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Opening keynote draws on decades in Hollywood to help nonprofits tell good stories

Terrence McNallyWhat better way to kick off BC2, “Tools to Tell Our Story,” than with a man who has spent decades on screen, behind the mic, and helping nonprofits tell more compelling stories? After 20 years in Hollywood, Terrence McNally became a strategic communications consultant, speaker, writer, and coach. He also hosts a radio interview program that envisions “a world that just might work.” Here’s a bit about him to pique your interest before we gather for BC2 on June 9. (P.S. Have you registered yet?)

Q: How did you make the leap from entertainment to strategic communications?

A: I spent 20 years in the entertainment industry — acting, teaching acting, screenwriting, directing — documentaries, plays, music videos, and producing — records as well as film. The week of my 20th Harvard reunion, I was a recurring character on “Knot’s Landing” and “Earth Girls Are Easy” (on which I was screenwriter, producer, actor, and music producer) was playing at the Harvard Square Theater. We’d been the class that took over the administration building and struck against the university over ROTC and the Vietnam War, and I made a speech asking how we were living up to our youthful ideals. I don’t know whether it moved anyone else, but when I got home, I started getting involved in Hollywood nonprofits.

I found I was very good at facilitating conversations and meetings, and gradually over the next 10 years, I transitioned from entertainment to consulting. About 10 years ago, I shifted from facilitating board retreats and strategic planning processes to strategic communications, especially story and narrative, because it takes greater advantage of all my entertainment experience.

Q: Who or what inspires you?

A: Nature. Lively, curious children. Great writing. Individuals who consistently do their best for others and the greater good. Folks like Bill McKibben of, Bill Drayton of Ashoka, Elizabeth Warren, and Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries.

Q: Who’s the most interesting person you’ve ever interviewed for your radio show?

A: That’s an impossible question. 17 years of approximately 50 interviews a year = 850. Let me name a few — Wael Ghonim, the young Google exec who helped overthrow Mubarak through Facebook postings that mobilized demonstrations in Tahrir Square; Jane McGonigal, with her provocative ideas of how gamers can change the world; Michael Lewis, just as interesting to interview as to read; George McGovern and Howard Zinn, war heroes who became peace heroes; Malalai Joya, young, female member of Afghan parliament.

Q: If you could only keep a handful of books, what would they be?

A: I Ching; The Evolving Self by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; poetry by Rilke and Rumi; Mirrors by the recently deceased Eduardo Galeano; collected Shakespeare; and something by Mark Twain.

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