“Storytelling moves people to take action,” says Dr. Gautam Gulati ’93, a motivational keynote speaker who knows something about the power of words. He loves listening to and telling stories, having shared more than 200 of them in his career. His tailored speeches aim to help people, companies, and brands stand out and innovate. He is also the founder and CEO of Unusual, Inc., where he spends much of his time speaking, writing, and advising companies on how to create breakthrough strategies. Previously, he was the Chief Medical Officer and Head of Product Innovation for Physicians Interactive Holdings.
Gautam received a Doctor of Medicine from The George Washington University School of Medicine, a Master of Pubic Health from The George Washington University School of Public Health, and a Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. He is currently working on a book called, "The Unusual Truth" and resides in Great Falls, Virginia, with his wife and two children.
Q. As a motivational speaker, how do you best communicate your passion and expertise to connect with the audience? How important are the words you choose?
A. Over the course of my career, I've learned several 'untold' cardinal rules as a motivational speaker. There are many more, but here are five tenets I apply to every talk I deliver:
1. Your audience is the hero, not you. It is the speaker's job to get the audience to move from a current state of mind towards a vision that you want them to ultimately embrace. This can only be done if you allow the audience to come to your same conclusion by offering evidence wrapped in compelling stories.
2. Speak only on topics that you are passionate about and that come from the heart and soul. It allows for a more authentic and honest delivery that creates a more conversational tone with the audience...rather than a boring, one-directional lecture.
3. Always remember to ask yourself: ‘so what?’ Put yourself in the audience's shoes, and ask yourself why this matters and what you can do about it.
4. Always tell stories. We as humans are all innately attracted to stories. They allow your audience to connect with and understand your message in real, experience-based examples.
5. Choose your words wisely. In today’s generation with short attention spans, you need to incorporate powerful sound bites that the audience can easily remember and share. Use natural-state language, not industry jargon. And don't be afraid to polarize. Nobody wants to hear the average perspective. Be bold and back it up. Have a unique angle or perspective, and then defend it.