Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great

Five stars. The Communication Secrets To Get From Good To Great
Category: Skills
Published: 6/5/2018
As the forces of globalization, automation, and artificial intelligence combine to disrupt every field career, having a good idea isn't good enough. Mastering the ancient art of persuasion is the key to standing out, getting ahead, and achieving greatness in the modern world. Communication is no longer a "soft" skill--it is the human edge that will make you unstoppable, irresistible, and irreplaceable--earning you that perfect rating, that fifth star.

Book Summary - Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great by Carmine Gallo

Key Insights

The key to success is great communication. While many people are talented and have good ideas, they will not become successful if they are not able to successfully persuade others that their talents and ideas have merit. Both great written and verbal communication are essential for being an effective communicator.

Key Points

Keep It Simple

The best way to effectively communicate with people is to focus on only one concrete, tangible goal. When people can rally behind one shared goal, rather than an abstract idea, they are more easily able to understand and focus their attention on achieving that goal. The goal should also have a clear picture for completion, and concrete deadlines, for it to be accomplished.

For example, when President Kennedy wanted to put a man on the moon, he focused his speeches around that one, clear goal. Rather than discussing NASA’s many different objectives, Kennedy effectively focused on inspiring Americans to want to work toward achieving the single goal of putting a man on the moon, instead of thinking about the abstract merits of a strong space program. This effective communication of one clear goal helped enable NASA to send Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969.

In addition to keeping their goals clear and concrete. great communicators also know to keep their language clear and simple. They should never use longer, more advanced words when short, simple ones will do the trick. Sentences should clearly and easily convey your ideas and focus on clarity over everything.

A good rule of thumb is to use words and sentences that are around a tenth-grade level. Research has shown that around the tenth-grade level is the point where most Americans understand content most clearly. Beyond that, the message gets confusing, the clarity of your communication suffers, and your content is not as effectively understood.

To ensure your audience is most likely to understand your content, you can use the Readability Index. The Index is an algorithm used by publishers that assesses the grade level of textbooks’ content and ensures it is appropriate for each grade level. Speakers can use the Readability Index to assess the grade level of their speeches and ensure they are communicating to their audiences at the clearest and effective level.

How to Interview Effectively

Interviews are about more than hard skills and technical know-how. In order for interviewers to really understand who you are, you have to communicate your skills and merits through storytelling. To begin, think of yourself as a character inside a story. Then, structure your interview answers with a clear beginning, middle, and endpoint, and include clear motivations and actions for your character.

These story-based answers require practice, and you should consider recording them and playing them back for your friends in order to receive feedback on your answers. You want them to sound natural, and to truly convey a compelling story about yourself.

Haseeb Qureshi, a software engineer, employed these storytelling interview techniques to make himself marketable to prestigious Silicon Valley tech companies, even though on paper he had several disadvantages. He did not hold a degree in computer science, only had one year of coding experience, and was older than the typical Silicon Valley employee. However, his story based interview answers worked, and he got a job working as a software engineer at Airbnb, making $250,000 a year.

How to Keep Presentations Engaging

The human brain can only process so much information at once. After a certain point, people experience what is called a “cognitive backlog,” and they cannot process or retain any more new information, because the part of the brain that turns new information into memory is already overwhelmed. Therefore, for presentations to be engaging and effective, they should not be too long. To avoid “cognitive backlog” in the audience, presenters should keep their presentations between 15 and 20 minutes long.

People also process information better when presentations are accompanied by images. According to researchers, people will only remember about 10 percent of the information if it is given to them verbally, but adding just one picture to the presentation will bump that number up to 65 percent. Visual imagery is an effective tool to employ to ensure the audience retains the information presented.

For example, NASA is known for delivering exceptionally engaging presentations. In order to keep their funding, NASA relies on the American public’s support for the space program. Therefore, NASA makes public press briefings with the purpose of inspiring and exiting the American people about the work they are doing.

NASA ensures their press briefings are compelling by making them no longer than eighteen minutes, and using compelling visual imagery, like photos and videos of space.

Good Teams Vs. Great Teams

Effective communication is what sets great teams apart from merely good ones. Google is a prestigious tech company, known for their elite workforce. In 2012, Google wanted to determine what set their most effective teams apart from the rest, so they could use this information to build the best teams going forward.

Google’s researchers found that the members of the teams did not particularly matter. What did matter was that all of the best teams shared three important communication traits?

The first trait was a high level of “psychological safety.” Everyone on the team felt safe expressing their ideas, taking risks, and showing vulnerability in front of the team.

The second trait was a high level of clarity. In each team, team members had clearly established roles and their goals were clearly defined.

The third trait was a strong sense of impact. Every team member on the most effective teams felt that their input was valued, their work mattered and had a strong sense of understanding how their job contributed to the success of the organization’s broader goals.

Leaders who want to build the most effective teams should focus on cultivating these traits in their teams. If leaders share their own vulnerability, their team members will also feel comfortable being vulnerable, which promotes psychological safety. Leaders should also ensure all team members’ roles are clearly defined and set a clear path for how goals are achieved. Lastly, leaders should promote a high sense of impact by clearly expressing how each team members’ role is valued and important to the team.

The Importance of the Origin Story

All good origin stories have some element of pathos in them. Pathos influences the audience by making an emotional appeal to them. It is an important communication technique because the human brain is wired to respond to stories of hardship and struggle. People are drawn to stories about persevering through tragedy or overcoming humble beginnings because the struggle is such an innate part of the human experience. Therefore, the human brain is wired to both accurately remember and relate more strongly to stories that have an element of victory over hardships or tragedy, and to find deeper meaning in stories about overcoming adversity to achieve success.

The athletic company Nike is a great example of how a brand can use their origin story to connect with their audience. Nike’s origin story emotionally appeals to its customers and inspires employees by utilizing pathos. According to their origin story, Nike got their start when their co-founder, a coach at the University of Oregon named Bill Bowerman, wanted to design a new type of running shoe that would help his runners get a better grip on the new polyurethane running track. His first prototypes were made using a waffle iron, and he sold them from the back of his car. Today, this origin story helps Nike communicate an important message about how their brand’s innovative spirit helped them overcome the odds and become a success.

The Main Take-away

Great communication is essential for success, and the key to great communication is great storytelling. From interviews to company origin’s, stories are the best method for communicating the merit of your ideas.

When communicating, speakers will have the most effective impact on their audience by keeping their language simple and direct, identifying one clear goal, and adding in visual imagery when possible.

About the Author

Carmine Gallo is an executive coach, keynote speaker, and author of international bestsellers like The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, and Talk Like TED. He is a columnist for,, and the Harvard Business Review.

Gallo teaches and serves as a program leader in the office of executive education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He is also the founder of the Gallo Communications Group and the Carmine Gallo Academy.

Gallo lives in Pleasanton, California with his wife, Vanessa Gallo, and two children.


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