Part of what constitutes a good presentation by leaders and those who would inspire people to action is a well placed story. Storytelling has become somewhat of a trendy topic but well before and well after the “trend” has disappeared at the core of great speeches will always be that great personal story.
Whether a business case, a successful customer story, a political win, when we can connect and show possibilities, vulnerabilities and the championing of the human spirit. But what happens when the story is not your own? When it is borrowed from someone else?
When you cannot fully empathise with the story because it is not part of your own personal journey?
Of Myths and Legends
In a speaker forum that I am part of the subject came up about stories which are not necessarily true but have been hashed over time to appear that way. What happens when people repeat such stories which either have no elements of truth in them or if they are mythical have not been framed as such.
Take for example, the Harvard Goals Study. You know the one championed by loads of motivational speakers including Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy about how a cohort of students from Harvard achieved oodles amounts of success in their careers on the back of them having written down goals and stuck to them. Never happened.
Or the what about NASA started sending astronauts into space, they quickly Discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero Gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a Decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero Gravity, upside-down, on almost any surface including glass And at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 C. The Russians used a pencil. False again.
Add to that list. People who say Albert Einstein didn’t like maths. Although he was a brilliant mathematician and excelled at it. For the record he never said we only use 10%
Or that Al Gore won an Oscar for An Inconvienent Truth. He didn’t.
Now there is nothing wrong with myths and legends. Indeed from the Creation myth to Santa, our societies and cultures have survived, been inspired, been scared and had truths transferred through the vehicles of myth and legend. The problem comes from when they are not framed as such and people take them as truth. The issue here is that because of laziness and a reluctance to do good research people will transfer stories just to pad out their speech. Hands up I have been guilty of this.
Creating Your Own Story Bank
Often we have our own stories. Think about those times in our lives when the proverbial dodo hit the fan and you had to dig deep in order to find a solution. That is a story.
Think of the times when your organisation provided great customer service to your clients or customers. That time when you went above and beyond, or even if you didn’t the rules of common courtesy changed the way the organisation was perceived and staff behaved.
And whilst a lot of people try to avoid the stories when things have gone really wrong, why not include them as well. The vulnerable moments. The lessons learnt. The reflections on failures and how things changed as a result. Often it is the times that we have most been desperate but learnt from that provide some of the best stories to communicate a rallying cry or a call to action.
Get those stories. Create some kind of library of them within the organisation that can be used to share. Whether through spoken word, visual presentations, audio or video. Bank those stories.
The Power of Stories
As a core tool of presentation skills, storytelling can be wielded to connect both emotion and facts.
We are human and we certainly didn’t grow up being told nursery rhymes, religious mythical stories or other narratives as dry facts on a PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi slide deck.
There is nothing wrong in using stories from others as a reference point. As leaders and influencers such stories can be told to great effect if placed within the right context, delivered with the core audience in mind and framed in such a way that people understand why you told them the story.
Better still, however, is the opportunity to remember and deliver your own stories. To craft them in such a way that it makes and impact and calls people to move. To think differently, and more importantly to go out their and create their own stories. This is where storytelling really comes into play. This is why I love my job so much.