5 Tips to be an Amazing Storyteller from the Filipino Coach Who’s Trained Sheryl Sandberg and Jessica Alba

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On April 15, 2016
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By Jason Domantay

During his one-on-one interview with Stack, lawyer turned communications coach Michael Balaoing asked who would come first to mind when tasked to name a great Filipino speaker.

“On anything – whether it’s technology, politics,” Michael clarified. “You would draw a blank.”

Therein lies the opportunity for Filipinos who want to learn the power of storytelling to make an impact, much like Balaoing-trained leaders like Sheryl Sandberg or Jessica Alba.

In describing his work, Michael goes beyond what a typical communications coach does. According to him, what he does is much broader. “It’s all about finding your inner, authentic voice,” Michael said.  He works on both the content and the delivery, including everything from helping craft the speech to interacting with the media.

Michael’s advice to Filipino entrepreneurs thus encompasses all aspects of transforming oneself into a great storyteller.

Develop your most frequently told stories.

Michael said that the common frequently asked questions to entrepreneurs come down to past (i.e. How did you come up with your idea?), present (i.e. What are you doing now?), and future (i.e. What’s next?)

For every frequently asked question, you want to have a frequently told story.” – Michael Balaoing

Using himself as an example, Michael said that the number one question he gets asked is how he got from being a public interest and human rights lawyer to being in the communications field, including even from his mother, he joked.  He added that these frequently asked questions should be told concisely in as little as two to three minutes.

“If I was your attorney, god forbid, and I was representing you, I would be paid to tell your story. Now, I don’t have to tell your story – I can help you tell your own. And even better, I can help you help others tell their story,” Michael said, invoking his own frequently told story.

Evaluate your frequently told story in terms of WTF.

Michael said that he most often uses the business model of TOM’s Shoes—for every pair that you buy, a pair is donated to a child who needs them—as an example of a great frequently told story.

According to Michael, it’s an exemplary frequently told story because it’s easily and eagerly told by employees and customers. He says that they do this because it serves to affirm who they areit passes the WTF test, or “what’s the feeling.”

In the case of Tom’s Shoes, Michael broke the feeling that it conveys in detail.

“The story is ‘I buy a pair, I give a pair.’ How does that make me feel? I’m a selfish jerk? No. I am a caring, generous person. It makes me feel good,” Michael said.

Create a playlist of your most frequently told stories.

“Our music is organized into playlists. The same thing with our stories – every entrepreneur needs a playlist of stories that’s organized by genre, by audience,” Michael said.

For example, entrepreneurs should have frequently told stories for investors, for customers, for employees. While playlists can of course vary, Michael said that there are three most frequently told stories that every entrepreneur needs on theirs.

The founder’s storywhich tech and business publications will always ask forboils down to how and why you created this company. “Let’s make sure that’s memorable and retellable,” he said.

The second story involves how your product or service works. “That is a story of impact. It’s saying, ‘This will make your life better.’ That’s not a set of features on a brochure or website. It’s a story of how you improve someone’s life,” Michael said.

The third story that all entrepreneurs must have in their playbook and what Balaoing said is the most important is the one that pertains to the future. “That is your chance to share the best case scenario – in five to ten years, this is what changes and improves because of our company or product,” he adds.

Practice by taking a video of yourself.

Not everyone will have the benefit of a communications expert like Michael to help them develop their most frequently told stories, of course, and in these cases, he recommends that people to turn to their own pockets for help. Using their smartphones, they should record themselves on video.

“If you practice in front of a mirror, is that natural? Are you usually seeing yourself when you talk? Practicing in front of a mirror is okay if you do nothing else, but it’s not the most effective way. You want to practice in a real life scenario, where you’re simulating the setting and the audience and you want to record it,” Michael  said.

He explained that recording will help you pinpoint what you did well and where you stand to improve. You have a resource that can tell you when and what to tweak. You can garner feedback from your own evaluation as well as from people in your network you trust to give you objective feedback rather than just false praise.

Prepare yourself for the killer questions.

Most entrepreneurs will be prepared to answer frequently asked questionsand if you follow Michael’s advice, you will be able to do so in the form of frequently told stories. Yet Michael said that entrepreneurs should also prepare for what he calls the killer questions.

“These are the questions that other people who hate you will ask to embarrass you,” Michael  said. “Are you prepared for both?”

Some killer questions cannot be anticipated. In these cases, Michael  said that you should do more than just dodge the question with an “I don’t know” or an “I can’t answer that,” but you should use these as an opportunity to pivot into what you do know and reinforce your message.


Jason Domantay is currently the Video Content Supervisor of Voyager Innovations Inc. – the digital arm of Smart and PLDT Inc. He was the host and reporter of Yahoo! Southeast Asia shows like Only On OMG!, OMG! Awards and Yahoo! News. Before this, he used to be a TV director, executive producer and broadcast journalist from 2004 – 2010 in ABS-CBN.

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