I was at a local Tedx event last week. It is something that has now become a regular on my annual calendar. What I love about Tedx is how it reminds me of how powerful the art of storytelling can be. Last year I came away with a whole new appreciation for sharks, which for someone with a fear of open water, is saying something! This year it was a close tie between a teacher helping us to fall in love with maths, and the tale of a young woman who made Google executives sit up and take note when she shared the realities of using Google maps when you are in a wheelchair. Stories of grit, inspiration, learning and courage.
Growing up on the west coast of Ireland with a black and white television and little else for evening entertainment, I loved to join my Mother on her weekly outings to neighbouring houses where there would be gatherings of mixed ages. Stories formed the stage for these evenings. Most were of days gone by, history, traditions, a healthy sprinkle of legends, ghosts, and perhaps the odd spice of gossip of course. Neither money nor status could compete with the best of the storytellers.
My grandfather, an unassuming, kindhearted farm-owner, was known to hold an audience for hours before he would remove his tweed cap, brush his hair down, and smirk sheepishly - a signal that the whole story was made up (or at least we thought it was)!
Whilst I cannot claim to have been gifted that family gene, I've always enjoyed weaving storytelling into my work. Perhaps to the frustration of early clients when their audit report was normally accompanied by a tale of some sort, none of which would be written in the report of course. Almost without fail, the accompanying tale could capture the essence of the message so much better than the constrained form of the written template that we were so fond of sticking to in those days.
From the day we are born stories capture our attention, teach us lessons, and most significantly they stay with us in a way that other forms of knowledge transfer seldom do. As humans we are naturally tuned to listen to the pace and form of a story.
Nowadays as an executive coach I do a lot more listening than talking, but I particularly enjoy helping others tell their story. I'm not a natural storyteller by any means, but it is a skill we can all learn. Next time you are writing a report or finishing a presentation, sit back and invite yourself to capture in 1 or 2 lines the real essence of what the message is.
The essence, what you really want to say, is the thread that should form your story.
A good story has all the building blocks we learned back in school - a start (what or why are you talking), middle (what is your message, what do they need to know), end (what is the consequence of what you've said, what is going to happen next, what do you need them to do). And my favourite part of any story - the morale, what have we learned from this. That is when you start to engage the heart and the mind of the audience.
The story, delivered in your own words and voice - that is when you capture your audience.
Eilish Jamieson Coaching