Frontier Talk

The Story is the Strategy | Frontier Talk #9 - Mike Kiser


In this episode, Raj Hegde is joined by Mike Kiser - Director of Strategy and Standards at SailPoint to explore the relevance of #storytelling in enterprise and to help you become a world-class business communicator. Tune in to this episode to learn about storytelling frameworks, the power of #curiosity, reading a room, narrative arcs, etc. Find your voice via episode 9 of the Frontier Talk podcast!

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If you're specific enough in some of the story details, people react and they adapt it to themselves. In other words, you hear a story about like Cinderella or Hamlet or whatever else. And part of you is going, I am like Hamlet in this way. I am not like Hamlet in this way. My father is not a ghost talking to me from a tower, right? I did not. I have no temptation to put on a play to kill my stepfather or whatever it is. Right. But even in doing that, if it's specific enough with the details of some of the story you use, then people automatically say, that's not me, but if you shifted it this way, it would be. And so there are ready adopting some of those details. Even without you saying, you need to think about how this applies to you. We naturally do that. We naturally hear stories and we place ourselves as the main character side characters or say we are not that which in which case, we're running our own story.
Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the frontier talk podcast. I'm Raj Hegde. And in this podcast, we explore the intersection of identity people and technology. Now storytelling is a key skill that is relevant to everyone. Whether you're looking to sell a product, you're looking to raise funds for a new startup, or are just looking to get buy in for your proposal. From key decision makers, a compelling narrative goes a long way to help you achieve what you desire yet. For some strange reason, the skill is somewhat taken for granted. And there are very few frameworks and narrative arcs out there on the internet today. My guests in the pod is, is someone who wears multiple hats, both literally and figuratively. And he has his background purely rooted in theology. He has had a stellar career to date in the identity and security space. And to me personally is one of the best public speakers going around the block, you know, to help you become a world-class business communicator. Please join me in welcoming Mike Kaiser, the director of strategy and standards at SailPoint. Mike. It's an honor to have you on the podcast. Thanks for having me on Raj. I think you're a little over-hyping me, but I'll, I'll allow it for now. Thanks to the flattering intro.
The pleasure is all mine. Mike, I like to start off by demystifying the mystery behind your hat. So to say, is it a Texas thing or how did the hat come about to become such an integral part of your identity?
Sure, sure. It's not that much of a mystery. It's not have, this has nothing to do with Texas. Believe it or not. Even though I am, you know, a hell from Austin, Texas, the I used to work at IBM and when I was working in IBM, part of my job for five to six years was advising people on strategy, especially in a competitive security environment. And I did that for the entire division of IBM security, which meant I was the strategy, competitive analysis guy for 6,007,000 people or something like that. And so when I go to conferences to help people find me and be able to hunt me down, amidst the sea of people, I would tell them, look, if you need advice, if you want to talk over coffee or a drink or strategize, come find me, I'm the Yahoo in the hat. And so it really kind of made it easier for people to, oh, there's the guy in the hat.
I can go talk to them about X, Y, and Z. They didn't have to remember my face. They could just remember I'm that, you know, that Yahoo. And so once I started doing it, people just, it kind of stuck by accident. And so then if I didn't wear a hat, the first question is always what's wrong. Where's your hat, you know, which is, which is fine. So it just kind of fell into it really. I, I do like the, the U S or the 1940s or the, the myth of, you know, hat wearing and all of that, but it just kinda fell into it. So it's originally, it was just part of a strategy to help communicate with people. And then it, it just became a thing. So who am I to not give the people what they want. I see,
But that's a great story in there, right? Mike, you know, I'm curious to now explore your storytelling approach within the context of your keynote at EIC. Last year, title identity is the new blue. Now I personally was in all of that presentation because I found it fascinating how you connect the progression of the color blue with the state of identity. As we know it today to our audience, could you perhaps break down the presentation for us as to how it came about that?
Sure. I am constantly just on the prowl, so to speak, looking for stories, looking for interesting tidbits. And once my day job became a lot more public speaking and communicating about identity and security over the years, it's just kind of a default approach where I'm wherever I'm reading newscasts or I'm listening to podcasts or having conversations with friends. Some part of the back of my brain is constantly thinking what's, what's the analogy. How does this relate to something I want to communicate, whether it's security related or persuading friends about other things, right. You know, part of my brain is constant looking for that odd connection. And so I had heard about the color blue being the color of 2020, and then somewhere on some, some podcast or something. And I don't remember the original source. Someone offhand said, yeah, blue, wasn't really a color in the ancient world.
And I was like, I had the first reaction. I think a lot of people do, which is what do you mean? It was, of course it was a color. The sky was always blue. The sea was blue. And so I went to, this is going to sound really low level and kind of nerdy. But with three children, we went to the public library in June of 2019, 2020 before everything hit. And so I checked out a bunch of books on the history of color and read way too much and found some, some reliable sources and it turns out, yeah, this is a whole thing. And so once I had the narrative, I knew also that it was going to be super visual, which is really appealing, right? The more, the more you can engage people in visuals or audio, or really anything helps quite a bit in the experience, especially if you're talking, it helps them break out of like, oh, this guy's doing his slide talk versus, oh, this guy's arguing for a concept.
And so I did a bunch of research and then my, my poor partner at home, she is a, a long form editor. And so what that means is I exploited her in mostly cause what I'll do is I will say, Hey, have you heard about this idea and talk about it over a month or two. And eventually my story gets better and better in part because she's like, no, that's not interesting. No, this is not part of a, a narrative trajectory that, that kind of a process, but eventually it, it had a, a tight, a tight enough story, but then when the pandemic hit, it was actually even easier because of the rapid transformation that we all saw take place. Absolutely blue had an easy parallel there. And so, you know, it was, it was a lot of base research. And then just the idea of sat there for a year and a half until I knew that I wanted to communicate a big idea about the rise of popularity of blue and how we wanted to make identity, not just commonplace, but popular, attractive, you know, equitable and easy to use all the things I talked about in my keynote.
And then I had that blue story and other options, but the blue, I think, fit the best that we're able to be usable in service of that big idea, if that makes sense. So it's, it's kind of a, a symbiotic process, right? There are things that, that I feel strongly about are passionate about, or people in the industry feel strongly about right. Or needs to be communicated. And then I'm constantly thinking of tangential stories that engage listeners and shake them out of just default someone holding forth, so to speak. So that's kind of a, it's got a long process of refinement over months in this case a year and a half or so I think so. Right,
Right. I'd love to explore more about your choice of analogies. You know, I personally believe that a thought-provoking presentation is one that seamlessly connects right dots in the right order. And I'm more curious to learn more about your dot collection process. You know, where it starts from, you mentioned that you visited the public library to get more research. You learn that blue, wasn't a color in the first place through a friend of yours to that initiated a spark, but let's explore two scenarios. Exhibit a would be say, you finalize a story or a message that you'd like to communicate to your audience. And then you go around exploring abstract concepts that perhaps fit into that narrative. Or is it the other way around where in you just randomly go out there to collect concepts that you find interesting and you store them in this imaginary cupboard of yours. And then you say finalize a methods that you'd like to deliver to your audience. And then you open this cupboard and then pick the right dot that fits the narrative. So which, which of the two approaches seems like a better fit
Both. And in other words, I'm constantly looking for fascinating stories that interest me that are not, not common, right. Anything that's surprising or shocking or fascinating. And then that's, so that's kind of just stored somewhere, right? So that's always kind of there, but then, you know, it's not just storytelling for storytelling sake, although that's lovely, you know, after, you know, the conference or at night, or I love, you know, people telling fastening stories about themselves or about life, but after you had that repository of stories, then I drill down when I have a talk to give, or I want to communicate something, I drill down on a what I'll call a big idea. In other words, this is a one sentence, very simple statement of what I want the audience to believe or do or walk away with. Right. So, so for example, the blue one would be identity is on the same trajectory as the color blue.
And we need to make sure that it becomes popular. That's the whole talk in one simple sentence, right? And so then everything else I do has to fit into service of that big idea. And a lot of times this feels like death. So for example, in the blue story, there's this huge competition between the color red and the color blue and it waged for years. And it's kind of fascinating and there's aspects where oh, red took over for a bit, but then doesn't really serve that big idea well enough to be included. So what a, what a lot of it is, is making sure what am I trying to communicate? What am I trying to communicate? What am I trying to communicate and refining saying, oh, here are like five stories I could use, which one of these looks the best initially, and then playing with it and molding it to make sure it matches the outline of salient points.
I want support my big idea from the identity perspective, right? So it's a little bit symbiotic, but the primary is that, that big idea that, that holds everything together. Now, there are times when I say here's the big idea. I want to communicate here on my repository of ideas. And none of them really seem to work. Then I'll go trolling for one, you know, I'm not sure what, like identity needing to be easy to use for instance. Well, now I'm going to go look for a story. That's all about that core right now that may my store of ideas don't work. But now every conversation back in my head, every thing I listened to I'm like, well, is this, does this work? Does that work? Do you know that type of thing? That takes a while though. So it's kind of both ends, there's a store, but there's also looking for things, but it all has to serve, you know, whatever I'm trying to communicate. If, if people come and they say, oh, that's a great story. I have no idea what his point was. Well then I've, I've wasted. Everybody's 15, 20 minutes, you know? So at least I think
That is true. And, and, and how do you stress test these ideas? I mean, of course you have a white wife, your wife has a long form editor, no doubt. And you're in a lucky space in that sense, but how do you know, what are your, what are your, what are you trying to create? Make sense? Because you know, it's easy venue when you are a conformance and you tend to do a better variant of what everyone else is doing. But when you're trying to create something original, there's always a risk, but more often than not that it would go about the heads of many. So how do you bring that sanity? So to say in, in this process,
Well, my friends suffer through a lot of me pitching them stories, to be honest, I'm also thinking about it. It's almost like a three-part thing, right? The big idea, whatever story you're trying to tell and who you're telling it to, because the language and the way you pitch it changes quite a bit. So in other words, what I do a lot of times is I find someone who's not in identity and not insecurity in technology. And I say, Hey, you know, let me tell you a story. And if I can explain it in terms that they understand and they can get, and they identify with, then I know I'm kind of onto something. And the more, the more I do it, the more it gets tighter and tighter. And I realized this is essential and this is not essential. And I just spent six minutes talking about the side topic that just confused the crap out of everybody, which is also common.
Cause I talk a lot as you can tell. So I actually, and in doing it, one of the things I still originally heard about it from actually Ian Glaser, who is now at Salesforce doing identity, but also in my formal, my master's degree, we had rhetoric training. And part of it is there's a, a long process for, you know, having an idea, writing an outline. But one of the things I picked up from him and it was reinforced in grad school, was writing out the story in full, because what that actually does is it forces me to and forces people to align their ideas in ways you don't when you speak orally. So if I told you a story about my childhood, it's going to come out one way. If I write it down, well now I've, I've made conscious decisions about what I've included in what I haven't included, and I can go back and edit that, which is really a powerful. Now, when I get the actual talk, I don't use those notes because otherwise it I'll start to sound like a robot repeating a text button it's helpful for, for editing and refining that process. So once I'd say I pitch it to people and tell the story over a couple of times, trying to find new people so they don't have to suffer through it. And then you should ask my back when we were in the office before COVID my cubicle mates, oh man. They just got so tired of, of particular topics, which is fine.
There was like a particular hour called Mike's anytime hour, where you'd be exposed to a bunch of wonderful stories. I mean, I'd love to be in a position where I could hear interesting stories because you know, I mean, everywhere I see is that there's a lot of sameness that is going around. And I just believe for some reason, people haven't been forced to, in a sense form their own worldview or former point of view. And they just tend to believe what is being said or what is out there rather because it's the easy thing to do. Right? And I think there has to be a forcing function for someone to basically get on that path, to explore things that are not being said before to understand the world from their own lens. And I think, you know, public speaking in one sense, you know, is a great forcing function for you to go out there and do that. But is there anything that could stimulate individuals to just go out there and improve their knowledge on a wide range of things that perhaps interest them?
It's both and right. To directly respond your question. Yeah. I mean, finding people who aren't like you listen to podcasts, you disagree with reading news sources or books that, that make you or movies, whatever else, right? The more input you get, the more you have to work with. I would also say though, that everybody has something that makes them come alive and you can see this. When you talk to people. I had a friend who was going to give a talk at a conference once and he was stuck on ideas and he knew he wanted to talk about, but didn't know how to frame it or how to make it more interesting to people. And I said, what are you doing this weekend? He said, well, I'm going kayaking. And I knew this guy went kayaking like every couple of weeks. And so once I asked a couple of questions, he lit up like a, like a fire or a light bulb.
And he went on for like 10 minutes about, he went through this gate and then he did a role and he's teaching these people how to do stuff. And the river is crazy. And I was like, this is your topic like you. And so I think a lot of people, you don't necessarily need amazing stories. I think a lot of people already have amazing stories or have amazing things that are, I don't know anything about kayaking. And so hearing them talk about it, I wanted to go kayaking. And I was like, this is amazing. And so I think people can find their personality and bring it into what they're saying and their experience that I think a lot of people are like, oh, well, no, one's interested in that. Well, actually they probably are. If you're excited about it, that comes, that definitely comes through. So I, you know, adding it's both ends, right? It's, it's diversity of inputs, but also realizing that you have something, everybody has something that they're jazzed about and leaning into that, you know, is a really way, easy way to tap into having these dynamic stories that can translate into communicating truth about identity or security or really anything you want to convince people of.
Absolutely. I think exciting things can simply be invoked if you involve. And I think many people involve in, in their passions and interests and I'm sure they have a story. He didn't deep down as this. So, so Mike, in your, in your EIC keynote, you talked about profits and popularizes profits being the ones who blaze a trail and the popularizes are the ones who eternally get, who basically get his story or a means to the masses. Could you perhaps double click on this and highlight the role of storytelling within each context?
Sure, sure. It's fascinating because people tend to be, I think, especially in our industry are more attached to, or give more a claim to profits. In other words, people who are the voice crying out in the wilderness saying this is happening. We need to go here. We need to do these five things. And you know, in, for a profit kind of character storytelling, you know, is making people make a break with what they thought before and probably in a large way, right? It's, it's stirring people up being very passionate about something, regardless of the reaction you get. And that that's also difficult, right? Because you can feel when you're telling a story or you're giving a talk or when you're telling, talking to someone about something and they're reacting or they're not reacting. And I think it's, it's an odd irony there because I think profits are highly regarded, but people tend to ignore them.
Most profits aren't listened to in their lifetime, in their, their, I would say in their time of influence, right. It's like, oh, 20 years ago someone said that and wow, she was right. You know, it's that kind of a vibe. Most of them, yeah. Don't don't have massive success. The, the popularizes are much less oddly popular a lot of times. Right. But what they do is they make, make it really easy for people to, to adopt new ways of thinking or to adopt something that's right there. They just haven't thought about using an in particular way. So it's not so much, I don't think in storytelling and popularizes, I don't think it's so much forcing people to change directions, to turn 180 degrees from where they were going or how they were thinking it. It's more of a look how, how showing them value or showing an easy path to adoption.
So I think in that sense, I would expect popularizes to, well, both of them would be thinking about their audience, right. Profits would be confronting their audiences more often or trying to shock their audiences. Maybe, whereas popularizer is right. I would argue, are trying to, to make them go, oh, I hadn't thought about that, but I, I already agree with premise a and so if that leads to premise B, then you know, oh, that, you know, yeah. It's kind of almost opening the door and welcome them into a house as opposed to walking around and hitting him with a bat or something, trying to get them to think of something as a two different vibes and different audience awareness. But yeah, both I think could, could use storytelling or those concepts for sure.
Right. Let's dive deep into the process of storytelling per se. But before that, you know, Simon Sinek always tells us to start any conversation with why. So could you perhaps let all of us know why is storytelling relevant to anyone? So why should anyone care about storytelling and what's in it for them? Yeah.
Well, if you've listened to any, if you read a book you've listened to any podcasts recently, you know, someone somewhere has said 1500 times that we're designed for story. All right. So that's kind of a, a beaten down meme at this point, but it's true. You think about how people are motivated, why movies are popular, why stories are popular. Like it, it basically gives you a way to connect with people and move them. And it gives them space to think space, to maneuver around their framework. You've built, you're saying, look, I want you to think this or go and change and, and be like this. If I'm really didactic and prescriptive, and I say, Raj, you need to subscribe to your local newspaper and support print journalism. And if you don't, you're a bad person. Well, that's great. But if I say, look, newspapers have always been informative.
They've been this rock basis of, of news dissemination and look how they changed this culture, or look how they, they advocated for justice in this environment. I'm engaging you on a totally different level, right? And you may still disagree, but there's there's room to, for you to negotiate for you to maneuver around that and say, and it's engaging on a different level, right? You're not going to listen to me if I come in and just tell you what to do. But if I, if I engage with you and tell you a story, especially if I can throw you off from what your normal assumptions are and, and, and shift the way you're thinking about it, then there's space to do that. And storytelling also, if you're specific enough in some of the story, details, people react and they adapt it to themselves. In other words, you hear a story about like Cinderella or Hannah or whatever else.
And part of these is going, I am like Hamlet in this way. I am not like Hamlet. And this way, my father is not a ghost talking to me from a tower, right? I did not. I have no temptation to put on a play to kill my stepfather or whatever it is. Right. But even in doing that, if it's specific enough with the details of some of the story you use, then people automatically say, that's not me, but if you shifted it in this way, it would be. And so there are ready adopting some of those details. Even without you saying, you need to think about how this applies to you. We, we naturally do that. We actually hear stories and we place ourselves as the main character or side characters or say, we are not that, which in which case, we're running our own story.
So it's an easy vehicle that lets people think and adapt it to themselves without having to be quite as heavy handed. And I think especially the, I would argue and not to get too philosophical, but I think that society and culture and humanity is moving from something that's more tactic to something that was a little bit more amorphous story has always been there. I think people are a little more, this next generation that's coming up and is already here is more oriented to story than, than some that have been before. We've always been oriented to story. I think there's a little bit more things are a little, there are gray areas. That story coming, you'd be used to explore rather than cut and dry. This is how things have to be. It's got a meandering answer then.
No, no, it is perfect. I mean, this podcast is all about meandering. That's where the, I mean, that's the beauty of oral communication, right? It's it's, you can actually get the insights of yeah. Different concepts in a wide range of contexts. But at the point you raised about the current generation being more open to storytelling. Is that a good thing or a bad thing in the sense that, you know, we had an episode with, with toxins earlier on, on this podcast and he mentioned that most people listen for the purpose of dismissing. So I believe that a story in some sense could help alleviate that fear because it makes things more interesting to your,
This is right in the sense that I like a lot of people I like being right, right. The down the selfish person in me is like, well, I want to critique what the other person is saying and find the holes in it and challenge it. If I disagree with it. I think story just like it gives people room to never, it gives the storyteller themselves room to maneuver as well. Right? I think that stories provide a way to shift your perspective that may not exist. Otherwise. In other words, if I told if I told you a story, you know, the one I used from the identity is blue thing where, you know, a little girl on red takes a pot of white butter to her grandmothers when dress like her grandmother dressed in black. Right. You can hear that story and be sympathetic to the Wolf, be anti Wolf, be a free.
I mean, there's, there are a lot of different angles depending on who you are and what time in your life. You're at that? When I was a kid, I was, I was definitely the little girl in bread because I was a kid, right. As I get older, I find myself identifying with the other characters in the story. Now that may not, that may not be a change in how I think about it completely, but it definitely lets me shift. You know what I think about it and what I think the story is about, right. I, I retell a weekly, I retell stories orally with a group. And in retelling them, I've told somebody the same stories over and over and over and over again. And what's really fascinating is I have told somebody a story is like five or six times around a fire or at work or whatever else. And each time I tell it, I know it. Right. I know it. I memorize it cause a genetically good memory. But every time I tell it, I learned from other people who bring these new perspectives or even just me telling it, I hear something different because I'm different. The story is the same, but the environment's different. The people are different. I'm different. And so every time things shift a little bit. And so it's, it's fascinating how meaning and purpose can evolve over the years as a result.
Right. That's a great answer. More so on the frameworks per se, how do you craft a compelling narrative? Do you perhaps have a framework for us in terms of how you go about creating your story? Okay.
Hmm. Good question. Kurt Vonnegut diagrams, the plots of narratives. If you haven't seen it, go on YouTube. Watch there's a five, 10 minute clip. It's there's like three or four different versions of it. They're really fascinating. There are not that many different narrative arcs for stories you may have heard of the hero's journey or these kinds of things. There's two or three of them. One is like, man falls in a person, falls in a well where it starts out happy. It gets really sad and then gets happy back at the end. Just like that. There's also a common narrative arcs that you can use in speaking right now, the simplest ones are really straightforward and you can recognize these when you watch movies or hear people talk easiest. One I can think of is problem solution application, right? You heard speakers say, look, here's this disastrous thing, like say space junk.
And the early earth orbit is full of it. And we're all gonna just suffer as a result. Okay. Well then what's the solution. Well, here's how we should solve that. And then application would be okay, and here's your part to play, right? So you can do that structure. And once you have that structure, whether it's good, bad, good, or, or whatever the narrative arc is, then you can make that story fit. Right? That's part of that, looking for what the story is fitting. The big idea that I have, you know, problem solution application is probably the most straightforward, but it doesn't always have to be, have to be like that. Right? Like the ones that I've done most recently have just been this like climb the popularity. I did a talk on stings. Every breath you take, which, you know, started out with a demo tape and then wound up being the most played song of all time. Blues started out from just not existing to being the most popular color of 2020. But I would say also what'd you want to look forward to, or what I look for is a steady narrative and then a slight twist.
So for example, the blue thing, it was, you know, it didn't exist, then it became popular in the middle ages and then it became commonplace. But along the way, one of the things I said that I love to say was that if you say blue is your favorite color, you have said nothing. You've basically said, I'm normal. You revealed nothing about yourself. So those kinds of fascinating turns or twists are helpful. Like in the blue talk, I wound up not even talking about blue. I ended up talking about a product made with blue, which was blue jeans being super common and attributes about that with the sting and the police, every breath you take, I talked about, you know, demo tape and constructing the song and playing with norms, but then them performing that live to make it really a popular. And I played clips from that.
And so what that meant was that change was inevitable. And so whatever system you're using in this case was machine learning. It would have to be able to deal with change. And so what's nice is to have this narrative where people think they know where you're going and then a slight twist, not that you're undermining what you've already said, but that, cause you know, if you're giving a 20, 25 minute talk about 15 minutes in, well, the most important parts are the first minute, the last minute. And then there's a dead spot, somewhere, two thirds in that if you, if you could start to lose people. And so it's helpful to have, it's not necessary, but that's in back of my head. But as a general rule side note, if you now the first minute, minute and a half and keep people at the beginning and close really strong, they're going to think he had a great talk. Even if you like fell off the stage at minute 15, really? Cause that's what they're going to remember. So anyway,
That's such an interesting narrative to explore Mike, you know, this reminds me of the time when I was looking to build a narrative around frontier talk and I take great pride in the fact that it is the only podcast on the topic going around. So I banked on the uniqueness factor, but given the negative ox that you just mentioned, I'm really hooked by the David and Goliath arc, but with a twist. So I think it would be an interesting thought experiment to say, build a narrative around frontier talk right away with this arc. So if I were to take a shot, it would go something along the lines of once upon a time, there was a little podcast called frontier talk that explored this unique concept called de-centralized identity. It was going all right up until this gentleman by the name of Mike Kaiser happened to show up on the pod. And all of a sudden out of nowhere, the episode got so wired because of the value that it brought to audiences that it beat all the other podcasts out there. So in turn through one incident, this little David eventually went on to become a Goliath. How does that work? Is that all right?
Yeah. I mean, it just depends on what, I guess the part there though is what, you know, what are you trying to make me take away that frontier is great, right? So you're gonna have a story, but, but yeah, I would say start with, well a lose me cause that's, that's not a great idea to use me as the base of the story, but figure out what that big idea is. Your big idea is probably, you know, frontier is an amazing innovative podcast or, or grew in its short life. It became an amazing thing. And so then if that's the case, find something that similarly has that, that quick trajectory or a movie or a TV show that's really popular, but you know, any of the Disney products, for instance, the star wars stuff is fairly popular. Yeah. Just but yeah. Their ideas there, but I'm not so sure that this episode is really gonna set the world on
And no, it's, it's all about being optimistic in life. And no matter what frontier talk will always be the number one podcast in my eyes, we always number one, but it's not about, it's not about yeah. At times coming into reality and just actually trying to build a compelling narrative. But that was it. That was a great thought experiment. Coming back to storytelling. What, in your opinion are the traits required to be a good storyteller? And how do you build on these skills?
Knowing stories, being excited about the story you're telling, being able to adapt your language to wherever you are, right? Knowing who you're talking to and finding the back references to make that's in their background or in their, in their experience. So shifting it to, to, to match your audience, audiences needs. I think that if you're a really good storyteller, you do things there's there's content. And then there's delivery content, you know, is that editing and pre-work and pairing down to the bare bones of what the narrative is and making sure you hit those really hard. And then delivery is a, is a separate issue, right? Are you on stage someplace talking 2000 people? It's going to be a different vibe than if you're having drinks with three people. Right? And so your language shifts, your cadence switches. I have a friend who I've heard talk a bunch and I love this guy because he uses pauses incredibly well.
And he does, he does stuff like that, where you're like, this is amazing because the pauses, I, if I were doing it, I would feel like it was like four minutes. I wasn't saying anything, but she uses it the dead space so well, and it gives people space to think and space to process that. I mean, I just love hearing him talk because he's just so relaxed about it. So I think it's one of the day it's matching your own style as well. Are, is your personality to be professorial, lean into that is, is your personality to be informal and make attempts at humor. That's great too. You know, it just depends on, on what your personal personality is like and matching that maybe.
Right. And I'm curious to know what makes a good pause in the sense that are you better off taking a pause earlier on in your presentation because that's when perhaps of the audiences is most attentive or does it take place in the middle? Is there like a strategic position where you take a pause?
I would say it's a lot like this going to sound really overwrought. It's a lot like a TV show or a film. That's the easiest way. If, if you are giving a large, if you're, if you're giving a talk or telling a story that needs to be polished to a high degree, or, you know, you spend a lot of effort on it, then I would suggest thinking about it like a script where, where is the high point of your talk? Where is the low point where basically you're, you're diagramming out the emotion of a scene, do the same thing with your talk and you can actually block out things with how you tell stories, especially if you know, you have a space to work with. So for example, you can, the pausing, it's going to be after important things after things you want people to think about in between points or in-between sections, really, anytime you want to just let something sit right.
And you can do that with blocking as well to make it super powerful. In other words, if something is in the past little things, it needs to be to your rep in most left to right societies and needs to be to your right. So it starts over here and ends over here. And along with that pausing, what you can do is you can land someplace on stage, you're walking or you're, you're moving, and then you stop. And then you say what you want them to hear. And then you just pause for a bit. So there, there are techniques there that, that blend in, but I think the core of it is mapping out that story and figuring out where you need to yell or have emotion or, or to, to vary your speech. Because if I talk like this the entire time, which I have a tendency to do sometimes, and no one's going to listen to me because I'm just, I'm just droning at that point. Right. But if I say, Raj, you need to listen to these five things. And then I talk quietly, you know, and that can get really old too. So, you know, you have to balance it out, right? No one wants to listen to someone, yell at them for 15 minutes. So,
So this is something you can stress test in, in regular conversations. And then that eventually plays out in a public setting when you are say to give a speech or in a forum for that matter. I mean, that's, that's, that's really cool advice. I mean, I haven't met my takeaway from this is to perhaps use pauses in the absence of provocative statements because provocative statements get that response from the audience. But if you are speaking something that is known to everyone and everyone is okay with what's going on, but then you can add some drama by just taking a 10 to 15 second pause. Right,
Right, right. Perfect. And it'll feel weird, but you know, and get feedback from people. You know, if they, if they say, we thought you were looking for a knife to attack the crowd, well, maybe don't do it. Like, you know, what the reaction is, you know?
And, and, and, and how important is his cultural context when it comes to reading a room? What should you be aware of? Yeah. When you're trying out or experimenting such stuff in multiple contexts. Yeah.
On the ID pro slack forums. We've been having discussions about this, actually some Victoria and I, and some of the people I'm talking about where you should always have your audience in mind. Right. Right. And like, when you're in different places, if you can, you should switch like measurement systems. That's an easy one. Right? Like, so if I'm in talking in Europe, I'll, I'll switch to the metric where I possibly can, which took some years of training, but also cultural things. Right. If I'm in, if I'm in Spain, I'm not going to talk about American baseball. I'm just not, unless it's to mock it or do something else that is self-referential to myself. Right. I mean, it's my personal story that happens to involve baseball, but I'm not going to say, you know, did you see the game last night because no one has, you have to be really careful.
I think about bringing things up because a lot of times you don't know what the connection or what the affiliation is. So, you know, in general, I try and stick to things that I know are popular or well thought of, or will not cause a reaction. Right. In fact, I do. I tell the story about Naval warfare and how it changed at the battle of Trafalgar with Admiral Nelson back in my head, I'm always thinking about, okay, what does it sound like if your British, was it sound like if you're French or Spanish, is there an issue there because it was those two fleets against each other, right. In general, I don't think anyone's really upset about Naval warfare from 1805, but at the same time, it's, it's helpful to think about right. And even just vocabulary and language, I will change depending on, on who I'm talking to and what I think they, what they will respond to.
Because my goal is not, my goal is to get out of the way for them to hear and buy into the big idea. And so everything serves that if my language is too high or too low, if my stories distract from what I'm trying to say about the story, right. War stories, background history of different countries can be touchy on that. Right. Or even political philosophy. Right. If I'm someplace in, in particular states, the United States, I'm going to switch my stories out and use something that I think is much more local. So it just, it just depends. I think you can be over sensitive with fat, but in general, I think it's something you definitely need to consider. Like I said, you're trying to get out of the way. You're trying to not even be a thing. Right. I would rather have them be taken with the idea and the story and buy into the idea, then think, oh, Mike told that story. He's American, he's from Texas. Therefore he thinks why would he use that story? Or, or, or even Mike is a great speaker. I don't want them thinking that. I want them thinking about the story and thinking about the idea I want to get out of the way as much as possible so that what they're interacting with is the idea, not me personally, in my potential prejudice or background or anything else. So right. Meandering way to answer that question. But,
Well, that was, that was perfect. I mean, definitely serves some food for thought, but beyond say our public setting, you know, a story is almost always built for an audience, paid your boss or your coworkers or a prospective investor in your startup. So in these private contexts, how do you assess the needs in this case to align your narrative?
Well, I think that's actually really, really similar, to be honest, if the production values are much lower, right? You're not having to create video or think of visuals per se. And you're not probably writing it out in full or anything like that, depending on who you're talking to, but you can still mine, whatever set of stories you have to, to use in those situations, your language drops to being really informal, much more conversational, right? Because you sound like a moron and you're like, yes, thank you for coming today. And let me tell you, they're like, just get on with it, right? So at the same time, the more you hear, the more you learn, the, the more you think about how stories work, the bigger repository you have. And so I think what you'll find is, is you'll you'll know if your stories are landing, especially if you have background with these internal audiences, that helps quite a bit because now, you know, oh, you know, Meredith is really into knitting.
And so you can think about what their proclivities are, what they like to do, what they're into and weave that into your stories as well. I wouldn't say, Hey, you liked knitting. Let me tell you a story about knitting, not like that, but you know, you, you can build on past experience with them also, right? And so you're doing the same thing. You're just doing it on a micro level. Eventually this can work out really well or it can backfire if you're too formal about it, people are like, oh, it has to do with always with the story and they can kind of shut off. Right? So you have to be relaxed about it. And it has to feel natural. And which, if you're working on making it feel natural, it's already probably a bad sign, but right now
Got no doubts. And do you have any tips to, to perhaps dial up the curiosity of your audience? We spoke about the pause and coming up with, say provocative statements, any other ways to pronounce, dial up curiosity.
I like to make people react. Just that's my personality. And so I'm always looking for the surprising angle or the, the story no one has heard about before. Okay. But yet it's common, right? So for example, blue, you know, blue didn't exist. Well, everyone's going to react to that on some level at the very least say, what are you talking about? If they say you're an idiot, I'm on board with that too. Right? I don't, I don't really care as long as I've captured them, as long as I've forced them to listen for five more minutes, that's, that's my goal. Right? It doesn't always have to be dramatic like that. If you're talking to a smaller group, personal stories work a lot more powerfully than it would be talking to a thousand people talking to a thousand people, no one's going to care. Or they probably shouldn't care about what you had for lunch last week or whatever, small story you're telling, unless it's momentous, but for a smaller audience, personal stories, I felt this way.
And that can, that can draw people in as well, depending on who they are, because then they know you more. And you're building that connection. I'm always about telling stories to communicate and convince people of ideas, but also the draw on sharing experience of building community and building rapport with people. So people, if they're not naturally curious, it's going to be a lot more difficult, right? If you know what your audience believes, then you can, or is heavily bought into, you can either reinforce that or, you know, contradicted gently to, to make them pay attention. I had a, I had a professor once in my theology program that would just say provocative statements all the time, which works sometimes other times it gets really old, you know, like, okay, all right.
And I'm curious about life in general and to our audience, trust me all of the concepts that we're going to talk about from this point on tie in beautifully with the concept of storytelling. So this is interesting. I recently came across a concept called reality privilege from Marc Andreessen, which states that for the vast majority of humanity, their online world is immeasurably richer and more fulfilling than most of the physical and social environment around them. So my question to you is how can one work towards a stimulating life that is air rich, not monetarily, but more, more or less rich in terms of yeah. Being substantial enough and also filled with fascinating people to talk with exchange ideas and perhaps date.
That is a, wow. This took a turn. Well, just say, I like that. I,
Those are some, you're looking for the twists. You're looking for, you're looking for the twist and the front of your top podcast. Welcome. I was waiting for this.
Well, you're asking how to have an exciting life. Is that kind of the,
The more or less so, I mean, it's, it's more about how do you move away from the default? That's what I said, work towards you get my point. It's like, how do you work towards that? Sort of,
That's a huge question. I would say food for thought, if I had to answer it, I think it's constantly getting out of whatever comfort zone you find yourself in. So, okay. You you're, you're in some situation that, you know, and you're used to
Going someplace where you are disempowered, where you are learning and forced to learn, broadens you up, I would say so what I find myself repeatedly doing actually is finding the next subculture that I'm not a part of and learning about it now I'm the, I'm the youngest child in my family. And so I'm used to just not knowing stuff. So on one level, that's kind of natural, but I think, I think that kind of displacement that forces you to grow and learn cultivates the attitude of, of wanting to learn and develop and experience things you haven't done before. It could be online also to be honest, you know, I think it's think come back at me here, Raj, it could be online. I usually, I think it's probably richer if it's not now, depending on who you are, where you are, you may not have a choice. Right? It's fascinating. Cause I saw a report recently that people are starting to live, especially in the states live in areas that are politically affiliated with what you already believe, which on one hand to make some kind of sense on the other hand is a recipe for non-growth right. Disaster. And non-growth on a personal level. If I'm not surrounded by forcing
Your beliefs. Right,
Right. I'm not saying you have to abandon whatever you're convicted of or believe in, but if you're not interacting with people who believe differently than you, you're not, you're not changing as a person. You're not growing as a person, even if it's marshaling and understanding your own philosophy or point of view in order to communicate it more appropriately. So yeah. So I mean, I think that applies across everything across, you know, what you do, who you hang out with, who you potentially date or what friends you keep. Right. That's hard to do though. That's hard to do. And a lot of times it can be exhausting. I'm in, I'm in multiple friend groups that where I am the outlier and I didn't do it on purpose, it just happened. And so partly it's my personality just to argue against whatever the group is deciding. So that's an a probably not, that's not healthy, but that's a different podcast, but, but yeah. Expanding yourself out and stretching you. So that's a lot of that's travel. It could be displacement in terms of where you live. It could be a lot of different things, you know, so, right. I don't know if that, I mean, fundamentally makes you a more, you know, it gives you more stimulating life, but it seems like it would
Speaking about living a simulating life. I personally believe that one of the prerequisites for doing so is to be interesting. So Mike, how does one become an interesting person?
Wow. That's, that's a, that is a big question. I don't know is the ultimate answer. Okay. Other than just be interested in things, right. I mean, full stop, right? Be curious, be open to new experiences and be interested in other people. People have stories to tell people, have experiences and learning from them is, is such an opportunity I think. And so drawing people out. I love, like I said before, I love doing that. Like talking to someone for five, 10 minutes and trying to figure out where their heart is, where what makes them light up. I just
Perfect. Awesome. Mike, thank you for sharing your insights. Right? It's now time for my favorite part of the podcast. It's the frontier fire round, but I put my guests on the spot by asking them a series of rapid fire questions. So Mike, are you ready for the challenge?
Sure. I hope maybe.
Why not now? You'll do well. No worries. Let's get started. So the first question is if you could only teach two words to everyone, what would they be?
Two words. I shouldn't think about this too much. Should I was rapid fire more please?
Right. Okay.
That's beautiful. I don't
Even know what that means. That's perfect. I mean, you could, you could use it in so many contexts, but anyways, what never fails to make you laugh,
But never fails to make me laugh most, anything, to be honest, I think there's humor in everything. And so, I mean, because that may be funerals, but even then, I mean, there's something there, but yeah, I would say if I can find humor in anything just about perfect.
If you could have one subject to learn for, for the rest of your life, what subject would that be?
History
And why is that just a double dial on it?
I think it's just full of stories. Right? I get to learn about everything. Any subject is fair game in that. Whereas if I take, you know, like physics, you know, I'm probably more word oriented than math oriented at this point. So unless I'm trying to escape a planet or something, that's a different story.
Yeah. We've got Elon Musk for that. So it's all good. I think, I think we can focus the words for now. It's all good. What's your mantra in life, Mike?
Wow. I don't think I have one really. John Chan make one on mine.
Nothing. Go get it in patients with action patients with results.
Yeah, I don't. Okay. No, I don't have a mantra. And like it feels, yeah. I don't know. I, I don't, I don't think I have one actually.
Sorry. Let's make, let's make one for you will be interesting. I guess
I'd be interested or be interested. Maybe it sounds like
Apple. I would say I would say interesting lives. It, it, it, I mean, you can't be interesting if you're not interested, right? So I think that that links in beautifully, but anyways, there's this philosophy as it, at this point in time. And finally, Mike, what's your advice to anyone listening to this podcast?
Listen more. Now anyone listen to his podcast, just listen to the stories they're all around you and, and tell your own story, find it and tell it
On that note, Mike, it was an absolute delight to have you on the podcast today. Some of the points you raised around storytelling will go a long way in helping our audience build a compelling narrative to gain more traction for their offering. I thank you for your time and wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors going forward. Thank you so much.
Thanks for having me Raj.
That was my Kaiser. Mike, we'll be delivering a keynote at the European identity and cloud conference EIC. And that is something that you definitely should not miss. I personally am looking forward to this keynote and I think you should to get your tickets. Why the link in the description box below? I hope you enjoyed this conversation that explored pretty much every facet of storytelling. And I hope it's given you the toolkit to go out there and build a story to help you achieve your desired outcome. If this podcast is a value to you, please go and hit that like button and share this with anyone who might find this information useful. Now, as always, feedback is a gift that keeps on giving. So we'd love to hear what you think about our episode, and if you have your very own frameworks that you'd like to share, please share them in the comment section down below until next time. This is me, Raj Hegde, and I hope to see you all again on this stimulating journey to really find the I in identity, stay safe.

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