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Captivate Your Audience: Storytelling at Its Best

When you write—whether it’s a keynote speech, an article, or a book for publication—your material has to be relatable for your audience. You’ve got to draw them in and keep their attention. Nothing does this quite as well as using the story as your format. A number of religious texts are written this way for one compelling reason: it works.

I grew up listening to audios from motivational speakers like Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn and Napoleon Hill. I acquired the motivational audio habit from my boss as a young salesperson, and you could say it just stuck with me. Now I own a publishing company, and Zig remains our most popular talent.

I still listen to Zig from time to time as my car winds its way up a mountainside on a summer day, or on freeway crawls across the metro area to meet with some of the authors I publish.

The legendary Zig Ziglar is a personal favorite of mine because of his expertise in storytelling. I had the good fortune to work with him directly while he was alive, and his folksy manner was authentic. He was a likable guy, as well as a genuinely gifted speaker.

One of Ziglar’s programs recorded years ago, tells the story of the Cookie Thief. It goes like this.

A traveler, waiting to board a plane, sits down next to his pile of luggage to enjoy the bag of cookies he just purchased. A lady next to him dips into the bag, believing that she owns the bag of cookies, and eyes the man like he is a cookie thief. They each indulge in cookies eyeing each other, one stolen morsel at a time. Once the man boards the plane, he realizes that she was right—he finds his untouched bag of cookies underneath his carry-on. It’s too late to tell her he’s sorry or to make amends, and the plane takes-off without his ego. The man is utterly humbled.

Ziglar tells this story in a way that’s charming and engaging—pure classic Zig—and he draws a conclusion from the story that’s undeniable: humility is always the wisest option. The story works because it’s personal, and as listeners, we feel like we’re there with Zig, reliving the moment.

This is why I was dumbfounded when I reviewed another classic self-growth program and heard exactly the same Cookie Thief story told by Wayne Dyer. This was not some unknown hack, but a multi-million-dollar keynote speaker and best-selling author known around the world, using exactly the same parable.

In his talk, Dyer read a poem called the Cookie Thief, credited to Valerie Cox. He drew a similar conclusion to Ziglar’s, but Dyer worded it in a different way. Like Ziglar, he was personally engaged as he told the story, and I felt like he knew the author of the Cookie Thief. I felt like I was there.

Real Comfort Food or Mere Snacks for the Mind?

The poem by Cox that Dyer read is included in the book A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. I’ve worked with both of these authors, and my hat goes off to them for the publishing model they’ve honed to a fine point.

The Chicken Soup series is one of the most successful franchises in publishing history. At more than 130 million copies sold, it’s right up there with Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, Star Wars and Fifty Shades of Grey. We should all be so lucky.

I bring up the series’ popularity because it lends weight to the fact that the Cookie Thief story has been used as exhaustively as a Tollhouse recipe. The 3rd Serving was published only as recently as 2012, about 20 years after Zig’s recording.

This means the Cookie Thief story certainly has made the rounds since Zig’s talk. It’s a good story, to be sure, but is it THAT good? Frankly, it all depends on the storyteller. Having the right ingredients is only the start. What you do with them is just as important.

3 Questions for Storytelling Success:

When you want to use stories to peak the interest of your audience, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • Whose interest are you peaking? Consider your audience when you’re choosing your material.
  • Do you have a message they can relate to? Make sure your material speaks to a common pain or pleasure that your audience can feel with you.
  • Are you saying it in a way that is relatable? Express your point in a way that is unique and personal to you. Make it your own, and share it with the world.

When you want to make a point, be sure to tell a story. But when you tell a story, make sure the story you’re telling is your own. Make it personal, make it unique, and put your own stamp of individuality on it.

You just never know where your words will end up or whose life will be changed because of them.

Good writing!

Congratulations Robert Spillane!

Goko Publishing wants to congratulate and support one of or new authors, Robert Spillane. Getting a book from concept to reality is no easy task and Robert has just completed publishing his second book in just 1 year!!

EyeforanI_TransparentAN EYE FOR AN I
This book discusses ancient and modern philosophers whose ideas enable us to gain insight into and mastery of ourselves. While this sounds like psychology, it is what the ancient Greeks called moral philosophy and its main precept is ‘know oneself’.


EntertainingExecutives1_3_1ENTERTAINING EXECUTIVES
Office politics, power struggles, ulterior motives, personality differences …all combine to make this cynical poke at the “executive branch” of a typical office highly entertaining. The setting takes you to a management training program where several managers are invited to attend.


Katherine-Owen-ImageKatherine Owen, CEO of GOKO, brings her expertise in the publishing industry and combines it with a powerful team. Katherine owns and operates GOKO Publishing and is part-owner in a traditional publishing company, The GHR Press. Katherine holds a Masters Degree in Marketing and Management from Macquarie University’s Graduate School of Management (MGSM) in Sydney, Australia.

icon1July 14, 2015

Laughter is Good Medicine

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” ~Mark Twain

If you are in a Leadership role, giving a presentation, or talking in front of a group, then you know how hard it can be at times to get your ideas across. Winning over your audience can be tough, especially if you don’t first establish some kind of rapport. You need to get them on track with you in order for them to hear your most salient points.

LaughThe good news is that there’s one trick that will almost always help make your job a whole lot easier. Use humor! From kings to pawns, everyone loves to laugh, take time out, and find relief from our all too serious world.

See what a new study by Bell Leadership Institute says about humor:

A new study by the Bell Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill, NC, found that when employees are asked to describe the strengths and weaknesses of senior colleagues in their organizations, “sense of humor” and “work ethic” are mentioned twice as much as any other phrases. Bell Leadership surveyed approximately 2,700 employees in a variety of workplace settings over a two-year period.

“Humor is a vital tool of leadership,” says Dr. Gerald D. Bell, the founder and CEO of Bell Leadership Institute. “People are used to associating laughter with the best medicine, but they are often surprised that ‘sense of humor’ is the phrase most frequently associated with the best in leaders.” Bell Leadership’s findings show that people appreciate leaders who have fun and work hard to get the job done. “Those who can combine a strong work ethic and sense of humor may have the leading edge in their organizations,” says Dr. Bell.

Humor serves as an effective tool for putting your clients, colleagues, listeners or readers at ease. It can break the ice and set a tone that helps loosen up the atmosphere. Humor makes your job easier and much more fun to do.

What is humor?

The topic of humor is highly subjective. One must be cautious about what they say or do so as not to be offensive to others in any way. The great news is it’s not expensive or time-consuming to put a laughter in the workplace. Share a funny story with your co-workers on your break, hold a joke contest, or if you have a great idea, pass it along to your supervisor. Employees who are happy and fulfilled are also more productive and motivated.

Even though the essence of humor itself is subjective, there is one definition that transcends every comedic law. Humor is the amusing build­up and release of tension.

Whether it’s in print, in media, or in a live setting, humor requires some degree of tension in order to be effective. This is why it’s such a great ice breaker in professional settings – the tension is already built in.

It’s also why people laugh when they’re uncomfortable or nervous. It’s the reason for gallows humor, and it even explains why some wakes are so full of laughter. When it’s applied in the right way, humor can be the perfect antidote for dark times.

How Can You Be Funny When You Mean Business?

Humor’s effect will always ride the emotional tide of your audience. Stay attuned to how your audience is feeling, and always assess the atmosphere you’re in to determine whether humor is a good choice.

How well you come across may depend on whose company you are in, where you find them in their work day, and how many pressures are distracting them. Other factors include the temperature of the room you’re in, their state of alertness, and even whether they have a headache or any number of other distractions.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to your humor’s effectiveness in persuading someone. Recognize that what may be funny to one person one day will not be funny the next, even if it’s the exact same joke told in the exact same way.

Often the mood or situation itself will make it obvious whether humor is appropriate. If you’re speaking in a religious setting, a certain amount of reverence and sobriety are naturally called for. But even here, some kinds of humor can help move your audience to your point of view.

Here are a few tips for using humor effectively:

Don’t Tell Jokes: The object of your humor is to break the ice. Because humor is so subjective, your well-­meaning joke may be funny to a few people but offend others. Even worse, it may bomb. Telling one bad joke at the start means you’ll spend the rest of the time trying to recover instead of compelling your audience.

Use Stories: Different types of humor work best in different situations. Bridge the gap with a funny story or anecdote from real life. Use the story to make a point, and let it launch you into your topic.

Let Your Humor Breathe: Sometimes you may find that you’re funny even when you didn’t mean to be. Allow your audience a moment to enjoy it. When laughs come, pause and let the roar start to fade like a passing train. Then start speaking again before the quiet fully returns.

Keep It Kind: If the object of your humor is someone else, make sure your audience is laughing WITH them and not AT them. Mean spirited humor can leave a lasting scar on your reputation.

It’s Okay to Make Fun of Yourself: A touch of self­-effacing humor can win over your audience if it’s gently applied. Don’t be afraid to be the butt of good humor. A dash of vulnerability can make you seem like a more sympathetic character. Remember, a little goes a long way.

Your own brand of humor can be an original, effective way of delivering important messages to your clients and colleagues. You’ll build stronger bonds with them and stand out from the crowd.

Katherine-Owen-ImageKatherine Owen, CEO of GOKO, brings her expertise in the publishing industry and combines it with a powerful team. Katherine owns and operates GOKO Publishing and is part-owner in a traditional publishing company, The GHR Press. Katherine holds a Masters Degree in Marketing and Management from Macquarie University’s Graduate School of Management (MGSM) in Sydney, Australia.

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