Home

High-stakes communication matters

High-stakes communication events matter

You need to deliver a critical business review presentation, a client pitch, a town-hall talk or an industry forum speech.

You know that if you nail it, you can drive a ton of impact. Get your key project approved. Land a deal. Raise funding. Inspire your team.

You need to put your best foot forward

Storytelling can help you win

By applying the ancient yet timeless techniques of storytelling, you can engage, inspire and convince your audience – and drive them to action.

These skills are learnable

So, you don’t consider yourself a “born storyteller”? Don’t fret – there’s no such thing.

Storytelling is very much a learnable skill – and by thoughtful application of its tools and techniques, you can derive unending benefits at work.

Including in that crucial business review presentation!

Holistic, Customised Course offerings

Whatever your work storytelling needs, we’ve got you covered!

Consulting, Analytics and Data Science

Data storytelling to drive clarity, engagement and impact – and to get those recommendations accepted.

Finance/Business reviews

Quarterly business reviews don’t have to be dull data-dumps. Learn how to energise them through narrative driven storytelling.

One-on-one Coaching for Leaders

CXOs need to be able to tell their own story and that of their organisations in a clear, engaging and inspiring way. Learn through customized coaching sessions.

Technology

Just because your work is complex, does not mean your story has to be. Learn how to craft simple yet impactful stories that drive your audiences to act.

Other functions

Operations, Sales and marketing, HR – all functions need to be able to tell their story with impact. Learn how to do so through customised courses.

Online course

Want to take your learning into your own hands? Explore the e-learning versions of my storytelling course.

Hi, I'm Ravi. And I can help you tell a great story at work.

I stumbled into the vast and fascinating world of storytelling after a career that spanned finance, consulting, the social sector and … a startup that tried to make history interesting to tourists (it didn't really pick up!). You can read more about my background and story here

Through my Content Hub

Learn about storytelling techniques

Pyramid Lego
1. Make me Understand
1. Make me Understand

A story structuring framework as easy as 1-3-9

“All of this is great Ravi. But we hardly get any time to prepare our presentations. If we had ample time, we could apply all the storytelling techniques you teach. …

toshan Tamhane
2. Make me Engaged
2. Make me Engaged

E19: Toshan Tamhane – Lessons from Mckinsey, Meetings and Marathons!

I’m excited to release the next episode of my podcast – with Toshan Tamhane, currently Chief Strategy Officer at UPL and ex-Senior Partner at Mckinsey and Co. In storytelling, clarity of …

Paul Smith
2. Make me Engaged
2. Make me Engaged

E18: Paul Smith – Bestselling author of books on storytelling

I know, I know – it’s been ages since the last episode of the podcast. But the way I’m looking at this initiative is that I’m building these knowledge assets for the …

1. Make me Understand

A story structuring framework as easy as 1-3-9

“All of this is great Ravi. But we hardly get any time to prepare our presentations. If we had ample time, we could apply all the storytelling techniques you teach. How do we use them when the deadline is one day?” This is one of the most common pushbacks1 I get when I share some of the storytelling techniques with my session participants. And I think it is easily addressable. The key trick? If you want to start on a presentation, don’t start with the presentation. Start with a one-page summary using something I call the 1-3-9 Story Spine. It’s a framework that:– Clarifies your thinking– Ensures that your content is comprehensive and in the right flow– Enhances your audience’s understanding of the content, and most importantly,– Saves you time and effort by avoiding the creation of unnecessary slides Intrigued, much? Let’s dive in. The 1-3-9 Story Spine: The Pyramid Principle applied on one page I’ve written about the primacy of the Pyramid Principle as a powerful tool for clear thinking and communication. Here’s a post introducing the concept and here are some examples of how it is applied in several high-stakes communication situations: shareholder letters by Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet and a deck by Sequoia Capital. The 1-3-9 Story Spine is the most simplified version (see footnote 2) of the Pyramid Principle. It forces you to put down the entire story (of your business review, product pitch, cost-reduction proposal etc.) into this simple 1-page framework. Applying the 1-3-9 Story Spine to a movie script! Let’s take an example. For keeping it fun, I’ll take a movie script. I’m going with the blockbuster Bollywood hit, ‘Dangal’. First, up – you need to list down all the “messages” – in this case, the detailed events of the movie: – The main character, Mahavir Phogat, is a National level winning wrestler based in Haryana, who has a major life regret – that he could not win an international medal– He thinks his son/s will win the medal for him– But all his 4 kids are daughters – he resigns himself to a medal-less life– Due to a neighbourhood incident where his two elder daughters (Geeta and Babita) beat up a few boys, he realises that daughters can also win medals– He starts a strict diet and exercise regimen for his 2 elder daughters– In doing so, he fights several challenges: at home with his wife and daughters; from society and the wrestling community; also grapples with conflict with his daughter/s– His eldest daughter, Geeta enrols in the prestigious National Sports Academy and grapples with tough coach– She gets secret coaching from her father and manages to reach the finals of an international tournament– She wins the final match overcoming challenges from a tough opponent; challenges with her coach; and her own self-doubt Alright, that’s quite a bit. Now let’s figure out a 3-part summary of this entire script. Note how the above table makes reading easier – especially if you read just the “3-line summary” column, you get the gist of the story in just three sentences. Each of those three sentences are further elaborated in the “9-line summary” column. Of course, we wouldn’t stop at three. We have a final sentence to write: the one-line summary: There you have it: The 1-3-9 Story Spine, which is a simplified and practical version of the Pyramid Principle. Applying the 1-3-9 Story Spine for a business presentation “Sure, we might be able to use something like this for a movie script. But does it work for a business presentation”, you might wonder. Consider the following case study: Abacus’ Pitch to Modern Enterprises Abacus, a leading consulting firm is pitching its services for ERP implementation support to a client Modern Enterprises (Modern). Abacus believes that its key strengths are:– Strong technical expertise– Proven ability to deliver projects on time and cost– Known for a multidisciplinary, cross-functional approach Modern is a leading consumer durables company, growing at a revenue growth of 15% over the last 5 years. After a recent strategic review exercise, it has revamped its strategy and projects ambitious revenue growth of 25% for the next 5 years and profit growth of 30%. Currently Modern uses a legacy IT system, which has been functional for the last 10 years. Abacus believes, however, that the current system’s limitations would make it very challenging to support the proposed strategic growth plan. Abacus is recommending a move to the latest ERP system that would be robust and aid the projected growth in a smooth manner. Modern’s CTO Anu Shah realises the need to revamp their system… But she has a bunch of concerns. One, the technical challenges of migrating from the complex legacy system. Two the project management expertise to complete the project on time and cost. She also believes that the project will need a high degree of cross-functional collaboration – something the firm has not attempted at this scale so far. How should Abacus pitch its story to Modern? Before reading ahead, you could attempt to create your own version of the 1-3-9 Story Spine with the case study above. And then you can compare your solution with this one that I crafted: Much easier to read, right? That’s the power of the 1-3-9 Story Spine. Some caveats While the final one-sentence summary is a critical requirement of this framework, the numbers 3 and 9 are guidelines, not edicts inscribed on stone! You can use 4 buckets instead of 3 – which might translate to 10-12 next-level statements. But, don’t take it to a 1-7-21 structure! Seven buckets are too many for a person to absorb and remember. Plus, there’s a lot of evidence that supports the Rule of Three: 3 is a “goldilocks” number that is just right: Not too many to remember and not too little to be seen as lacking depth. Converting the 1-3-9 into an Executive Summary Ok, so you might be thinking next: Where does the 1-3-9 actually come in the overall presentation you have to create? Simple – as

Read More
2. Make me Engaged

E19: Toshan Tamhane – Lessons from Mckinsey, Meetings and Marathons!

I’m excited to release the next episode of my podcast – with Toshan Tamhane, currently Chief Strategy Officer at UPL and ex-Senior Partner at Mckinsey and Co. In storytelling, clarity of communication is a key goal. And one firm which has exemplified that in business communication is Mckinsey. After all, this is the firm that gave birth to the Pyramid Principle (through Barbara Minto) – a tool that I teach regularly as a part of my courses. I was always keen to speak to a senior leader from Mckinsey about how they view the art and craft of storytelling – and was I lucky to have the opportunity to interview Toshan. Toshan has spent 18+ years at Mckinsey across 55+ countries advising leading companies and individuals. Currently, apart from his role as CSO at UPL Ltd, he is also an active angel investor and avid adventure enthusiast. Across these years, Toshan has had a ringside view of several high-stakes communication events with senior stakeholders – both as a presenter and now mainly as a reviewer. I thought it would be great to tap into his vast experience and get his insights on the best practices for storytelling at work. In the conversation, we go through a wide range of topics – Toshan’s reflections from his IIM-Ahmedabad years, the lessons from Mckinsey, his ideas for improving business review meetings, his use of relatable analogies and his insane curiosity for deep conversations. I should reveal here that Toshan happens to be a batchmate from my graduation college – the Podar College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. He was always a prodigious talent since early days, and also known for his drive and clarity. It was great reconnecting with Toshan after almost 2 decades… and I learnt a lot from this conversation. I’m sure you will too. As always, I’m sharing some some lightly-edited extracts from the conversation – tagged under ‘the 3Ps’ – the Personal, Philosophical and the Practical (although with him, you’d find a lot of overlap between the three buckets!): 1. Personal: a. Reading a variety of books and reflecting Toshan: …one of the things is that I’m always reading a lot of books like stories, biographies; Even now, I have 7 books in front of me and I’m sure that when I read them, I’ll keep assimilating (information). Like, “This makes sense. Let me try and link something to it,” which happens subconsciously. When I actually want to make a point, I will figure it out and say, “This is how I should be talking about it to make people remember it.” Ravi: A tactical question on that: When you read something and it triggers a thought about something you’re working on, do you then stop reading and note it down somewhere? Or do you just store it mentally? Toshan: I just store it, or if I am reflecting on a point and something comes up…for example, I have this book right now called The Escape Manifesto. It has this phenomenal first paragraph, “All our life we jump through hoops. Often without asking why. It’s easy to feel stuck – a small cog in a big machine. It doesn’t have to be like this. Don’t waste your life living someone else’s.” it’s a very powerful thing. I will keep thinking about it; cog in a wheel…am I living someone else’s life? If it makes me pause, I will keep thinking about it for some more time. When I am running or doing something else it will be at the back of my mind, saying, “Am I living someone else’s life? Am I a cog?” I keep visualizing the cog, the wheels turning, then it will stick. Then, I will remember the book. I will remember the amazing things the book is telling me, and so on. It’s linking one thing to another, and it stays. 2. The Philosophical: a. Be intensely curious – insights are waiting to be discovered in the most unlikely of places Toshan is innately, intensely curious as a person and has the ability to ask questions which can open up new insights from the most unlikely of places – for instance a waiter, an Uber driver and a liftman! Ravi: I remember reading on your LinkedIn introduction that you try to have 52 conversations – one a week! How do you find the time to do this?! Toshan: I think the issue is not about the time. A meaningful conversation can happen with anyone. I’ll give you a couple of examples. I was at a French restaurant, and the guy served me a drink and he had a leaf on top. I asked him, “Why do you put this leaf on top? I’m going to take it out and keep it aside. I’m going to drink the drink. If it was lemon inside, I understand. If it was an apple inside a Sangria, I understand.” And then he went on to explain how the flavour and aesthetics work, and we went on to discuss the topic of molecular gastronomy. He said that food is not consumed only in one sense, which is taste. Your brain starts liking it (multidimensionally). Smell is one; sight; touch. He said French cuisine is not all about the taste. Taste is just one aspect of it. You need to make sure that the patron is involved in it. He went on to tell me how different items are done. I thought, wow. There is a presentation dimension; there is a story behind a dish, he was saying how this comes from here and that from there, so on. I once asked an Uber driver to tell me about his 5 most interesting rides. The guy told me about a drug bust. I couldn’t believe him. He told me about the area and how he took an undercover cop (as a client) – these are things you only see in movies! I thought, (he’s just an) Uber guy, (but he said), “there’s so many interesting things I

Read More
2. Make me Engaged

E18: Paul Smith – Bestselling author of books on storytelling

I know, I know – it’s been ages since the last episode of the podcast. But the way I’m looking at this initiative is that I’m building these knowledge assets for the long term. More than a regular cadence, I’m just looking to create a base of content that is valuable and timeless. Meanwhile, I’m excited to release the next episode of my podcast – with Paul Smith. ​Paul Smith is the bestselling author of books such as ‘Lead with a Story’, ‘Sell with a Story’ and ‘The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell’. Paul specialises in what I term as ‘human stories’ – which is narrating specific incidents from work and life that contain valuable lessons or insights. Through his books, Paul teaches us how to use such incident stories to lead better and to sell better. Now, you might think that the ability to narrate incident stories is a God-given one – you either have it or you don’t. But reading Paul’s books gives you the clarity and confidence that this is very much a learnable skill. Look, I get it. As a skill, storytelling may seem esoteric, mysterious and difficult to break down into component parts. But it is possible to do that… and of the many books I’ve read on the topic, Paul’s books are perhaps the best at achieving a neat, structured breakdown of this craft. In this short but insight-filled podcast episode: It has been a privilege for me to have such an accomplished author and storyteller on the podcast. I hope you find the conversation as insightful as I did. PS: I’d have loved to have a longer conversation, but Paul only had about 40 minutes available. Still, 40 minutes is better than none! As always, I’m sharing some some lightly-edited extracts from the conversation – tagged under ‘the 3Ps’ – the Personal, Philosophical and the Practical (all emphasis mine): 1. Personal: a. Keep looking for your Ikigai 🙂 Paul was at a senior position at P&G and had a great corporate life going. But he was still looking for what makes him tick. Ravi: May I ask what the trigger was, Paul, for you to realize that storytelling is a critical skill (and you want to specialise in it)? Paul: There were probably two things – one, at that point I started to have just enough access to the senior management of the company. I was mid-way up the hierarchy myself, so you ended up spending a little bit of time in a C-suite with some of those officers. I just started noticing their behaviour exemplified some good storytelling. But the other reason was just very practical, honestly, and perhaps even selfish. About that time, I started asking myself, “Here I am, 15 years into this company. Do I want to spend another 15 years here? Or do I want to do something different? What do I want to do here?” And I decided that what I really liked – the best part of my job was the few days a year that I got to teach a new hire Training class, or a new General Manager training class, or speak at the annual company meeting or something. That’s the part of my job I loved the most, and it was like 5% of my job! What could I do to make that all of my job? Turns out, there wasn’t any job at the whole company that was doing that full time. And I realized that the only people I know that get to do that are these guys that have written some best-selling book and they get to travel around the world talking about the book. I said, “Well, I guess that’s what I gotta do. What am I interested in enough to write a whole book about?” And I thought, storytelling; this thing that I realized I don’t know enough about. Then it became more purposeful; (I thought) “I want to learn this not just to learn this, I want to learn this because I want to write a book about it and completely change my career path” and it ended up working. It didn’t have to, but I got lucky enough. 2. The Philosophical: a. There’s no shortcut to perseverance Paul is fairly risk averse and did not just leave his job to “follow his passion”. Here’s how he wrote his first book (Lead with a Story): Paul: I wrote my entire first book while I still had a full-time job at P&G. The reason was because I didn’t know if it would work. I’d love to tell you some romantic story of how I woke up one morning and decided that I was going to do this, so I walked into my boss’ office and I quit my job, then I went out and started this. But, I’m reasonable and maybe just too risk-averse to do something like that. I dedicated probably 1 hour a day, and 5 hours on the weekend every week, for a couple of years while I was still working at P&G, to research and write that first book, out of the 5 books I’ve written. And then I still waited until 6 months after the first book came out before I left the company, because – like you said, it was an experiment. I was running my own market research to see if it would work; if enough people would read the book and call me to generate the speaking engagements and training courses that I (envisioned); to see a sustainable business model. After the first 6 months once the book came out, I used up all my vacation time doing these training courses and speaking engagements. I ended up asking for a reduced work schedule, because I ran out of vacation time which really upset my wife – that was no good! Once I spent all of those days, I realized that this is meeting my success criteria. By that time, the book was already

Read More

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Join the 'Story Rules on Saturday' newsletter and get an e-book that decodes the hidden storytelling structure used by Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Testimonials

Some kind words from Clients

Ravi knows the science behind the story. His is a simple repeatable and scalable approach that brings real results.
Kevin Ignatius
KPMG Management Consulting
Venture capital is quite complex to understand for a new investor. Ravi put-in enormous effort in studying our subject and made the pitch simple and articulate with investor benefits highlighted in every sentence
CEO
YourNest Angel Fund
This is the best training I have attended at my company. The facilitator was the best ever (that I have encountered).
Participant
Leading Analytics Firm
Ravi is a master of storytelling. Lots of people have the ability to take your idea and create a great story. Very few people can take an already great story and make it 'wow'. Ravi did that magic for our speakers during TEDxPune 2019. Highly recommended if you want to make your Story Rule!
Ashwin Naik
Serial Entrepreneur, TEDx Pune Leader
We could observe vast improvement in all the presentations given by the business heads…. Once again, you have gone above and beyond in your efforts to bring out the best in each of them!
Senior HR Rep
InterGlobe Air Transport
I have had Ravi to come to my organization for more than once for Business Storytelling. Highest recommendation from my side. We have highly benefited from his structured and creative workshop!
Senior HR Leader
Amdocs
Ravi worked with finance team in Medtronic India during mid 2020, after I reached out to him for help. He took multiple sessions through video calls in the most simplistic manner and followed up with short group sessions to clear doubts to my team. His approach of story telling is not only unique, but simple enough for everyone to understand. It's been six months since the session, I can clearly see marked improvement in the way my team including myself think on the story even though we have only numbers to present.
Vineet Jain
CFO, Medtronic India and COE Pricing, Asia-Pacific

Get Storytelling tips in your Inbox

Subscribe to the 'Story Rules on Saturday' newsletter

Get a free e-book that decodes the hidden storytelling structure used by leaders like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Your infomation will never be shared with any third party