put those questions into your head and so it’s a little tiny things like that that story tellers use by leaving a piece of information but you want to know more. That to me is the essence of storytelling.

John Jantsch: And you think about it, there’s lots of places to tell stories but you think about the public speaker, I mean they’re essentially up there, telling a narrative of some sort and you’re right, that narrative can either be a statement of facts which a lot of speakers do. Or it can be something that that moves you to want to know more. I think which is probably the perfect definition of what a great speech is.

Ron Ploof: Yeah, Robert McKee who wrote a great book called “Story”. I like there’s something that he says, is that all stories are narratives but not all narratives are stories. And that we can’t really interchange narrative and story very easily. Because a narrative is just a collection of facts and like you said, if you just put a collection of facts there’s nothing for people to really do if there’s no reason for them to apply those facts to what they need to do in their lives, they don’t mean anything. However, if you put them into the context of I want to learn more, I need to learn more; now you’re starting to get into the story zone.

John Jantsch: So as I mentioned in your introduction, you have created something called the “StoryHow Pitch Deck”, so just explain what that is and it’s kind of ironic I had somebody on a couple weeks ago that had created also a deck of cards and called, I’ll look it up eventually. But it’s kind of a poker type of approach for working with sale stream. So first off, just explain, I have a deck of cards like a playing deck of cards, explain the concept of the deck.

Ron Ploof: Sure. So since I like breaking story down into little tiny pieces, I came up with 60 ideas that I wanted people to be able to use in all different ways. I break a story down to a very simple statement. A story is the result of people pursuing what they want. And so what that means is that there are people roles, there are events, the things that happened to those people and then what they want? The things that are driving their actions. Well, those are the first 3 suits in the “StoryHow Pitch Deck”. There are 15 roles, 15 events and 15 influences. And then there is the last suit which are 15 techniques. Little tiny techniques like the quick brown fox technique. That’s the way I’ve broken down the deck. There’s also some instructions on how to use the deck. The first time you might look at 60 cards and think that they are a little overwhelming. And so there’s some instruction says look just take out these top 8 cards and just go through those. But it’s a way to get you thinking and so the deck is designed for you to take an idea, a presentation, a piece of marketing or something to it. And then use the proms in the cards to see if you can find your story.

John Jantsch: So obviously there’re a lot of training videos and books and courses,  why deck of cards?

Ron Ploof: Because there’s a lot of books and courses and thinks like that. There’s an author, many many years ago, called Roger von Oech and he came out with something called the “Creative Whack Pack”. And there’s a deck of cards. Do you remember that?

John Jantsch: Sure.

Ron Ploof: I have it. It went along with the book that he had called “A Whack on the Side of the Head”. That was for creativity. And I really loved the concept. I’ve been losing decks because I kept loaning them to people and they wouldn’t come back and so what I wanted to do was, is there a way to present story and storytelling into this format and that’s how I came up with the deck.

John Jantsch: Give me a couple of examples or scenarios where somebody would – Gosh, let’s plot the deck. Give me a couple examples. In everyday business, how would they use it?

Ron Ploof: Think about a couple things. You have a piece of marketing or blog post or something like that and maybe you have a bunch of facts and you’re trying to figure out how can we present this? Maybe there is a story behind that. You can use the deck to draw stories out of your clients. A lot of times you’ve your clients saying, what stories? And they just look at you with a blank stare. But you can use us some of these proms to say well what about this or what about that and all of a sudden you say, “Wait a minute, I have a story about that”. One of my favorite usage is I have a user she’s actually contacted me and I even wrote a blog post about her. But she is a Loan Underwriter. And she finds that there are times when she looks at someone who is applying for a loan and that the numbers don’t really tell the whole story, that there’s something else behind them. And so what she tries to do is she tries to get under there to look at say, the motivations, the things like that and she writes a more complete underwriting evaluation based on just using story. So she can explain it to her superior saying, “No, I think that this is a good risk because and essentially putting the numbers into a story.

John Jantsch: let’s say, I was a marketer at a firm and my instruction for the week was to write a more compelling about us page for the website. How would I turn into the deck.

Ron Ploof: Let’s just say, you have a story is the result of people pursuing what they want. So my question is what did this company want in the about page? Why did they do what they do? Was there an event that actually led them? An origin story is great – why did you start your company? Those are the type questions that the StoryHow Pitch Deck is going to bring out.

John Jantsch: Again it’s hard, we’re talking about a visual thing and we’re in audio only. So what I separate the deck into the all 4 of these colors and areas and then just start drawing from them to sort of stimulate thinking or is it more like I want to pick out 4 and hopefully put a story together from that.

Ron Ploof: Really there are different ways to use it and there are instructions that you can just download from the site even without buying it to get an idea of what it’s about. But if you’re coming to it for the first time, why don’t you start with the starter hand? And the starting hand is if you actually look at the StoryHow Pitch Deck that you’ll notice that the majority the cards have a grey back but there are some cards that have white backs. And so I would say just call those out. And in terms of techniques what is the purpose of  you are your about page? What is the meaning? Is there some meaning that you want to have behind that? The influence cards would be jeopardy and emotional choice. So, jeopardy – is there a risk? Risk makes a story real interesting. Was there a risk in actually creating your company or do you help out your customers avoid risk or handle risk better? Choice, emotional choice, a lot of times we don’t think that we are emotional. Emotion doesn’t belong in business. Wrong. We’re emotional beings, especially if you’re looking at jeopardy or risk. So is there some sort of emotional choice that you made? The 2 events – the initial impulse and the ending. I like to start with the ending. You don’t know where to start, if you don’t know where you’re going to end; how do you want your about page to end? What’s the last thing that you want people thinking about? And then the initial impulse – what was the thing that set this story off? Every story starts with and then one day. What was your “and then one day?”

And then last but not least, who’s your audience for your about page? Is it someone who’s finding their way maybe through a search engine or something like that? And then is there a protagonist? Is there a hero?  That doesn’t always have to be. But usually in business I like to say that the protagonist isn’t you, it’s the customer and that you are actually just a minor character in their role as a protagonist because you’re helping them do what they’re trying to do.

John Jantsch: Thanks for listening to the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. If you like this,  you might also like my other podcasts “the Consulting Spark” where I interview independent marketing consultants and agency owners. Talk about how they built their business and the struggles they face and what they love about being in this business? You can check it out at

Quite often people associate drama with stories. then there are a lot of businesses out there that think we just sell parts that make those buckets that go up on the trucks, where’s the story in that? I mean, do you feel that there’s a story in anything any? Any business, no matter what they sell?

Ron Ploof: Absolutely. The great game of business is a big story. I mean, think about it, you’re asking people to do an unnatural act to give you money that’s not a natural act. Along with that comes risk and think about it, especially if you’re selling a high ticket item. Someone has to budget for that or they have to steal somebody else’s budget to be able to pay for your product or service. Yeah, there is drama because that there aren’t infinite resources and since there working within these limited resources, things are going to happen, people are going to get budgets swiped. People aren’t going to be able to find their pet projects. These are all the things that happened in the normal course of business.

John Jantsch: So. I’ve used your cards and I’ve got I’ve got really the little bits of a better story that you talked about. But how do I become or are there ways for me to become a better storyteller. Because obviously you see, you could give to people the exact same cards and maybe the exact same motivation for what they write about but the delivery will be completely difference.

Ron Ploof: Yeah, it’s practice. Really, it’s like anything, it is practice. And one of the things that I like to have people do is if they do come up with the story. Don’t tell someone and then ask them about it. And then refine it and go tell somebody else and go tell somebody else. Keep telling the same story over and over again, watch your audience, see how they react, see the things where they lean, see the things where they say, it’s just not that interesting. The best storytellers have empathy for their audience and they’re constantly wondering, am I telling them too much? Am my telling them too little? Did they think what I was hoping they were thinking when I offered this fact? So it does take practice. And unfortunately I’m not convinced that a lot of people really want to put the work in to do it.

John Jantsch: Yeah, that’s true. I mean professional speakers that I ran across everyday that that are not practicing, that are not getting better at the craft. Obviously there are ones that spend about of time practicing. I mean there are certainly the people that seem to be gifted storyteller, even people that don’t know professionally, there’s always one uncle in the family that can always hold people’s attention telling about the old days. And so there probably are people that are a little more wired for maybe the feedback they get when they tell stories.

Ron Ploof: Yeah, absolutely. But even that uncle gets to practice that they tell the same stories over and over again. Read an interesting thing where there are a lot of people that are afraid to like retell a story especially within an audience that might have heard the story again. The research actually said that people prefer sharing stories that they’re used to and that’s probably why the uncle is always on the – “oh uncle, tell us about the time that you can crashed the boat into the…” You know what I mean?

John Jantsch: Yeah.

Ron Ploof: They want to hear the same. But maybe they’ll pick up a new answer or something like that.

John Jantsch: It is funny. There must be something very comforting about it. May be give you the opportunity to talk about one or two some of the most powerful ways that you’ve seen the pitch deck used.

Ron Ploof:  Powerful. I just get little tiny tidbits from folks and how they’re using it. And I would never expect a loan underwriter to be using the Pitch Deck. I have somebody else who was in Belgium and he contacted me and he mentioned that he used the Pitch Deck that it was their yearend marketing report. And they’ve always done it the same way. And so he use the story how Pitch Deck say, you know what, I want to present our marketing, our internal marketing from the customer’s perspective and he uses story How Pitch Deck and he totally changed the way to do the presentations. He had the CEO in the office, he said it was pretty scary because he really did break from tradition and how we did it. At the end the CEO liked it so much. She asked him, “Can you help me with my presentations?”.  I don’t know if that’s the best you’re the greatest but it’s a real world example of how someone says I’m going to use this tool to change things around little bit, I am going to have empathy for my audience and see if I can put information into a way that they best want to hear it. And there you go.

John Jantsch: That’s great example. Think about all the people that set through these meetings said that were just deathly but that’s the way we do it here and imagine now refreshing that probably was.

Ron Ploof: Absolutely.

Ron Ploof: So Ron tell us where people can get the Pitch Deck and find out more about you?

John Jantsch: Sure. If you want just information about me and the Pitch Deck, go to And there you’ll find a whole bunch of information, you can just download the instructions, they’re right there. I just wrote my 106th blog post on storytelling. You can sign up for my dragonslayer digest newsletter which comes out weekly and then learn a lot about the Pitch Deck which is right there, and then you can order it on

John Jantsch: Well Ron, thanks so much for joining us today. You and I went back and forth, so it took awhile to get this on the count but I’m really glad that we did. I’ve got my 8 cards, starter cards pulled out here, I’m going to go work on my about page and see if I can make it a little better. Thanks so much for sharing and hopefully will run into you out there.

Ron Ploof: Awesome and let me know if you need any help.

John Jantsch: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. What if you could do me a favor, could you leave an honest review on iTunes your ratings and reviews really help and I promise I read and every one.


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