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Tomás, what is storytelling?

Storytelling is a wondrous art… It’s a communication tool with the power to bring people closer together through the magic of emotions and simplicity. If we really 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, in simple terms, we’re a blank sheet of paper which overtime gets written over, and then rewritten, with the stories of our lives. They bring our brand (personal or corporate), made up of values, principles and character, to life, and stories have the ability to convey universal lessons to our audience.

Did you always, from a young age, like stories?

The first stories that come to mind are Disney films which I used to watch, while I was still wrapped up in my blanket: The Lion King; The Fox and the Hound; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs… It’s incredible to see that after more than 20 years these stories still take me to a magical childhood place.

I believe I have been hooked on stories ever since. When my mother would tell me a bed-time story I would always say “Again! Again!” and the craving has never stopped up to today. In fact, quite the opposite: it stopped being a passive habit and became an active habit. Now I write stories about everything that happens to me: on the computer, on my smartphone, my forearm, the palm of my hand… I don’t know when I’ll give it up but also, I don’t want to. 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. “Am I not good at anything else?” While, on the one hand, I knew I was, on the other 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 component that was linked to consumer studies: “what do consumers value the most? How, when, where and why?” Second, because of its business strategy component: “what do you 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 sector and Consumer Goods. The 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.

During those times of revelation, I began to write about different topics and the feedback turned out to be very positive. Given the Marketeer in 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, encompassing content creation and communication training.

How was the brand Tomás VP Storyteller born?

In 2016, when I had finished school, I went back to work in the Tourism and Leisure sector while at the same time I was an Assistant Professor at Católica Lisbon. Being 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 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 in 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, encompassing content creation and communication training.

Since then my career has transitioned into roles like copywriter / content manager at communications agencies, bolstering the growth of the project through collaborations with Católica Lisbon, EDIT. , and Carla Rocha Comunicação.

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 disappointment... All are favourite ingredients of mine, to create a beautiful story. The truth is my life is full of interesting stories! (Here between you and me, I live stories so that I can go out and tell them. It’s a part of my mission.

Beyond that, any type of art is a source of inspiration. My mother has a degree in Art History and 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 sensibilities you never lose. Finally, sports and nature are 2 sanctuaries filled with knowledge without which I cannot live. You can say I am open to the full range of creation that evokes emotion.

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 which, to this point, has revealed itself to be rampant and breakneck. In this context, humanity is a necessary asset 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. For me, humanity has to be present at the onset of a project, in the team, in the content creation, in reports produced and most of all; humanity is a question of character. As unbelievable as it may seem, that is actually the main feature.

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 for people to hear our own. Second, I don’t give the fish, I teach how to fish. People 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 that stimulate the 5 senses and bring out creativity; and they’re always aimed at personal development. 

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 have a star!” I was speechless. There are small moments that forever mark us.

What was the craziest thing you did as a Storyteller?

Oh boy… There are so many! I’ll tell you two: the first was taking the 28 tram in Lisbon and giving a history lesson. I was with a friend at the tram stop across the street from Basílica da Estrela and I remember being super nervous, just shaking all over. Honestly, though, it was a glorious feeling! 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.

Do you have a life mantra?

Life is about people and I am a vehicle for their passage.

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!