Francisco Mahfuz on finding your storypowers (the science and art of communication Kung Fu) (#31)

One day a fox comes across a vine with big, juicy grapes. They looked delicious and the fox really wants them. But they are quite high off the ground.  

The fox jumps to reach them but misses. 

The fox jumps again! 


The fox takes a big run up and leaps as high as he can! 

Miss again! 

Defeated, the fox sulks away, thinking to himself: “they were probably sour anyway”. 

This episode is not about foxes, resilience or sour grapes. 

This episode is about the power of story. 

This story was first told thousands of years ago in Aesop’s Fables and yet, the key phrase “sour grapes” is still in common usage today. Any communication method that has this sort of staying power is worth understanding better. 

That is why we’re talking to Francisco Mahfuz today. Francisco is a keynote speaker and storytelling coach who helps people find the super power in their stories. Francisco hosts The Storypowers Podcast, a show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. This is actually my new favourite podcast. If you like this episode you would really enjoy Francisco’s podcast. I would recommend starting with episode 58 with Matthew Dicks, who comes up twice in this conversation.  

You can also check out Francisco’s book, Bare: a Guide to Brutally Honest Public Speaking, which is a wonderful guide to crafting and delivering good speeches. 

When I was listening to Francisco’s podcast he shared about the moment he realised how powerful stories were. It was like he was Neo from the Matrix when they are uploading all these programs to his brain and Neo says “I know Kung Fu”. Storytelling is communication Kung Fu. When I heard this I knew that I had to get Francisco on the show. 

We hope you enjoy this entertaining conversation with Francisco Mahfuz. 

You can connect with Francisco via LinkedIn or his website

You can listen to the episode on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher or Simplecast.  

Show Notes

3:20 – are you allowed to talk about stories at home?
5:50 – why is story so important to Francisco.
8:55 – can you remember the story you told?
10:57 – does the audience remember the story?
12:25 – homework for life.
13:41 – path to making storytelling a profession.
18:35 – impact kids had on Francisco’s speaking career.
22:32 – Is content or delivery more important in a speech?
26:48 – how did Francisco learn about storytelling?
29:39 – the old science of storytelling: ethos, pathos and logos.
31:24 – you cannot make decisions without emotion.
36:08 – the new science of storytelling.
39:40 – why can stories make us cry?
43:46 – what is a story?
49:43 – how to make stories easy.
53:12 – sharing with vulnerability.
59:41 – Get in touch with Francisco.

Links to References

Homework for Life 

Toastmasters International  

Toastmaster International Speech Contests 

Ted Talks 

Aristotle – Ethos, Logos, Pathos 

Neurologist Donald Calne 

Antonio Damasio 

Antonio Damasio – Patient Elliott 

Uri Hasson Ted Talk – This is your brain on communication 

Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication 

Neuroscience of Storytelling  

Absolutely Mental – Ricky Gervais & Sam Harris 

Anecdotally Speaking Podcast 

Strategic Storytelling  

The Hero’s Journey  


Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend – Matthew Dicks 

Bare: A Guide to Brutally Honest Public Speaking – Francisco Mahfuz 

Key Quotes

“When you are a kid, being different is not usually a very good thing.” 

“I was absorbing stories more than I was telling them.” 

“I think Toastmasters gives a lot of focus to delivery.” 

“Content is significantly more important delivery.”  

“Good content will make a successful speech.”  

“Delivery is a minor thing.” 

“Content is really hard to teach.” 

“I never thought of Storytelling as a different thing to just speaking.” 

“A trainer that speaks or a speaker that trains.” 

“Three elements for every communication to be effective: Ethos – credibility , Logos – Logic or Reason. Pathos – Emotion.” 

“The difference between reason and emotion is that reason leads to conclusion and emotion leads to action.” 

“You need to move people emotionally otherwise people are not going to do anything.” 

“Stories are the best way to move someone emotionally.”  

“We tend to take stories as more true than most other things people tell us.” 

“Stories get past people’s normal defences.” 

“When I’m giving you just information only, two parts of your brain light up… if you use sensory information you have another five.” 

“The emotions the characters are going through is what moves us to joy or tears.” 

“If the characters and the struggles they face are relatable to you then the emotions will be relatable.”  

“A story is a real life example that you use to make a point.” 

“A story is a change in a character.” 

“Most stories are interesting because they are a lesson and they are a lesson in how to live life.” 

“Anything where you made a mistake, learned a lesson, found out something new is a story.” 

“A story should be told as close to the action as possible.” 

“Most people don’t do dialogue and create the scene.” 

“Sometimes I find the more difficult it is to share something the more people resonate.” 

“If you are never sharing things that you feel are important you will never reach people in an emotional way.” 

“Connection is one of the most important parts of communication.”  

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.