The Power of Storytelling with Andrea Sampson

Once upon a time… Ever wanted to speak in public as if you were on a TED Talk? Andrea Sampson is former strategist and consultant having spent over 25 years working in marketing and advertising, presenting and developing strategies for fortune 100 companies. Andrea is now a TED speaker coach and the founder and CEO of Talk Boutique. In this show you can learn about:

Music: ” Upbeat Party ” by Scott Holmes courtesy of the Free Music Archive FMA

Transcript:Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: In today’s news we explore why storytelling is so important in business. Humans always told stories and they’re a vital part of our daily communication, but stories have meaning beyond entertainment value. In fact, storytelling is a strong business skill and when it implemented effectively, it can really boost business in a number of ways, such as improving customer loyalty, creating strong marketing strategy and increasing profit as well. Storytelling conveys purpose and businesses with purpose are noticed and win loads of customers more readily. So, it’s not enough to just have a product or a service that can solve a problem, your company needs to stand out. The most successful companies have deep and thoughtful stories behind them that stir a sense of a larger purpose and meaning to what they do such as Google or Apple, who had not just businesses. Their brands made by visionaries who wanted and want to transform the world.

If your business has a vision, the audiences can really believe in and buy into them more likely to be successful. People want to buy into companies that they believe care, empathetic companies. And that was highlighted in a global empathy index where businesses near the top of the list were among the most profitable and fastest growing businesses in the world. The top 10 companies also generated 50% more income and increased in value more than twice of the other companies in the bottom 10. And it was shown that storytelling was at the heart of this. And storytelling shows your company can be empathetic and is more likely to lead to your company’s success. So, experts say, just watch Steve jobs on YouTube when he introduced the iPhone and told the story about why they were doing what they were doing back in 2007. Stories, emotionally connect people and create loyalty and the best stories of evoke emotional reactions, and people generally relate and connect with those stories that they believe in and believe in the company and what it stands for.

When people listen to a story, they feel what the protagonist of the story is feeling. So good way of using a story to connect with the audiences, to tell the story about the journey you’ve been on or the mistakes you and your company have made, or a failure that wasn’t going well for you. So, people can understand the reality of the journey and people will relate to this as we’ve all experienced mistakes and failures, and the more the audience relates to you and understand what went into creating your brand and your organization. The more likely they’ll listen to you. And remember humans typically make emotional, not rational decisions. So being able to evoke an emotional reaction through a story is a powerful tool. So, transfer your vision into a captivating story and clearly communicating it, using a sincere and open approach and remember stories, give audience purpose and a motive to take action.

An example of this was when Wharton Business School found that when participants in an experiment were asked to collect donations in a call center, those who told the donors how the money would improve the lives of others earned, were able to collect more than double than the other group who were merely just collecting cash. The sense of purpose led to the first group earning so much more because of the stories that were able to tell that invoked that response. So, in conclusion today it’s difficult to find a successful brand that doesn’t have a good story. Stories provide meaning, they create context, they evoke a sense of purpose. Most humans are more receptive to stories than compared to facts and data. So, stories help us to relate, empathize and to remember, and this is why businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of storytelling and the leadership lesson here is, as leaders the more stories we can tell to create an emotional connection with our teams, the more likely we’re going to get buy-in to the journey we’re taking them on. That’s been leadership, if you have any insights, information, or ideas, please get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Joining me on the show today is former strategist and consultant Andrea Sampson. She spent over 25 years working in marketing and advertising, presenting and developing strategies for fortune 100 companies. Andrea is now the founder and CEO of Talk Boutique. Welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast Andrea.

Andrea Sampson: Thank you, Steve. Wonderful to be here. 

Steve Rush: I’m really looking forward to getting into the story about how Talk Boutique came about and the work that you do now with TED speakers. But before we get there, perhaps you can give our guests a little bit of a summary of your backstory? 

Andrea Sampson: Sure, so as you said, you know, I spent almost 25 years working in marketing and advertising, and most of it was working on the agency side. I worked for some of the largest agency networks in the world, and I worked on some of the largest brands in the world. My role within the agency world was a planner, and what that means is I was basically a strategist. So, I worked on understanding the basics of why humans make the decisions they do. We would do a lot of research, a lot of understanding at the human behavioral level. And then we would come up with, me and my team would come up with the underpinnings of many of the advertising campaigns that you see in market which would go of course, to the creative teams who would do the actual advertising, but we would do the strategy underneath it.

Steve Rush: Oh, interesting. So, where there a number of key behaviors or you could identify that caused people to make decisions? 

Andrea Sampson: Well, you know, I mean, the reality is, is that we buy, we make decisions based on emotions rather than needs. And I think, you know, this is not news to anyone. But we forget it all the time. We think that when we tell people the features of a product or the features of a solution that people will say, well, yes, I need that, absolutely. And people do listen to those, but the reality is we buy what we want. It’s a want versus a need always, which means that you need to appeal to the heart before you appealed to the brain. And that was, you know, 100% of the time that is true. So how can we get into the hearts of consumers in such a way that we help them to make the decision that is right for them, but was also in line with what we wanted them to do.

So, it was always that sort of dance, I guess, a little bit, but what I found, you know, what was so interesting for me was that, you know, with spending all of the time in advertising and I got to a point, you know, after about 25 years where I started to realize that some of the early goals that I had as I came into the world of communications and advertising, I wasn’t going to be able to hit. And those goals were really personal and deeply held. And I’m not sure that even coming into that world, I fully understood them because they were really based on making a difference in the world because ultimately Steve, I’m an idealist and, you know, I wanted to change the world and I saw this medium of advertising with its mass reach and thought, wow, now there’s a way that if I can influence at a very core level, I can help do good in the world.

And I tried and I really tried. And the reality is, is that while there are many brands out there who do good in the world, they’re few and far between, and at the end of the day, I really wanted to do good at a very core level, not trying to get consumers to do something else. And so, I knew that, you know, as the idealist in a capitalist world, I had to start thinking a little differently about my future. And at this point I was, you know, approaching my 50th birthday and I started thinking, you know, well, I’ve got hopefully another 30, 40 years on the planet. What am I going to do with that time? And how can I start to address this, underlying need, goal that I had. And I had the very good fortune to be volun hired.

And what I mean by that is, I volunteered, but I had to go through a hiring process to work with the team at TEDxToronto. And I was hired as a speakers coach. I didn’t know what a speakers coach was to be quite honest, never heard of it, but I was presenting three to five times a day and, you know, in my regular day, because that’s what I did all day, every day I present it. And so, I thought, well, with a little bit of training, I’m sure I can do this. Well, that first year that I worked with TEDxToronto, I worked with you know, a geneticist who was working on the worldwide human genome project. I worked with an architect who was connecting the internet of things to our daily tasks, to our walls, to our alarm clocks, to our windows. I worked with a food specialist who was looking at the way in which we were going to move forward with our food. And I worked with one of the foremost experts in the world on body language, I was hooked. 

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Andrea Sampson: And what I saw was, I came to them thinking, okay, well, I can teach them, you know, probably how to present. But what I learned pretty quickly about myself was all this training I’d been doing for 25 years in advertising as a strategist where I was getting to that core consumer insight. The reason why we do the things we do was the absolute perfect training to take a TED speaker and be able to shape their idea because ultimately an idea at its core is an insight. And so, what I did in that first year was I became aware of this skill I didn’t even know I had, which was taking insights and building stories around them.

Steve Rush: It’s kind of ironic because that’s exactly what great marketing is, isn’t it? It’s about building those stories, creating the emotional connection with the audience so that they listen and pay attention to the advertisement you are creating, which I suspect is the parallel right to a TED speaker?

Andrea Sampson: Well, that’s exactly it. And I think when we’re doing it as an advertisement, you know, we’re not as uniquely aware of what we’re actually doing because it’s contextual, right? Like in advertising, you’re doing it because you’ve got a product, a brand that you’re putting out there with the consumer. So, you’re putting the brand at the center, you’re getting an idea that you can sort of, you know, build that, you know, take the brand idea and put it out there in the world. But we don’t really think of it in the same way we think of a TED Talk, which you know, is often termed education. Sorry, how do they term it? Oh God, I can never think of it, it’s the combination of entertainment and education. So however, you put those two edutainments, that’s what it is. 

Steve Rush: Edutainment? That’s cool, yeah.

Andrea Sampson: Edutainment, so we never really think of an ad as we would think of a TED Talk because a TED Talk doesn’t actually want us to change our buying behavior or the things we’re doing. It’s often inspiring us to look at the world differently. So, it’s just contextual, like it was really making the leap that said, well, everything I’ve been doing in advertising is exactly what it was to create a good TED Talk. But now instead of trying to sell a brand, what we’re doing is we’re selling an idea and that idea has the ability to impact the world. 

Steve Rush: And do you notice any parallels in reverse where marketeers and now using the same principles of storytelling in their advertisements and their campaigns?

Andrea Sampson: Well, you know, here’s the thing. As I’ve become, you know, really an expert in this world of not only storytelling, but building talks that create impact and create change. I now look at all the work that I did in advertising and wish I had known then what I know now, and I’m seeing that many marketers are beginning to embrace the idea of very purposeful storytelling. You know, storytelling in the ad world was always a means to an end, but we didn’t really pay as close attention to how to build out that story. Now, there are so many different story arcs out there. When you’ve only got 15 or 30 seconds to do an ad, which is, you know, your typical ad length. 

Steve Rush: Right.

Andrea Sampson: It’s hard to use one of these very long story arcs. I mean, most of the story arc is actually, you know, are meant for screenplays or books. Whereas, you know, in a 30 second ad, you just don’t have time to build that arc, but you would. And you know, what we would often do is take pieces of it. But what I’ve learned in doing TED Talks and now working with very seasoned professional presenters is that it’s really about building a story in five steps. And we developed, so my company Talk Boutique has developed a process that we call the story spine, which really allows for a speaker to take about, you know, anywhere from 30 seconds to three to four minutes at the beginning of their talk and set up the premise of a story that will hold the idea.

Steve Rush: Really interesting. 

Andrea Sampson: Yeah, the spine is so important because what it does is it forces us as humans first of all, to think about the things that create good storytelling, because it starts off with what we call the environment. So, if you think of an environment, the environment is your sense of place. Now, most of us, when we’re at a cocktail party or meeting up with a friend and we started telling a story, what do we do? We rushed through the environment, first of all, and we rush right into the purpose of the story. But if you take a moment and you step back and you say, okay, let me just set this up for you. So, I was walking in the woods the other day. Now it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, you know, it was warm, but not hot. You could feel that the day was going to get really hot. But we weren’t there yet. And the moisture in the air was activating the pine needles. So, I could smell as I was walking, that musky scent of pine, and it was just a beautiful morning and it was peaceful. Now you’re all on that walk with me, aren’t you? 

Steve Rush: Totally, I’m right there. 

Andrea Sampson: Right, now when you do that, what’s happening is everybody is leaning in, but what’s really happening is their brain has just gone to the place when they were last in the woods or a meaningful moment when they were in the words. That smell, the sounds of the birds, that the feeling of this sun dappled through the trees, everybody. Now, if I were to stop the story right there and ask a question around how everybody felt, the likelihood is, I’ve got everybody at the same place in that moment, which is in a peaceful place, in a memory that is enjoyable. And from there, it’s almost like I’m a mind reader now, because now I’m controlling how they are feeling and what they’re thinking. 

Steve Rush: Very powerful, isn’t it? 

Andrea Sampson: It’s incredibly powerful. That’s the power of environment. So, once we have the environment, the next thing that we want to do is say, who’s there with you? Who are the characters? Now, you know, characters, aren’t just me and my friend. You can do that, but the thing is, you’ve robbed the audience of getting to know who you are and who your friend is. So, what you want is just a little bit of a backstory. So, there’s me, you know, this was about five years ago. So, I was in a, you know, maybe an emotional place. This was just at the breakup of my marriage; I’m making this up. And my friend who was a dear friend who was supporting me through this very emotional time, her name was Shawna and Shawna was a lovely human. She’s still a dear friend of mine, but she’s one of those people whose incredibly compassionate and helps people through really difficult times. So here we were on this early morning walk, going through the woods and, you know, we can hear the birds chirping, and I’m at that point in the separation where we are, you know, separating stuff. And so, it’s a difficult moment, and Shawna is helping me to see, you know, that I can let go of things that I thought were really important, but the reality is, they weren’t. Now, again, I just want to stress here. I’m fully making this up. 

Steve Rush: Hey, listen, you may be making this up, but I’m still ironically with you because of the compelling use of language.

Andrea Sampson: Right, and so listen to that, the language I’m using every piece of language is using rhetoric, really, right. I’m using a combination of metaphor. I’m using emotional words, words that have meanings that go deeper than just the core idea of that word. I’m also using in some cases repetition. So, I’m using metaphor all the way through it. So, what we’ve gotten through now is the environment, the characters, and we’ve gotten to the issue or opportunity. That’s the third part of the story spine and this is where most people jump into a story because this is the real reason, I could’ve just started it off. 

Steve Rush: That’s true, yeah.

Andrea Sampson: I could have started off going, you know, the other day I was walking in the woods and Shawna was helping me figure out what I was going to give to my ex, right? Because that is really the story, except you can see I’ve built it out, right? And so, then what you want, the fourth part of the story spine is what we call the raising of the stakes. This is the difference between a good story and a great story because the raising of the stakes is that tension moment. It’s the end to them, and so, you know, as Shawna and I were talking about the things that I was going to keep and what I was going to let go of, we came to that blanket. You know the one, the blanket that my family had given us, but it was also the blanket where we had our first date. And it was the blanket that had followed us all the way through our relationship. And there was a part of me that really wanted that blanket, but there was a part of me that actually didn’t ever want to see that blanket again. And I was distraught in that moment. How could I let go of the blanket? Now I think if you’re following me, what you know is that blanket is really a metaphor for the relationship.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it is. But it’s ironic, because it’s still is also a physical thing. 

Andrea Sampson: Yes.

Steve Rush: It’s a metaphor, but actually we all kind of have something that we relate to in our day jobs and our lives that are similar metaphors of physical things, but carry loads of emotion with them. 

Andrea Sampson: Right, and so, as I’m going through this story, you know, anyone who’s listening to this, you know, they may or may not have lived a similar story, but they have lived, everybody, because, you know, here’s the thing about stories. Stories are all Mehta stories, as humans, we all live the same stories. The details are different, and so everybody has walked in the woods or has watched, you know, a movie or seen an image of walking in the woods. So, there’s some experience of it. Everybody has a good friend who helps them through things. Now, you know, you may not have as good a friend or maybe your friend is better, but you have the experience of it. The human condition is that we all go through relationships and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t and heartbreak is common. And then the idea of having something that represents that, you can see, it’s a Mehta story, right?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Andrea Sampson: So, everybody, as I’m going through this story, everybody is having the same experience because they’re living their own experience and my experience at the same time. And that’s what makes it so powerful. So, when you take the time to build it, when you take the time to use emotions through it, what you’re doing is, you’re building a connection with anyone who’s listening to that. Now we’ve gone through the four elements of the stories. By the fifth element is just the OCA. It’s the way in which you tie it together. And so, in this case, it could be that in that walk in the woods, you know, Shawna helped me to understand that the blanket was in fact, a metaphor for my relationship. And as much as it was something that I was having a hard time letting go of, it was time for me to let go of it because I was letting go of that whole part of my life.

And that blanket was in a part of my life that was no longer going to be in my life. So, it was time for me to let that go. And by the end of that walk, I had not only let go of the blanket, but I had let go of the relationship, I was ready to move on. So, there’s the story spine in action. Now, when you’re using a story like that. So, one of the things that we teach, because the story spine is one element. But the other thing that I did when I started working with TED speakers is, I started to understand that a TED Talk has a very robust underlying structure and that underlying structure gets eliminated in the talk itself, but in the building of a TED Talk or of any presentation, quite frankly, that structure is essential.

And one of the things that I did was I developed something that I call the talk canvas narrative framework, and it’s a framework that helps speakers and anyone from, you know, boardroom presentations to investment pitches, to TED Talks, develop their underlying structure so that they can literally obliterate it with story. 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Andrea Sampson: But it’s such an interesting thing, because again, if I go back to, and this is a very long answer to your question, which was the, you know, the commonalities to what marketers do, this was where I really wished I’d had this structure because one of the things that I found was when I was in the agency world and we’d be building, let’s just say a pitch to a new client, and we would spend, you know, countless hours, you know, stressful hours developing a presentation.

And the question always was, is it understandable? And have we missed anything? And what the talk canvas does is, in my new details, shows you all of the things that you need to address in order for your presentation to land, to be compelling, and to have all the information that the listener needs in order to be able to take in what you want them to take in. And so, it begins with the story spine, so it starts there, and then we move into what we call a core purpose.

Steve Rush: Great, so I wondered though, if you think about the notion of pitch presentation and speech, is there a huge difference and how you construct those or do they follow a similar path, but just the vernacular changes?

Andrea Sampson: So, there are differences for sure. 

Steve Rush: Right.

Andrea Sampson: You know a stage presentation, as an example, you have much more latitude to use less visuals and more storytelling. And, you know, that’s why TED Talks are so incredibly powerful, right? So, what they’ve done is, they take an idea, they wrap it in story, and then they tell us this amazing story, which then gets unfolded throughout the course of, you know, 10 to 18 minutes. When you’re doing a presentation in front of a boardroom, as an example, there’s a bigger expectation that you’re going to get to the actual, you know, sort of core meaning or the core thing quicker. You can weave story all the way through and you should, but what you’re doing is it’s a bit more of a dance between the functional, here’s what I want you to know and the emotional here’s, how I want you to feel.

And so, Nancy Duarte, who’s a TED Speaker and also an amazing thinker, developed what she called the shape of a presentation. And it really is a toggling between the functional and the emotional. And so, this is what we do in a presentation. We’re using more visuals, because often we need those visuals to keep the audience, the boardroom audience with us. But what we’re doing is we’re moving between the visuals and the story and the visuals in the story. And then when you get into a pitch, which is a very different thing. Now, pitches you know, if we’re talking about investor pitches, there’s a lot of things that are really required, that the pitch, you know, that the investors know because they’re putting up money. But what’s similar is story and ideas still live in there. And what you’re doing, the things you’re telling them are a little different, but you’re still using the commonality of story and idea. And that is true across a stage presentation, a boardroom presentation and a pitch. That’s the commonality, some of the ways in which you do it are different. 

Steve Rush: Hmm, that’s super. And the irony here is that we’ve learned through story from generations after generations, after generations for thousands of years. But it seemed that certainly through my early part of my career, kind of in the nineties and in the two thousand, we seem to lose that. And only really in the recent years, I’ve seen story re-emerge has been quite a powerful medium of communication. What do you think the reason was for that?

Andrea Sampson: You know, it’s interesting. I’ve thought about this a lot and you know, in the fifties. First of all, humans are hardwired to respond to story. And if we go all the way back into, you know, sort of the stone age, you’ll see that the story has been our medium of communication. 

Steve Rush: You can see it written on the walls of caves. 

Andrea Sampson: Exactly.

Steve Rush: And that’s how they used to tell their stories, right? 

Andrea Sampson: And when you look at those cave drawings, what are they about? They’re about the emotion of what was going on, right? There was the victory of the hunt, there was this sadness of the death. Like you could see it in these beautiful drawings on caves, but what happened for us is humans started to become more industrialized and really, you know, we’ve had about 150 years of industrialization with the advent of the industrial revolution.

And with that, what happened is, we became much more efficient. We were focused on efficiency. The belief has been, stories are not efficient, now that’s not true. In fact, stories are incredibly efficient, but the belief was, I just want the facts man, nothing but the facts. And so, as we became more industrialized, our stories became about facts and we got narrower and narrower and narrower on facts. What’s happening now, and it’s so interesting because we’re at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution. And this is the first industrial revolution where humans are not being industrialized. And so, and what I mean by that is in every other industrial revolution, humans became the labor force, right? Well, now what’s happening is we’re being released from the labor force. We’re being allowed to go back to what it is we do best, which is to feel, to emote, to tell stories, to create and being in our creative place.

And it’s a challenging time because we don’t actually know how to do this anymore. We don’t know how to be creators without that end goal. Like I’m going to sit on the line and I’m going to put this widget in this hole. And at the end of the line out will come a car or a thing. Well, now there’s robots doing that. We’re not really very good at doing the same thing over and over and over again. That’s actually not what humans are designed for. And so, as we are coming back into what we are designed for, which is to be creators, to be creative. We’re bringing back this medium of storytelling. My own supposition is, that this is the first, you know, process of training our brains to go back into the creative beings we actually are.

Steve Rush: It’s great supposition, and one I have listened to you articulate it so well, can wholeheartedly concur with, because the whole principle of management is made up too Management only happened because of the industrial revolution, but we wanted to get some control and some measures and some guidance, which is also the reason why we lost some of that great core leadership experiences along the way as well.

Andrea Sampson: You know, I’m listening to Yuval Harari great books Sapiens right now. And I love, you know, there’s a part in it where he talks about storytelling and he talks about us humans, that’s actually everything about our lives, our story. And he goes all the way back to the beginning of the corporation and his supposition is that the corporation is really just a story that we’ve all bought into

Steve Rush: That’s ironic, isn’t it? Gosh, your right.

Andrea Sampson: It’s true, right? 

Steve Rush: Yeah. 

Andrea Sampson: It’s so true, so we don’t see it that way, right? Because it’s like, well, no, a corporation is a corporation. It’s a legal entity. No, actually it’s what we’ve done is we’ve taken a story and we turned it into a legal entity.

Steve Rush: My head’s starting to go into crazy spins now thinking of different things, but it’s, great that we’re having this conversation because it’s all really relevant to the role that we play when we’re communicating with others, isn’t it?

Andrea Sampson: Oh, absolutely. It’s so important that we start to use our storytelling skills again. Because you know, the more that we do this, this is where, you know, as I go back to my own journey into the world of speaker coaching, I started to understand that when I live in a place of emotion, that is where I’m creating the deepest, most meaningful relationships. Whether those relationships be with, you know, people who are in my family or with my clients, because when we’re starting with story, we’re immediately starting with heart and it’s such a different place from business, you know, having been in the corporate world for 25 years, you know, I got to tell you, there was not a lot of room for anything that, you know, smelled of heart-centered ness and that’s not the case anymore.

Steve Rush: No, you’re right. And one of the things I remember from the conversation that you and I had some months back, you were telling me that, you know, subject matter experts don’t promote themselves very well. Is that a reason for them being dragged into the detail versus being thoughtful about their self-promotion?

Andrea Sampson: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting, you know, subject matter experts and that’s one of the things I, love, love, love, love working with deep subject matter experts. These are people, you know, and just to kind of frame that for the listeners, you know, these are people who are often in the back rooms and you know, they work in science and technology and academia, you know, they’re really, really good at doing the work that they do. And many of them are working on things that are literally changing our world, but they’re so busy doing that work. And they know often the importance of the work they’re doing in the context in which they’re working, but they don’t look up and they don’t tell the rest of us about this work that they’re doing. They don’t self-promote because it doesn’t even occur to them to self-promote.

But here’s the thing. When we don’t understand what’s actually happening in our world when these deep subject matter experts who are doing work in the world, that literally is changing our world. And we don’t understand that we are at the effect of media, which also doesn’t know that and who’s choosing what we do know. And so, it’s a real challenge for us to sort through what is real and what is not. So, these deep subject matter experts need to be heard. And we need to encourage them to come forward. And again, I come back to TED as a platform, also Singularity University, which is one of the partnerships that I’ve had through Talk Boutique. These are places where these deep subject matter experts are finally getting some airtime, but of course the challenges because they tend to be in these very complex places. What do they talk about? They talk about the facts. They tell us the process; they bring us into the world that is so complex and so abstract that most of us don’t really understand it. And so that’s not helpful either. And really this is where storytelling really shines.

Steve Rush: Yeah, absolutely spot on. So, from a story perspective, you must have had the opportunity to work with some really fascinating storytellers and some really fascinating people. Has there been a moment in your career as a coach or even just as a listener to stories where you’ve gone wow! that is the most compelling story I’ve ever heard?

Andrea Sampson: What immediately comes to my mind. So many years ago, I was working with a TED Speaker. He is a cosmologist, which is in the study of astrophysics, study of the universe, cosmology is the study of the actual universe. So not the stars, not the planet, it’s not even the galaxies, the entire universe. So first of all, you kind of just go like, wow, I can’t even contextualize that. I mean, as most of the subject matter experts that I work with incredibly smart, and this is sort of the story I hear all the time, oh, I’m not creative, right? So, here’s an individual who says to me I want to talk about the origins of the universe, but I’m not creative. I don’t really know how to do that. And as I spoke with him and started to understand more about him, it turns out that he also played in a band and he’s does some visual art, of course not creative though, right? This is often what I hear from scientists. 

Steve Rush: Yeah, exactly.

Andrea Sampson: But what was also really interesting about him, didn’t know this, this was sort of fun fact, the driest place on earth is the south pole, which also happens to be the coldest place on earth. Now, why is that even a part of the story? Well, the reason is, is that as a cosmologist studying the entire universe, you need to have really powerful telescopes. Well, in order for a telescope to see the universe, you need to be able to have absolute absence of water because water obscures our ability to see in distance. So, in order to see the universe, you have to go to the driest place on earth, which is the south pole. And so, this individual lived for almost a year in the coldest place on earth. And so interesting story, first of all, like what is it like to live in the south pole?

And then there’s the story of the universe. Well, working with this individual, what we were able to do was to build a story that literally wove together the origins of the universe and his own experience of spending a year, isolated in minus 100-degree weather in a station with about 30 other people, as they literally begin to degrade because it happens every year with them. There’s only about two or three months of the year where they can actually get in and out of the south pole, planes can’t actually get in, it’s too cold. And so, they can’t land, the steel would snap. So, listening to this story, it was phenomenal. It was literally poetic and this is a scientist. He literally wove these two stories together. So that comes to mind and it’s one of those, great for me, moments of working with a speaker where I saw the academic side ma married beautifully with the art of storytelling.

Steve Rush: Yeah, that’s great. Great story to refer onto it as well. 

Andrea Sampson: Yeah. 

Steve Rush: So as a CEO and a leader in your own, right, I’m now going to ask some questions of you in terms of getting inside of your leadership brain. 

Andrea Sampson: Sure.

Steve Rush: And thinking about how we can share some great tips and ideas with our listeners. So, the first place I’d like to go, Andrea is to ask you what your top three leadership hacks would be?

Andrea Sampson: So, number one is, as a leader, you are not alone. So, make sure you have a good network. It can be very lonely at the top. People say that all the time, but if you think of leadership as a solitary sport, not only is it going to be lonely, you’re not going to be very good at it. So, the reality is all good leaders have a great network of people who are advisors, who are supporters and who help them. So, make sure you’ve got your team in place. Number two, take care of yourself. You know, you as the leader of anything, you are the one who’s making all of these decisions. So how have you taken care of your brain today? You know, look at the self-care that will help you be able to show up at your best. You know, are you meditating? Are you finding ways to work through whatever blocks you have? You know, what is your routine? Are you exercising? What’s your food intake like? These are things that people don’t like to talk about because it’s like, oh, you know, we’ve lived for so long in a world that said, you know, just sacrifice everything and do it all. And that is the worst advice that you can get as a leader, make sure you are taking care of yourself. And then number three, make sure that you have very clearly articulated and identified what your vision is and that vision isn’t just for your business.

It’s also for your life. So, you need to have a vision that aligns with what your core purpose is as a business person, but as a human as well, because only then will you be able to continue to move forward with consistency. If your core purpose is out of alignment with who you are or what you believe, you will very quickly come to a point where you can no longer do it. You will run out of steam. So always asking yourself, do I have passion for this? Am I committed to it? Do I wake up in the morning knowing that I am moving forward on something that I deeply, deeply believe in? And if you can say yes to those things every day, you’re going to jump out of bed and be excited for the work you’re doing

Steve Rush: Really powerful stuff. That last one, particularly also, I bet makes your storytelling much easier as well, right? 

Andrea Sampson: Yeah, absolutely. 

Steve Rush: If it’s intrinsically connected to something that’s overly emotional for you, then it’s going to be so much easier to convey emotional stories.

Andrea Sampson: Yeah, absolutely, yep. 

Steve Rush: So, the next part of the show we call Hack to Attack. So, this is typically where something hasn’t worked out particularly well, and it could be that it was quite catastrophic, but as a result, you now have created some core foundations or something that’s working really well for you in your life and work. What would be your Hack to Attack? 

Andrea Sampson: So, you know, this past year, you know, we’re recording this, you know, at a time where hopefully we’re coming out of a global pandemic and this has been an incredibly difficult time, not just for me, but for everyone. 

Steve Rush: Right. 

Andrea Sampson: And you know, if I look back to a year ago where we were, I’m in Canada and, you know, in June of 2020, we were just coming out of lockdown and you know, wondering how the world was going to recover. Well, here we are in June of 2021, and also just getting out of lockdown and wondering how the world is going to recover, but we’re in a very different place. Emotionally a year ago, I was really in a place of, I’m not quite sure how we’re going to move forward. You see what had happened for me was I had made the choice to take over the company solo.

I bought out my business partner just prior to the pandemic and suddenly the world fell down around us. And I didn’t know whether or not I was going to be able to make a go of it with Talk Boutique because, you know, the reality was we were an event-based business. We work with speakers and every event was canceled. And so, a year later I look at that and go, oh, thank God, because you know, sometimes things need to die in order for them to live. And what I mean by that is when you’re in a partnership, what we had created together was important, but it wasn’t my vision. And I needed the deconstruction to happen. And I’m not sure that if we had continued, the business had continued as busy as it was in the pre pandemic time, but I would have had the time to really stop and think about my own vision and purpose. And so, this past year of retooling and re-imagining the business, I’ve had the time to do that. And so, I look forward now with so much hope and so much gratitude for what happened a year ago. And so, I can see now that what I’m creating is much more in tune and aligned with my own purpose and vision about shifting the social narrative, you know, working with thought leaders, working with those who are doing good in the world and helping them to get their stories out in the world so that we can all see the good that’s happening in the world and contribute to that, become part of that. And a year ago, I’m not sure I would have been so clear on that. So, you know, that is for me, it’s sometimes the breakdown is really a breakthrough.

Steve Rush: Wow, that’s really powerful words. I love the whole principle of how you framed that about breakdown to breakthrough. So, thank you for sharing, that’s really powerful. 

Andrea Sampson: You’re welcome. 

Steve Rush: The last thing we want to do is get a chance to do some time travel with you. So, our guest have the opportunity to bump into their former selves at 21. So, what would your advice to Andrea be if you could bump into her at 21.

Andrea Sampson: So, Andrea at 21 was driven and passionate and fearless. And, you know, if I were to go back and give her some advice it would be to keep going, first of all but also to slow down, don’t worry that everything has to happen right now. You know, that was who I was. I was this, you know, young person who wanted to make my mark in the world. And I would tell Andrea at 21, that life is long and there is plenty of time and you don’t have to get it right the first time. In fact, you’re not going to get it right the first time. And sometimes the not getting it right, is the whole reason why we do things, because it helps us to learn. Failure is such an important part, you know, I grew up in a family where we were very much driven to perfectionism. And so, if I couldn’t get it right, I moved onto the next thing instead of sticking with the thing and getting it right. And now, you know, many years later, I’ve learned that when you focus on something and when you take the risk to do it, and when you take the risk to fail, you are going to learn so much more than if you just abandoned it because it didn’t work out right away. 

Steve Rush: Yeah

Andrea Sampson: So that’s a big one.

Steve Rush: It is, that’s huge. So, Andrea, what’s happening with Talk Boutique? Tell us about the journey you’re on now and maybe how our folks can learn a little bit more about the work you’re doing. 

Andrea Sampson: Sure, so Talk Boutique now, I mean, we are both a speakers bureau and we represent deep subject matter experts who are doing the work in the world that I’ve described earlier, and we are speaker coaches. I have a team of coaches who work with me, who have all been trained in my methodology. And what we do is we work with thought leaders. We work with corporate leaders and we work with teams and we help them to become storytellers in every presentation or talk that they give. We train them through one-on-one coaching and through programs that we aim at the, you know, the core of any organization, we bring the TED-style into the corporate world, and this is a really powerful program. We also have an open enrollment program that we call The Thought Leader Academy for anyone who wants to work with us on a one-on-one basis, but they might not quite be able to make the commitment to come in through a corporate program or to work with our coaches one-on-one.

And that is a digital offering that includes group coaching. And so, The Thought Leader Academy, we do a couple of intakes a year. Our next one will be coming up in the fall, but we are doing some work right now around getting the story spine out there in a bigger way and doing some small trainings. So, if you’re interested in working with us, you can go to our website at, or you can email me directly at, either work. We love working with individuals and with teams. So always happy to help out in whatever way we can. 

Steve Rush: We’ll make sure our listeners can hook up with you as well by putting your links for your website and email addresses and stuff in our show totes too. 

Andrea Sampson: Fantastic Steve, thank you so much. 

Steve Rush: You’re very welcome, Andrea. I’m super glad that we have you on the show, the whole story spine, and learning a little bit about how you are making connections through storytelling is a really inspirational one. So, thank you for sharing and thank you for being part of the community on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Andrea Sampson: Oh, Steve, thank you. It has been my absolute pleasure. Thank you for asking such amazing questions and for adding so much to today’s call. It has been amazing. 

Steve Rush: Thank you. My pleasure. 

Andrea Sampson: All right, take care.


Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others, and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers. 

Finally, if you would like me to work with your senior team, your leadership community, keynote an event, or you would like to sponsor an episode. Please connect with us, by our social media. And you can do that by following and liking our pages on Twitter and Facebook our handler there @leadershiphacker. Instagram you can find us there @the_leadership_hacker and at YouTube, we are just Leadership Hacker, so that is me signing off. I am Steve Rush and I have been the leadership hacker.

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