How this man received TED’s longest-standing ovation.

Nouman A.
2 min readDec 8, 2021


and a million-dollar in donations.

When Brian Stevenson was only 9 years old, he remembers a gesture from his grandma that changed his life. He was running around in the house with his brothers and sisters when his Grandma took him out for a pep talk.

Grandma goes like this:

“Brian, I am going to tell you something, but you don’t tell anybody what I tell you. She sat him down and said, I’ve been watching you.. and I think you are special. You can do anything you want to do.”

Brian Stevenson started his history-making speech by sharing this story about his Grandma and I wondered why…

why grandma Mr. Stevenson?

“Because everyone has a grandmother. You have to make it easy for people to connect with what you are saying. You have to get folks to trust you a little bit. If you start with something too esoteric and disconnected from the lives of everyday people, its harder for people to engage.”

After making a connecting with the listeners and getting them folks to trust him, he talked about himself. He told them that he did go on to become what he wanted, a lawyer, and made an organization for condemned prisoners in Alabama. Why? because Brian argues that 6 times out of 10, death row prisoners are wrongly convicted just because they are black and poor.

His noble work saved 78 wrongly-convicted inmates from rotting in prison and sent them back to their wives and kids.

In his 18-minute speech, Stevenson told three emotional stories and gave facts and figures to back up his argument. The numbers might have made the listeners nod along but his personal stories made them stand up sobbing and clap like they were born to clap and donate like they own a fortune.

How much of your success do you owe to story-telling?

Almost all of it. You need data, facts, analysis that will challenge people, but you also need narrative to get people to comfortable enough with caring enough about the community that you are advocating for and willing to go with you on a journey. For concepts and ideas if you can engage people with their minds and their hearts you get a deeper investment than when you are trying just to engage the mind in some analytical exercise.

So perhaps, it might be flattering to talk about how many Nike-like brands you have in your DMs, the awards on your shelves, and the secret strategies in your locker but with all caps………, don't you forget to tell a story about your grandma first.

Book Recommendation: The Storytellers Secret by Carmine Gallo



Nouman A.

I write about the marketing strategies that made brands millions