Prevue Exclusive: Skip Martin Harnesses the Power of Storytelling

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Skip MartinFormer Kool & the Gang lead vocalist Skip Martin shares tips on how to engage audiences of all generations through storytelling.

Skip Martin has been many things in his career to date. He’s a Grammy Award-winning artist, songwriter and producer who was lead singer and trumpeter for Kool & the Gang and the Dazz Band. He won an Emmy Award for his “People Get Ready” project, which brought 28 major recording artists together to help the children of St. Jude who were directly affected by COVID-19. He’s the author of a children’s book, Morgan the Clydesdale Pony, and he’s the first resident of a foreign country to serve as Goodwill Ambassador to Okinawa, Japan. His contributions to the community earned him the 2023 Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.

But before all that, Skip was just another a seven-year-old kid riding around Sacramento, Calif., with his grandparents in a Dodge Ram listening to the radio. When Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” came on the radio, he felt the singer’s presence and heard his message, even though the jazz and pop maestro had passed on. There and then, Skip decided his life’s work would be to evoke similar emotions in others through his music.

“I told my Nana, ‘I’m going to play music so that when I die, people will still feel like I’m in in the car with them.’”

Now Skip is expanding his message beyond music to take the lessons he’s learned through his storied musical career to global audiences as a keynote speaker. You can hear him in person at the Prevue Next-Gen Engagement Strategies Summit, coming to Harrah’s Las Vegas May 8-10.

Prevue recently caught up with Skip to learn more about how he ignited his passion for inspiring others and his advice on how to engage audiences, particularly the younger generations.

Skip MartinThe Power of Storytelling
Being raised in a family of storytellers, Skip early on knew that storytelling was the best way to connect with audiences. He decided at a young age to incorporate impactful narratives into his music. “When I’m singing lead vocals, I’m not just singing a song — I’m telling a story.”

Now he uses that same skill to connect with speaking audiences, taking the art of storytelling into a different media. “It’s not like reading a book,” he adds. “I tell stories that related to success in business and life in a visual, engaging way that uses vivid imagery and emotional connections to draw people in and take them on the journey with me — I call it taking a trip with Skip.”

Those can be literal trips — he has traveled around the world as a singer, musician and now motivational speaker and loves to share what he has learned through his travels — and emotional journeys. Skip has gained many insights through his visits to Asia in particular, he says. So much so that he wanted to do more than perform his music in that part of the world. “I told my manager I wanted to become part of the community there by doing community service,” he says. He also has found that his philanthropic work is even more fulfilling than getting paid for doing a concert. “That’s my life’s work now.”

Engaging Young Audiences
Skip’s desire to connect with younger audiences spurred him to write a children’s book, Morgan the Clydesdale Pony, a story about a Clydesdale pony’s dream to win the Kentucky Derby that was based on his experience at the famous U.S. horse race. He has since developed an entire program, called Skip Into Learning, Inc., designed to empower and inspire children through music, books, workshops and events in destinations from Texas to Tokyo.

“I love working with kids because you can make an indelible imprint on them that they’ll remember the rest of their lives,” he says. Sometimes, as when he’s working with children in Japan, they may not even speak the same language, but he still gets his messages across using lots of emotion, musicality — and a puppet.

He also uses his storytelling skills to illustrate principles of success for work-age audiences, drawing inspiration from his experiences as a young child, his years in the music industry and his travels around the world. “What makes a story great is that it just takes a short buildup to get to the punchline or the moral,” Skip says.

Part of his unique ability to connect with young people is, “I don’t play no games,” he says. To connect with Gen Z and younger, you have to get right to the point, “to tell my story rather than preaching philosophy,” he adds.

He also exudes authenticity, another key attribute younger generations value — and he has the experience to back it up. “I’ve recorded 64 albums in my lifetime, I’ve won a lot of accolades, and I’ve seen a lot of things.” He relies on those life experiences to tell stories that illustrate his key messages, such as his principles of success: the need to face challenges with courage, to work in collaboration toward a common goal, to not be afraid to self-correct when needed, and to make the hard choices and stick by them, even when it means going outside of your comfort zone.

He also has learned from his years working in a band — the ultimate teamwork environment — just how important it is that everyone do their part and not get in each other’s way. In that way, the corporate environment is not all that different from the Kentucky Derby, he says. “Each horse has a team behind it: a trainer, a groomer, veterinarians, feeders…there are 30 people walking behind this one horse, and the horse is about ready to go crazy because they’ve taken all the pressure off of him so he can do what he does best.”

And then, even when the task is outside of your comfort zone, take those risks, he says. “You may not always succeed at first but keep trying. Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone, because that’s where success lies.”

Register for the Next-Gen Engagement Strategies Summit to learn more about how you can adopt Skip’s passion to help your meetings and events empower younger generations and inspire people to live fulfilling lives.

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