Bento Box Thinking – How to Make Your Message Crystal Clear (and Be Seen as an Authority in Your Niche)

March 14, 2018 - 61 Comments

Communication. We all do it on a daily basis, yet so often we tend to misinterpret each other with even our closest friends. It only gets harder when you're trying to explain something to an audience that doesn't even know you in person.

In this episode, you'll learn how you can apply the "Bento Box Thinking" to the way you communicate that will help you get your point across easier and faster both in speaking and in writing, save time on coming up with a draft or script, and sell your product our service better! 

This episode is not only going to give an awesome boost to your marketing skills but you'll be able to use what you're about to learn even in your personal life!

Listen in!


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Episode Transcript

What You'll Discover in this Episode:

  • How being able to explain something clearly and concisely will help you not only in marketing but also in your personal life.
  • What Bento Box Thinking means and how it will help you create better content, faster - whether it's a product description, a blog post, a video, a podcast episode or even a book.
  • Why teaching the Bento Box communication skills to our marketing apprentices turned out to be the most important and useful lesson to focus on.
  • The background to how our mind works when it comes to articulate ideas and why it's so hard to stick to a single idea instead of jumping from one topic to another.
  • How you can record videos without using a pre-written script or wasting hours in front of the camera.
  • Example explanations - compare the 'usual' way to the Bento Box way of explaining the same concept and analyze how they are different so that you can learn the method.
  • Bonus tips to how you can get your point across as quickly as possible while making sure that your audience understands your message.


Here are the resources we mentioned during the episode:

  • As promised, here's an image of a Bento Box, the Japanese-style lunch box that has a compartment for each food:
bento box thinking

Source By Dllu - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,​curid=49844259

Step Up Your Communication Skills!

Try the Bento Box Thinking method next time you create content and see what happens! Does is make the process faster and easier? Can you get your point across better? Test the method and share your experience!

Join the conversation in the comments section or send us a voice message by clicking on the button below, and share your stories, questions, suggestions with us.

Also, if you have a question that you'd like to be answered on the podcast, send a tweet to @actigrow or leave a voice message below.

The next episode is coming soon!

About ​Alexandra Kozma

Alexandra is a traveling marketer. When she is not editing podcast episodes or writing blog posts, she's out there exploring a new city. She's the creator of the Morning Mindset daily mindfulness journal.

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  • Shane, that was great self-improvement content. As you point out, the reach of Bento Box thinking applies to all aspects of a person’s communications – from marketing and selling to personal communications. That’s the kind of skill that comes across as very impressive to people on the receiving side of the conversation.

    Until you described the technique, I think it’s hard for people to discern what you’re doing to achieve a “smooth flow”, a polished presentation.

    Therefore, I would be very interested in learning about other techniques you practice in the self-improvement realm.

    • Thank you for your comment, Randal!

      It’s a great skill to have, indeed. And once you know about it, you’ll recognize it easily in my content. But for those who don’t know about the technique (which is basically everyone) it just seems like you’re really smart. :D

      • r.mark.mckenna says:

        That’s exactly what I was thinking, Randal! I have long respected Shane for the professional way he explains and teaches, and have attempted (unsuccessfully) to deconstruct how he does it. I assumed it just came naturally. This podcast was amazing to hear that deconstruction. Bento Box Thinking is something I will work on. (In fact, I have been really struggling with the content for one of my products, wondering why it has been so painful to create and not feeling good about it at all, and during the podcast I realized: I made a stir-fry out of my bento box meal. Time to go back and separate it out.) Thanks for sharing a trade secret, Shane.

  • Great episode, I love the idea of Bento Box Thinking. I already tend to be quite organized and structured in my writing and speaking (or so I think :), but applying Bento more deliberately will hopefully improve my communication skills. Gonna try it out, thanks!

  • This is a valuable and worthwhile listening experience. I’ve been thinking along these lines and the ‘Bento Box analogy just brought it all together. Great podcast!

  • This is an excellent article on communicating with a clever way of explaining the organization. I’d never before heard of a Bento Box yet loved how effective it was.

    I’ve taught sales training for decades and as a believer in heart-centered selling have also taught that selling is about communicating. I personally warn them about being very careful with jargon because it can be confusing. Nevertheless, I don’t recall ever being as clear about the issues as you were when you talked about “words we use are based on our experiences.” That is so very true. And since experiences are individual, the understanding of those words are individual.

    • Thank you for your comment, John!

      I’m not surprised that you’ve never heard of Bento Box Thinking before, because I made that up. :D

      I agree that the basis of selling and marketing has to be good communication. There’s more to it than just good communication, but without good communication, you can never sell well.

  • I once heard a funny definition of good communication: To talk as closely as possible past each other. The presupposition in this sentence is, of course, that it is impossible to really understand each other. You can only hope to talk as closely as possible past each other.

    I have got great benefits from using Mindmapping to clarify and identify the different boxes of the Bento Box which helped me in communicating more clearly. My challenge at the moment is to make my communication less boring and more compelling.

    About the downward inflection: I have done research with a large call center (1200 heads) about why some agents always scored a high NPS while other agents always scored a low NPS everything else being equal. One of the key differences between both groups of agents was how they ended their sentences. The agents who end their sentences with a downward inflection scored much higher NPS than the agents who end sentences mostly upwards. Apparently, the first group of agents was perceived much more skilled, knowledgeable and authoritative in the eyes of the customers. After I had trained the second group of agents to end their sentences with a downward inflection, their NPS increased significantly!

    • That is super interesting. Thank you for sharing, Harry!

      It’s amazing that such a seemingly small thing can make such a huge difference.

  • Bento box thinking is a fabulous metaphor to structure one’s thinking process and as you suggest training one’s self to subconsciously assembly thoughts will take practice. I particularly liked your comment to be assertive regarding interruptions from others when applying an inflection at end of a sentence.

    • Thank you, Christopher! From experience, I can say that it becomes automatic. Bento Box Thinking is something I developed over the years, without really noticing. Only once I had to explain to someone how I create content and how I communicate did I really notice the process that I had trained myself to follow.

  • Shane, would you say that the Bento Box Thinking method is basically an outline? It seems to at least produce the result of a (mental) outline.

    In any case, it sounds really useful, I’ll try it out :)

    • Yes, the Bento Box Thinking leads to having an outline of the content in your mind. Or in your notes, for that matter. I recently recorded a video showing how I jot down an outline as bullet points and notes. I’ll be publishing that soon as well.

  • Karen+McCamy says:

    Hi Shane,
    Great information and so well — and clearly — explained & demonstrated! Love the Bento box analogy!

    I can certainly identify with the “telling everything” problem instead of just distilling the key points…

    I’d certainly like to see you go more in depth with this topic in a future article or podcast, or even Thrive University course!

    Somewhere (either here or on Thrive blog) you wrote about “epic content.” My niche is teaching “beginners” how to use specific software… I’ve been working on several “epic” posts, but I’m unsure how *deep* into the topics I should go…

    They would lead to paid content (membership & tutorials), so I’m wondering how you would extend the Bento Box thinking to these longer articles… Is it just a matter of including more (i. e., a broader selection) of points — similar to your “15 Reasons You Need to Create & Sell Your Own Product” post?



    • Thank you for your comment, Karen!

      Yes, the same principle extends to longer pieces of content. Even in an epic post, you don’t cover every aspect of everything. Writing and teaching always involves a certain selection process, no matter at what level. Also, in larger pieces of content, clear structure becomes even more important. There’s only so much that can go wrong in the span of 500 words, but if we’re looking at really long content, lack of structure makes it really unbearable. For this case, two things about Bento Box Thinking are especially relevant. First, to have a clear idea of which points to address and to put them in a good, useful order. Second, to make sure you don’t blur the lines between your points. Explain the first one, finish it, move on to the second one etc.

      • Karen+McCamy says:

        Hi Shane,

        Thanks for your input! :-)

        In retrospect (after my original comment) I was reflecting on the increased importance of Bento Box thinking in longer content, and especially the flow… I think one of the hardest things to remember — as a “natural teacher” — is to filter some information out! I want to teach my readers “everything” and that’s use not possible! I will definitely be much more focused and intentional about using this method for all of my content!

        (btw…I have been struggling with one single “epic” [cornerstone content] article for months! And…I had an outline! But I was still “all over the place” when I started writing it! It’s definitely a hard habit to break!)

        Thanks again!

  • Jean-Christoph says:

    That was an amazing episode. I would love to learn more about these kind of strategies to optimise my communication skills. I’m especially struggling creating good hooks, so what’s your secret weapon here, Shane?

    • Thank you for your comment, Jean-Christoph. I have a lot more to say about communication skills – in the context of marketing and otherwise. So, since this episode seems to be well received, I’ll probably revisit this topic in the future. However, regarding hooks, I don’t have any secrets to share. I don’t think I’m very good at coming up with a hook, myself. I shared some thoughts on this in this episode about copywriting, but I don’t consider myself an expert for crafting titles and hooks specifically.

  • Hello Shane,
    Great job! I took a look at your themes and just purchased Thrive Architect 5-pack to use with my new project. You have earned lots of credibility.

  • Thanks for this Shane.

    Hanne once told me you use boxes to structure your videos, now I know exactly what she was talking about.

    Just have to remember to actually DO this before writing, and I’ll spend way less time spinning my wheels.

    I especially liked the point that people will remember MORE when you say LESS.

    I tend to want to cram too much in.

    Thanks for sharing your secrets.


    • Thank you for your comment, Jim!

      This will definitely help with your writing. Remember to think of this as a habit. It’s something that you can make part of your process and part of the way you think in the first place. That will give you greater benefits than if you treat Bento Box Thinking as a one-off strategy to apply every once in a while.

  • I’m totally guilty of randomly associating as I explain stuff.

    This episode was very, very insightful. The Bento Box analogy made it perfectly clear as well. Using visual examples like that help understanding what one wants to convey much easier, too.

    Actually, I’d be very interested in what else you talked about with your marketing team :)

    On a random side-note: What about the headline contest from 2-3 episodes ago?

    • Thank you for your comment, Tim! I’m glad to know you found this useful.

      Regarding the headline writing contest: I’ll have an update on that in the near future as well. :)

  • It seems to me that people are seriously challenged in communicating ONE main idea at a time. Figuring out the one point or purpose of an article, speech, video, etc. is difficult. Thanks for this article. Any other thoughts and tips you have on this subject would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • Yes, that’s definitely a problem! I think it’s also because of the associative thinking that our brains do automatically. Even if we try to stay focused on one idea, our brains will offer up related ideas and topics as we’re presenting.

  • Hi Shane,

    Well it looks like it’s time to write a book called Bento box Communication. I would read it. Is this something that you came u with on your own or are there other books or articles you would suggest to go deeper into this topic?

    • Thank you, Terry! I may write a book about this at some point. I don’t think the concept is refined enough, though. I would spend some time teaching and coaching the method, before writing a book about it.

      • Joeh Bernard says:

        I’m ready to pay $$$ into a course or anything you create on this Topic Shane. Consider me a beta tester for refining this method. And may this book ever come see the light.

  • I really enjoyed this episode Shane. I hope you do decide to dive deeper into communication skills in the future.

    I’m doing a training presentation next week with a focus on communication skills. This episode couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks

  • Hello Shane, thanks for your post. It can be really important for us to apply. Here is a short story of what happened to us some months ago. We launched a new product that costs 250 usd. I noticed that after viewing the landing page some people was asking strange questions about the product. I did not give much importance. We had few sales, but after giving an ultimatum, we sold 4 or 5 units. Just to later realize that people had no idea of what product they bought. I guess that by using this technique, we had had more sales, or at least more happy customers. And at the same easier to do presentations when you know that you just have to convey a limited number of ideas (2 or 3) that after all, is everything can be remembered. Thanks for sharing. Best.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Raul. I recommend you redo that sales page, then do some user tests on it, to confirm that people actually understand your offer. Then, sell it again to the same audience/list as before. I bet you can get far more sales.

      And by the way: it’s a surprisingly common problem that people create sales pages or offers where the main problem is that visitors just don’t know what the offer is. This is how we’re affected by THE CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE. To us, it’s so clear what we’re offering that we often forget to explain the very basics.

  • Very useful, Shane. Thanks for this. I admit I tend to ramble on and on and feel that I have to share everything about the topic. Of course this is bad like you said, as people will tune out eventually.

    This is a helpful reminder. Thanks again!

  • That has been very Shane, thanks! It made me more aware of how much I actually ramble during a conversation, going from one topic to another related and so on (same for my writing.)

  • Aloha Shane,
    I appreciate the content of this podcast very much.

    I have developed a product that everybody “seems” to know everything about when in reality they don’t have the foggiest idea what it is or more specifically what it does.

    So how do you suggest I should go about – where to start out – shedding some light on the product and its health benefits?

    For the time being this is for me a “what to do about nothing”.

    Your reply to Karen was very helpful.

    I have “my” bullet-point-list but I still don’t know where or how to start.

    Your input highly appreciated.

    • A good place to start is to verbally explain your offer to people who don’t know anything about it. See what makes sense to them, what questions they have etc.

      To find candidates for this, join a local Toastmasters group, go to a coworking place or join an entrepreneur meetup.

  • This was really helpful. I work in a culture where everyone interrupts each other and it has made all of us never-ending speakers. With the information you shared, I can work on my own effectiveness. Thank you again.

  • Shane, that episode was hugely insightful and extremely valuable, thank you.
    I discovered it by chance when searching on YouTube for info on Trello and found your superbly explained video on the benefits of using Trello and examples of how it can best be utilised; that led me to this blogpost and the podcast. Have now subscribed and looking forward to receiving more content of this exceedingly high quality.
    Thank you again.

    • Thank you for your comment, Tony! I’m happy you found your way here and that you’ve gotten use out of the content. :)

  • Can I ask Shane, is there any software of app’s you use to compartmentalize the different points or ideas you plan to talk about? I know you are a fan of trello, and I have started using it for planning content, but I wondered if you might actually draw an actual bento box and plant the ideas in? Or maybe just pen and paper?

    • Hi Helen,
      If it’s any help, I have used Trello boards in rather “unconventional” ways! ;-)

      I’m currently using several boards to organize an online course I have planned (from Shane’s ‘Course Craft’ course)…

      I like the way you can drag things around in Trello to get the “flow” just right…

      I see no reason why you couldn’t use that for Bento Box planning/organizing as well… IMO, it’s easier than using a word processor — because of the drag-and-drop functionally —& it’s easier than using Evernote or another note-taking app for the same reasons…

      Another feature of Trello I use a LOT is the checklists on the cards… You can set up multiple checklists on a single card AND you can rearrange the checklist items! This latter feature functions like a mini-outline on a single card…

      Hope this helps a bit! :D

    • Hi Helen,

      I use Trello to plan my content (tutorial here), but I’ve never visually drawn a Bento Box representing my content or structure. I also prefer working digitally rather than with pen and paper, but that’s just down to personal preference. I know some people swear by pen and paper, which gives more freedom to draw and sketch.

    • Hi (again) Helen,
      Not sure if are familiar with Evernote (I use it for everything! :-) )

      When I left my earlier comment about using Trello for Bento Box “planning” content, I hadn’t yet tested a new template I made in Evernote…

      I’ve now tested it out and it worked great for me!

      I’m happy to share it with you if you’re interested in trying it out! If so, let me know & I’ll post a link or put it in Google drive or something… (It would probably work best if you already have Evernote, but I’m sure there’s a work-around of some sort… :-) )

      Hope to hear back from you soon!

  • Agreed 100% that clarity is critical in all forms of marketing, and breaking down the quest to achieve said clarity via the ‘Bento Box’ model makes total sense. Looking forward to more on the topic – well done!

  • This is the best thing that’s happened to my writing life this year. Thanks, Shane!

    I made one adjustment for myself: I think of a Tiffin instead of a Bento Box. That image works best for me.

    The principle is unbeatable for simplicity and utility, though. If you wrote an ebook around this post, I’d buy it.

  • Matthew Ridgeway King says:


    This is a great article. I’m putting together lessons right now for my business using thrive theme tools and the habits you’ve talked about. My question is that for a lesson or article when you are going to provide written text and video. Do you write the content first and make a video around that or vice versa? Or do you just create your outline and just talk?

    • I usually start with notes, then record a video and then do the written portion. This works well for me because I have done more video work than writing, so that comes more naturally to me.

  • Hello Shane! I was referred to this podcast by a colleague and was amazed (obviously) by the immediate cross-over between Bento Box Thinking and my new agency, Bento Box Communications. Honestly, when I listened to you explain Bento Box Thinking I realized I was already doing that in my corporate day job, and I naturally cultivated that thought process into my company and how I help my clients. Thank you for sharing this wonderful approach to communications and now I am hooked on listening to more of your podcasts!

  • About 20 mins into the podcast, still don’t know about bento box thinking, apart from how great it will be, and at this stage, you’ve just moved onto what is content marketing.

    I must say I will come back to listen to this when I have the time, but for me, I’m all dialed out at this stage. I guess, maybe, you didn’ apply bento box strategy to the content of the podcast?

    Thanks for the content, though!

  • Hi Shane,

    This was super helpful.

    When I’m working on a client’s project – (as a copywriter) I use my own variation of ‘BBT’ – always looking at the structure of the piece & how to ‘chunk’ the content.


    With my own communications – both spoken and written – I see how I fall into most of the traps you talk about…

    > yes – I am attached to including ‘more’ (mistakenly thinking that that adds value)
    > yes – I like to ‘flex my knowledge’ (more than is helpful sometimes)
    > and yes – I LOVE to go off at tangents (oh boy!) – and show just how far my mind can leap! (ahem!)

    The point you made at the start about this BBT approach being ‘counter-intuitive’ was particularly helpful… so I can notice my brain’s pull to ‘go off track’.

    And I am now wondering if, in speech, I avoid downward inflections (in case I have another impromptu association to add!)

    As I now start planning something of a reinvention for myself – and a series of content pieces (for videos, blogs and workshops) and a new website (Creative Mindset) – what you have shared here is priceless – and hugely supportive. Thank you.

    It gives me the simple focus I was looking for. (I realise I can be slow to take my own creative medicine.)

    So you know, Shane, I heard about you via word of mouth. Tony Winyard (who posted one of the comments above) sang your praises loudly in a recent small group Zoom – and shared the link to the BBT SoundCloud page. (Maybe mostly with me in mind – given the challenges I was expressing.)

    Many thanks, again, Shane. (And as a ‘thank you’ for what you’ve given me tonight – if ever you need some ‘hooks’ for anything you’re offering, I’m happy to help out.)

    all the best


    I will be practising BBT thinking & let you know how I get on…

    • Thank you, Jonathan!
      I’m excited that you found this as a guide to help you improve and that you’re embracing the method. I’m sure this will make a huge difference for you, as it has for myself and many people I’ve worked with. I’d love to get an update on your progress, down the line. :)

  • Joeh Bernard says:

    Why isnt an Ikario course on this? I’d pay $$$ to learn this and have more depth on what was shared on this material!

    So much gold here. Would love to learn more about Bento Box Thinking

  • Shane – You published this content five years ago, and I feel fortunate that I came across this podcast via your website all these years later. You did a fantastic job breaking this concept down. I will build this ‘Bento Box’ structure into all my forms of communication moving forward. Thank you!

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