David JP Phillips gets the call.

He’s invited to come to Stockholm by a woman who represents one of the biggest training companies in Scandinavia.  David is a speaker and trainer and she tells him they are interested in hiring him to train their trainers.  

“We think you are a perfect pick. Would you like to come to a meeting?” she asks.

“Wow! I’m honored, I’d love to,” he recalls in his Tedx talk .

On the agreed upon day, he arrives in Stockholm.  “What I didn’t know then is that I’m walking into one of the absolute worst meetings I’m ever going to have in my life,” he remembers.  

Upon entering the offices, he is met by the person who called him, “David, just so you know, I’m not the one you’re going to have this meeting with.” 

She points to a conference room where three men are sitting.  

“Are you ready?” she asks.

“And I’m like, ‘Yeah, what should I be ready for?’”

“Well, in that room you have three gentlemen,” she says.  “They’re all majority owners of this company. They’ve all got an ex-military background and none of them wants the training that you are going to pitch.”


“Come on!” he says  “Why am I here?”

“Well, all the trainers want this but the management can’t see that they need it. So it’s pretty simple: the only thing you have to do is go in there and just prove the opposite.”

All of a sudden, “sweat is coming down my palms. My heart is racing,” he recalls.

She begins to escort him toward the office. “David, I’m going to give you a tip.”

He turns to look at her.


In his Tedx talk, David looks at the audience and says, “If I don’t tell you what she says, is that annoying?”

Ahh, yes!

He never tells us the end of the story.  Why?

“To prove to you what it feels like to have high dopamine levels,” David says.

In telling this story, David demonstrates to the Tedx audience (and now us) how stories release chemicals in our brain, in this case, dopamine.

When we have high levels of dopamine in our blood, we have more focus, more motivation, and we remember things better. 

“Would you say that your focus was increased, your attention was increased?” David asks.  “You’ve probably already figured out what that room looked like, correct?” 

Scientists now know the specific chemicals that the brain releases when we are listening to a story.  “We know what triggers those neurochemicals,” Carmine Gallo writes in his book The Storyteller’s Secret.  “We know what stories work, why they work, and we can prove it scientifically.”

How do we create and release dopamine in our audience?

We build suspense.  We create a cliffhanger.

“And the most beautiful thing of all is that all storytelling is per definition dopamine creating, because it’s always something that we’re waiting and expecting,” David states.

Dopamine is one of the three chemicals which storytelling generates in our brain, what David calls the “Angel’s Cocktail.” 

More tomorrow.


Reflection: What are some of my favorite movies or shows?  How do they use suspense and create cliffhangers?

Action: How can I create suspense in an upcoming presentation?  Do it.

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