Tell Stories Like Airbnb
Want to storytell like AirBnB? You’re in for a treat.
Brian Chesky delivered the perfect 10-minute Hero's Journey at a conference a couple weeks ago, and here's what you can learn from it.
You probably know Brian as the founder and CEO of Airbnb. But here's why his presentation was so magical, and I'm going to break it down for you today.
If you can do what Brian did as a founder, as a CEO, as an executive, you're going to capture hearts and minds. You're going to be able to build an iconic company.
Chesky immediately understood that he needed to put his story in about 10 minutes. 10 minutes is a comfortable timeframe for people to keep their attention going.
He leaned into a Hero's Journey framework: the call to the wild, the journey, the death, the rebirth, the mentors, the gifts, and the return in a massive way. I'll break that down in a different video.
What made his storytelling so compelling was how he started. He immediately jumped into action by saying "back in 2019". This is what we call "in media's res", and it puts you right in the action.
He then took you further by going back to the Rhode Island School of Design, transporting the audience to that period of time, creating a kind of Back to the Future experience.
Brian set the entire theme, the core idea of his talk, with one simple rhetorical device - a rhetorical question: "What if design ran the boardroom?" He wanted you thinking about that the whole time.
Then, he dove into Nancy Duarte's "what is" versus "what could be". He talked about two kinds of realities: the dream reality and the current reality. The dream reality was about creativity and embracing risk.
But the current reality, he said, was about being corporate and clinical - the furthest thing from the dream. He opened up and admitted that he was afraid, he lost his nerve, and the corporate side crept in, because of fear.
The change came with the events of 2020. When COVID hit, Airbnb came to a halt. He used the analogy of an 18-wheeler crashing to illustrate the sudden halt and near-death experience of the company.
The magic starts when he tells you about a dream he had when he was asleep. This dream was designers running Airbnb, living the ideals they had set forth on day one, which they had forgotten over the course of 10 years.
Upon waking, he said, "I awoke from a 10-year slumber". This is a classic storytelling device showing the mistake made and what's possible next. Just like Neo in the Matrix, Sleeping Beauty, even Harry Potter.
He made changes at Airbnb. Before that moment, they were at break-even, but with a design-first approach, embracing creativity and risk, they reached $4 billion in free cash flow.
What Chesky did was he showed transformation - who he used to be versus who he is today. This allowed the audience to put themselves in his shoes and say "if Brian Chesky can do this, why can't I?"
He beautifully wrapped up his talk by revisiting his opening line: "What if design ran the boardroom?" In the end, he argued that a company needs to be both head and heart, and the only way to have heart is by embracing design.
His goal was to create a company that is both head and heart and do something magical. In those 10 minutes, he rallied an entire audience behind this idea that designers should be running companies and creating iconic products.
He masterfully utilized storytelling, embracing Hero's Journey, understanding Nancy Duarte's "what is" vs "what could be" rhetorical devices, and ultimately showed a transformation that is not only raw but also inspiring to others.
The beauty of storytelling is that it shows everyone else what's possible. As a founder, CEO, when you want to rally people behind your ideas, you've got to be ready to tell that perfect story just like Brian Chesky did.
A former trial lawyer and prosecutor in Dallas, TX, Robbie trains founders to become world-class storytellers and venture capital fundraisers.
In barely two years, he's helped founders raise $575,000,000 of venture capital