Tomás, what is storytelling?
Storytelling is a wonderful art… It’s a communication tool with the power to bring people together through the magic of simple and emotional events. If we think about it, stories are a part of every facet of our lives and give meaning to our existence from the time we’re born. At birth, each one of us is a blank sheet of paper which overtime gets written over and over, with the stories of our lives. And as we live and evolve, these stories unveil characteristics of our brand that we first must define to ourselves, and then communicate to those around. Ultimately, stories have the ability not only to sustain our value proposition as professional “heroes”, but also to convey powerful and universal messages to our audiences. Storytelling is a real superpower, I’d say!
Did you always, from a young age, like stories?
The first stories that come to mind are from classic Disney movies I watched as a young boy: The Lion King; The Fox and the Hound; The Little Mermaid; Hercules; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs… God, so many memories! It’s incredible to see that after more than 20 years these stories still take me to that magical (and nostalgic) place of childhood.
I believe I have been hooked on stories since then. When my mother would tell me a bed-time story I would always say “Again! Again!”, and the passion has never stopped. Actually, quite the opposite: it has become more and more intense from the moment I’ve rediscovered it. Now I write stories about symbolic encounters that happen to me: on the metro, at a restaurant, travelling, talking to a friend, going for a walk… My radar is always turned on!
At the same time, it takes a high degree of discipline and sacrifice, because you need to find time for writing no matter what. But overall, perpetuating my story has become a “good obsession” that I’m committed to… I don’t know until when I’ll be able to keep up the pace, but I don’t care. I am happy this way.
Tell us about your academic background and your professional experience.
When I was 14, I took my aptitude tests in school and the only job-yielding results were economics and accounting. I did always like to get those chocolate coins for Christmas and have my savings, but then it came to a point where I was like: “am I not good at anything else?” While, on the one hand, I knew I was, on the other hand I also knew that economics was the course that would ensure a more “successful” career path. So, I completed a degree in Business Administration and Management and an International Masters, both at Católica Lisbon, including an exchange program in Canada.
Throughout those 5 years, marketing was the subject that interested me the most for two reasons. First because there was a human component linked to consumer behaviour: “what do consumers value the most? What are their needs? How is their decision-making process?” Second, because of its business strategy component: “what do we need to do to communicate a product or service effectively?”
With this in mind, I interned at multinational companies in the Marketing departments; specifically in the Tourism & Leisure and Consumer Goods sectors. All of these experiences were extremely useful as they provided me with a global perspective on Marketing, from purely strategic to as close as possible to the sales channels.
How was the brand Tomás VP Storyteller born?
In 2016, when I had finished college, I went back to work in the Tourism and Leisure sector while being an Assistant Professor at Católica Lisbon. Considering that I was 23 at the time, you might even say “Not bad, kid! You’re doing good, keep it up!” I did, for a year, but I decided to stop because I felt stuck, unhappy and profoundly alone.
Based on these personal achievement-needs and the desire to be with people, the storytelling bug lit up inside me. I grabbed my backpack and started walking alone through old town Lisbon and reaching out to people on the streets. “Weirdo!” That’s how a lot of people saw me but I just wanted to connect with other human beings and learn from their story.
Those were wild times of discovery and survival, with little direction. I waited tables in a café (something I always wanted to try), I ran a couple of errands here and there but these experiences on the street were the best human resources course I could have ever taken. I learned to live with rejection (naturally, given the amount of times I was rejected), to listen, to ask the right questions, to share more about myself and above all I learned that stories are a special element of connection between people. When I would get home after meeting someone I remember thinking “wow – this is living!”
During those times of revelation, I began to write about different topics and the feedback turned out to be very positive. Given the Marketeer living inside me, I thought “why not create my own personal brand as a Storyteller?” And so it was. In 2018 I launched my project Tomás VP Storyteller, offering content creation and communication training services.
Where do you get inspiration to tell stories?
I usually say that existing is more than enough inspiration. I have the ability to be fascinated with everything that happens to me, from the minute I wake up. A word, a joke, a smile, a conflict, a challenge, a disappointment... All are favourite ingredients of mine, to create a powerful story. The truth is that my life is full of interesting stories! And so, I feel quite fortunate to experience the “Hero’s Journey” on my own journey.
Beyond that, any type of art is a source of inspiration. My mother has a degree in Art History and therefore she brought me up to appreciate a good painting, a book, a film, a music concert... I played the violin for 8 years and there are sensitivities you never lose. Finally, sports and nature are two magic worlds without which I cannot live. You can say I am open to the full range of creation that evokes emotion, virtuousness, and hope.
At the start of the pandemic you launched the Coronavalues Talks encompassing 12 interviews with 12 associated values. Looking at the current communications landscape, which value would you like to highlight?
Bryan Kramer rightfully says, “there is no longer B2B or B2C, but H2H: Human to Human.” Communication is the mirror image of the society we live in. As all of us understand, this post-modern society has revealed itself to be rampant and breakneck, with the added problem of people don’t accepting those who think different, and do different. In this context, humanity is a necessary superpower because it brings about a number of other important values, such as respect, understanding, empathy, compassion and cooperation… To me this is a value that you cannot put a price on. It elevates each one of our missions – in our personal and professional lives – to God’s level. For me, humanity has to be present at the onset of a project, in managing a team, in the content one creates, in reports produced and most of all; humanity is a matter of character. As unbelievable as it may seem, this is the value I would like to highlight.
What advantages does your training bring?
The first advantage is that I genuinely believe in what I do because I have tried and tested it. We all love to hear a good story, and we’re all desperate to get people’s attention. Second, I don’t give the fish, I teach how to fish. People, by looking at themselves as brands, gain a new perspective on themselves. Internally, we define and consolidate their identity by setting their values, skills, etc. Externally, we position their brand in a conscious and strategic way, materializing it in detailed actions according to their audiences. One of these actions is telling personal stories. Trainees thus acquire a methodology for storytelling which is agile enough to be applied in any situation: personal and professional; online and offline.
Third, people who take my trainings have fun! I put my heart and soul into surprising students with activities and thought-provoking questions that bring out not only creativity; but also a clearer vision of who they’re, and what they want. To be honest, training is never just training. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions which pushes participants to look strategically at their stories, and see in them the power of their own character and their own superpowers. In the end, we’re strengthening people’s personal brands, helping them to achieve the confidence they need to reach their goals.
Finally, the biggest added value in my trainings is that participants know that they will always be able to count on me. They are a part of my story and I am a part of theirs. It’s a bond for life.
What was the best thing a student ever said about you?
Daniela had to leave a training session early because she hurt her hand and needed to go to the hospital. I took her to her car and during the conversation we were having, she told me: “Tomás you… you are a star!” I was speechless. These are precious moments that I'll never forget.
What was the craziest thing you did as a storyteller?
Oh boy… There are so many! I’ll tell you one: some years ago I applied to be ambassador of an unconventional tour operator across Europe, Asia & Africa. So, I had to come up with an original video to present myself to them. My idea was: taking the 28 tram in Lisbon and start giving a history lesson to its passengers. At that time I was with a friend at the tram stop across the street from Basílica da Estrela. While he was preparing to film the scene with a Go-Pro, I was reviewing the script and I remember being utterly nervous, just shaking all over. Honestly, though, once it was done, a glorious feeling filled my heart! The tourists clapped and one of them even wanted to give me a tip. At the end, I sat down and we all had a good chat and laughed. Magic happened!
Do you have a motto or brand slogan?
Can you describe your work as a storyteller in 3 words?
Magic. Memorable. Mission.
To finish, what is your next story?
My next story is your story. Let’s tell it together!