Have you ever experienced a bit of story-envy when at a business conference, event or meeting and someone shared an amazing story that made everyone – including you – feel something special, where:
- You were completely drawn into the story
- It connected with you at an emotional level and, whatever else you might have been thinking about beforehand was instantly forgotten because:
- You focused on hearing every last word and couldn’t wait to hear what was going to happen next, and
- It provoked or inspired you to think about something in a deeper, different or new way…
…And then later you found yourself thinking: “I don’t know if I have any stories that are anywhere near as good as that one is?” or “How come telling a great story seems so much easier for other people?”
If this sounds familiar to you, I have news for you that’s based on running next-level storytelling masterclasses for business leaders and experts all over the world:
Why many leaders don’t lead with stories in their speeches
There is not a single culture in the world where the majority of leaders either never or only rarely share truly immersive stories from the stage. And where they do tell stories, it’s interesting to see how often they’ll choose safer, high level and third party fare versus a personal story
How come? It seems SAFER!
After all, if you are either in or you’re approaching a position of seniority in your career, profession or chosen sphere of expertise, it’s natural to protect yourself from unfavourable comparisons. And it’s easy to see why you might be risk-averse to sharing a personal story if it could make you seem vulnerable or foolish to others or – worse still – dent your credibility among your peers.
But, as understandable as this might be, here are 3 truisms worth remembering
- Playing safe or defence is never a strategy for frequent or long term success in any business. And this is true when it comes to public speaking too.
- The payoff for sharing more ‘relevant’ and ‘personal stories’ versus third party stories are FAR higher because they: are invariably more ‘personally’ relatable, easier for you to tell, less subject to comparison (since folks are unlikely to have heard them elsewhere) and more apt to inspire heightened audience engagement (which in turn creates more powerful ‘personal’ meaning and memories), AND
- Everyone has more inspiring personal stories your audiences would love to hear than you might imagine
Do you have to be a natural storyteller to find inspiring stories?
But, let’s say you’re thinking:
“Yeah Eamonn, I get all that and I agree with you. But geez, I just don’t think I have any or many personal stories anyone would want to hear and/or it’s ok for you Irish people, this storytelling thing is just so natural for you!”
As a quick aside and newsflash: While it’s true many Irish people do have ‘a gift of the gab’, I have seen zero professional evidence that Irish leaders are any more prone to sharing personal stories from the stage than any other nationality. So, you heard it here folks, like talk of leprechauns…that notion is a pure myth!
I have good news for you. Regardless of your background, profession or culture, you have already amassed an amazing array of stories to this point in your life…
…But you may not have tapped into these memories with any frequency, yet!
And providing you can turn off any ‘internal critic’ interference in your brain that might question if stories buried in your memory are ‘share-worthy’, you may surprise yourself by how little effort it can take uncover myriad stories that could inspire most any audience.
Here’s just one case in point drawn from many, many fabulous stories shared by a roomful of professional speakers at a storytelling masterclass for the German Speakers Association in Hamburg last week – and this comes to you via B2B sales and marketing specialist Irena Mamić– who was adamant she couldn’t think of or find a single story worth sharing with others from her past.
Well I love a challenge and I asked her just one opening question.
Can you think of the first time you remember being delighted by something as a child?
As soon as I asked the question, Irena’s eyes lit up brightly and she said:
Oh my God, yes. I think I was maybe 3 or 4 and my parents were going to send me to a pre-school play school. And I wanted a bag just like the other kids had.
But my mother said, “Oh you’re too young for that Irena, you don’t need that.”
My father heard this little exchange and said nothing.
But on the morning I went for my first day in playschool he handed me this gorgeous and colourful red and blue bag and said: “Don’t tell your mother I gave this to you.”
And I remember thinking: “I’ll bet she’ll notice”
But my mom never said a word and I was the proudest girl in that class. And now that I’m thinking back to this little story, isn’t it amazing how such small things can give you such a boost in confidence?
Now, here’s the thing. Don’t you love Irena’s little story?
And not only was Irena delighted to remember her story, but everyone who heard it that night loved her story too and it totally captured why taking the time to do something nice for others (and this was a super small gesture by her dad) can have such an uplifting effect.
And the moral of my blog post today is simple:
If you give yourself the gifts of ‘time’ and ‘permission’ to recall and consider personal stories that have had resonance and meaning for you in your life, you’ll be amazed by how easily and well many of these exact same stories could be used to instantly boost your impact when sharing your ideas with others.
And now it’s your turn
Any chance you’re now thinking it’s time to get your thinking cap on and reminisce about your personal stories that have stuck with over the years yet? Good.
And if you happen to come up with some gems, how about you share them? I love hearing back from you.