Talk at ABB

So I have been giving a lot of talks these days.  As any parent knows, having a group of people listen without interruption is like a dream.  At home, of course, my opinions and advice are laughed at by my kids.  So it was a treat to talk to young college students about the importance of literature and humanities.

This one was to the scientists at ABB.  A gentleman  wrote to me out of the blue.  I saw his title and promptly said No. What was I going to tell scientists?

Ashish Sureka, Ph.D
Principal Scientist, Industrial Software Systems (ISS)
India Corporate Research Center (INCRC)

After much persistence on his side and deep breathing on mine, I said Chalo, ok. My goal was to speak without props.  No notes, no laptop, just old fashioned talking.  Here are some photos.  It went well.






My book talk at the Indian Institute of Science

This Friday, September 4th at 4 PM.  Copies of my book will be available for sale. Please come if you can.  Click below for the formal invite.


The lecture will be held at the Centre for Contemporary Studies (CCS), IISc. It is located just next to the Health Centre of the institute. The “main gate” (opposite to BHEL office) near Prof. CNR Rao circle, on the CV Raman Road is the nearest entrance to CCS.  Please call the office (080-22932486/ 080-23606559) in case of difficulty in finding the venue.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Contemporary Studies IISc <>

Subject: Invites you to a talk on “Storytelling: History, Techniques and Context”; 4 September 2015;4 pm

Date: August 31, 2015 at 10:09:08 AM GMT+5:30

To: Raghavendra Gadagkar <>

Dear All,


Invites you to a talk on:



Speaker: Shoba Narayan

Day and Date: Friday 4 September 2015

Time: 4.00 pm

Venue: CCS Seminar Hall, IISc

Tea/Coffee will be served at 3.30 pm

All are cordially invited


Abstract: Where do stories come from? What is their purpose? In this crazy busy world, is there a place for stories? Why tell stories? Is there a way that we can incorporate narrative into our current professional lives— whether we are in the sciences or the humanities; in a large corporation or a small start up; as entrepreneurs and individuals? Do stories have a place in our ecosystem? And how do you tell stories? Using words, gestures and objects, Shoba Narayan, will discuss the power of storytelling using her latest book, “Katha: tell a story; sell a dream,” as a broad template.


Centre for Contemporary Studies

Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – 560012.

(Near Health Centre).

Phone: 91-80-2360 6559, 2293 2486

Chair: Prof. Raghavendra Gadagkar



Katha Review

Thank you Vijaya Pushkarna, for the generous review.  I am supposed to have a Twitter conversation with you or The Week tomorrow, August 5th from 4 to 5. Have never done this before.  Nervous.


Tales pitch

A STORY for every occasion. Anyone with such a repertoire would be much more than the life of a party, attracting people with their eyes and ears wide open. But how does one come by such a treasure?

Shoba Narayan says it is no big deal, and goes on to show it is QED―quite easily done―in her book. The book is about how storytelling could transform business and management. And she does tell a whole lot of stories on how to generate or source stories, when to tell them and how and with what consequence.

From simple and upfront selling of a product or service and breaking the ice at workplace to breaking bad news or sharing good tidings and for a million other things, simple anecdotes or even sentences can work wonders. Take, for instance, this anecdote about a guy trying to sell software. He begins with a dramatic description of his poor grandfather who died a broken man because he had to sell his Udupi hotel. Before the clients could wonder why, he got them hooked on to the product by saying the software could have saved the hotel.


Stories transmit mission statements and core values. They build teams and create a shared sense of purpose. There is also a chapter on eight ways to find stories in real life―get out, leave your cellphone and look around, cultivate skills and hobbies and read.

The book is a breezy story that even those who are not attempting to sell a dream or have anything to do with business would like to read. That is because Narayan makes you believe that storytelling is neither an art you have to be born with nor a craft difficult to learn.

Katha: Tell a Story, Sell a Dream

And, the best part―the book does not have a single word that a class five student will not know or that cannot be found in the Concise Oxford Dictionary. That, a former news editor would tell batch after batch of youth wanting to become journalists, is the hallmark of good storytelling. When that is married to the idea of selling dreams, making businesses grow and succeed, it is a book people will want to grab.

Katha: Tell a Story, Sell a Dream
By Shoba Narayan
Published by Maven Rupa
Pages 192; price Rs295


Telling stories allows us to connect with the wider world

Shoba Narayan

November 26, 2013 Updated: November 26, 2013 17:32:00

We live to tell stories. We make sense of life by telling them. We connect to people through stories.

No matter what field you are in – whether it is philanthropy or public policy, engineering or economics, management or manufacturing – stories can connect you with your audience.

They can help you make a point, persuade a group, or propagate an agenda. Stories connect content with emotion. They help you push buttons, inspire people to join a cause, and disseminate information in an effective way.

Telling stories isn’t easy. It involves rhythm, voice, content and connection.

It demands that you use both sides of the brain. It harnesses imagination with knowledge.

It requires that you take the journalistic tenets of “who, what, where, when, how and why,” and mix them up creatively.

Content is necessary but not sufficient. In order to persuade your editor, sales team, boss, architect or any of those people you intersect with, you need to make sure their emotions are touched. That is where storytelling comes in.

Recently I taught a one-day workshop on storytelling for public policy and management students.

There is precedent for this, of course. Several people, including former Columbia Pictures studio chief, Peter Guber, have written or taught courses on storytelling.

Guber’s best-selling book, Tell to Win, talks about how storytelling helped him cut deals and make pictures.

Given that we are gearing up to the college admissions season, it occurred to me that many storytelling techniques can be used to write what is now the Holy Grail of the American university application process: the personal essay.

With that in mind, here are some tips for executives and students.

The best stories are personal. They offer granular details of very specific incidents from the storyteller’s life.

How do you do this? Visualise an incident that you want to write about in your head. It may be your first tennis match or the first time you encountered pain.

What is the first and most striking image that comes to mind? Maybe it was the day your grandmother died.

That is the one to be used.

Try to approach it differently. If you are writing about your violin class, write about the feel of the violin rather than the clichéd sounds that you hear in the rehearsal studio.

If you are writing about a basketball court, write about how the court smells rather than following the usual track of describing what you see.

Memorable details are both telling and original. They involve the five senses.

Stay on message but do so in a poetic way. As you read each sentence, ask yourself a few things: what am I trying to say? Where is this idea going?

Are you trying to persuade your client to accept your brand strategy? Are you a teacher trying to explain values to your students through stories?

This should drive the storytelling. Most college applications include questions about failure: describe an instance in which you failed and talk about how you overcame it?

Rather than describing your failure in generic terms such as “obstacles” and “overcoming challenges”, make it a story. Think about narrative flow.

The words that trigger neural networks have to do with nature, emotions, or universal themes such as love and beauty.

“I resolved to be as patient as a dog waiting for its food” is much more specific an image than “I resolved to be patient.” Observe nature. Make it your friend.

Remember poetry. How do you write poetic lines? By reading out the sentence to get its verbal rhythm. Think of it like music. It has to sound right. Reduce words. At every stage.

Most stories begin with status quo or balance. Then something bad happens.

There is pain, conflict, and finally there is the triumphant resolution of the conflict.

You are telling a story: your story. Use the storytelling techniques of balance, conflict and resolution to make a point in a particular paragraph or for the whole essay.

Shoba Narayan is the author of Return to India: a Memoir