Powerful "Stories of Unlimited"

Powerful stories from Western Sydney Australia

This morning, I was rereading the chapter on storytelling in one of my favourite books, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Health. (To see the seven-part series that I wrote on the book, you can find all the posts here.)

Our brains are wired for stories. Stories add meaning, contain wisdom, are effective teaching tools and are memorable. As the Heaths write:

“Stories illustrate causal relationships that people hadn’t recognized before and highlight unexpected, resourceful ways in which people have solved problems. …

“The story’s power, then, is twofold: It provides simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act). Note that both benefits—simulation and inspiration—are geared to generating action. [W]e’ve seen that a credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea makes people care. [T]he right stories make people act.”

By coincidence, I also came across a brilliant advertising campaign by Western Sydney University called “Stories of Unlimited“. It features 90-second videos of alumni and shares the powerful stories of their background, challenges, passions and current status. Each video is beautifully crafted and inspirational. The university’s messages to prospective students:

“We believe in a world of unlimited opportunity for those with talent, drive, confidence and ambition. It’s about what’s inside you, not where you’ve come from. Your future success starts here.”

Kudos to Western Sydney University for tapping into these powerful stories to encourage prospective students to apply. What stories can you tap into for your next presentation?

For now, please enjoy the following “stories of unlimited”.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest
Picture of mannerofspeaking


  1. Splendid work! Beautiful video examples. Thanks for unearthing and sharing.

    Given my engineering background, I came to appreciate and acknowledged the power of storytelling too late in life. But embrace it I have. I encourage all your readers, specially engineers and other STEM professionals, to challenge any lingering skepticism they may still harbor about the power of storytelling.

    I was probably educated into this skepticism. It was a theme throughout my educational voyage.

    An educated and wise person was not to be guided or persuaded by mere emotions, nor be naïve enough to be fooled by stories. The correct and optimal way to make decisions, especially important ones, was to be guided by reasoned argument, facts, and data only.

    I had similar experiences after I started working.

    In the world of business, storytelling was not a skill that was particularly envied—the expression had pejorative undertones, and suggested tall tales and fiction rather than fact.

    As a consequence of this, for too long I failed to recognize that stories and narratives are at the heart of human evolution, including engineering evolution.

    Here are some clips that guided me through my transformation. They were truly educational for me. They may help your readers too.

    TEDxHogeschoolUtrecht—Steve Denning: Leadership storytelling
    TEDxVancouver — Greg Power: The power of story
    These clips showed me the formulas beneath the stories. As an engineer, I love (almost need) this too.
    Dave Lieber TED Talk, “The dog of my nightmares”
    Kurt Vonnegut talk, “The shapes of stories”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ&list =PL991B74289AE23E10
    Nancy Duarte TED talk, “The secret structure of great talks” http://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_duarte_the_secret_structure_of_great_talks
    I found page– storytelling tips from the experts at Moth–to be educational too

    Keep up your good work & GOOD LUCK!

    1. Dear Rashid,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a comprehensive comment. I may well use your personal story in my trainings as it eloquently and succinctly captures the importance of storytelling.

      Thank you also for all the links. In fact, I am familiar with several of them and have even written a post on Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk. (The Kurt Vonnegut video is an old favourite and is in the pipeline for a post.) I look forward to watching the clips that I have not yet seen. I know that my readers will appreciate your efforts as well.

  2. Thanks John. I just read your post on the Stanton TED talk. Excellent!

    Not surprisingly, we have drawn many identical / similar conclusions. You enumerated them in your blog. I uncovered the same points in a chapter. I jokingly think of my chapter on storytelling as the most neurotically rational pitch for storytelling out there 🙂

    Please feel free to use my story as you see beneficial, specially if you are directing it towards engineers. It will be identical to their experience. There are way too many excellent STEM professionals who really need to step up their Public Speaking & Storytelling (PS&ST) game. To watch them stall or stumble in mid-career, for want of these elementary skills is wrenching.

    I addressed this in a short blog after the 2015 WCPS, with an observation that only an engineer would catch. Please feel free to cajole your trainees with this thinking.

    1. Thank you, Rashid. Will do! It is important that scientific professionals understand that they too can become good at presenting and storytelling. In fact, some of the best storytellers I know have scientific backgrounds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 + 1 =


John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International