Are You Telling Porkies or Stories?
As a professional public speaker coach, I come across all sorts of objections from my clients. See if any of these are thoughts have popped into your head.
“No-one is interested in what I have to say.”
“I don’t have anything unique to teach.”
“I’m not an actor – I can’t tell a story on stage.”
“I’ll never remember everything, and I can’t just ‘wing it’. I need a PowerPoint to fall back on.”
“I don’t want to be like ‘the guru’s’ – they are just making stuff up!”
You will probably have thought one or more of these at some point. Most people do. And, if you are honest, you will also recognise that they are all excuses. But the one thing that stumps most people when even thinking about ‘telling a story’ is….. remembering it is a story. Sounds obvious, right? But what does it mean?
Remember It Is A Story
Well, here’s the thing. When I coach people to find and then tell their story, initially they don’t think they have a story. And that is usually because they may not have an obviously dramatic story – like sailing single-handed across the Atlantic, or coming back from a terminal cancer diagnosis, or dealing with the death of a loved one, or any one of the many stories I have helped my clients craft.
Make no mistake about it – EVERYONE has a story. In fact, everyone has multiple stories that relate to many different themes or occurrences in their lives. But here’s the thing – because it is YOUR story – somehow you think it isn’t important – or isn’t even a story. Does that make sense?
And here’s what’s interesting. Once we have identified a story – either the BIG story – the story that tells the tale of why you do what you do, or a ‘smaller’ story that illustrates a point you want to make – the same thing happens.
Everyone turns into a newsreader.
They want to stick to the facts and stick to the order that the facts happened. And that – quite frankly – is usually boring. Well, that might be harsh. It might be somewhat interesting, but it is probably not memorable, not awe-inspiring, not emotional, and won’t make the person listening change their beliefs or move into action. And if it doesn’t do that then it is pointless.
It’s a bit like reading the history of the Titanic and thinking – “wow I never knew that!” – and then promptly forgetting it and moving on in your life. OR alternatively. Watching the movie Titanic. Where you are swept away in the love story that evolves. You remember it afterwards. You cry when Jack dies. You remember how lucky you are if you have someone in your life that you love that much, or you wish that you did.
The story moves you, it’s memorable, it’s emotional, it might make you do something (Ring a loved one. Hug someone a bit tighter. Count your lucky stars). But is it true? YES – in every way that actually matters.
Don’t Stories Have to Be True?
OK – so the characters of Jack and Rose are fictional, but I am sure there were love-struck couples on the Titanic. The inter-class mix of Jack and Rose might have been fictional but the inter-race marriage of Joseph Laroche and his white wife Juliette Lafargue was true. And in the same way Jack sacrificed himself for Rose, Joseph got his wife and kids on a lifeboat, telling his wife he would get on another boat. His body was never found.
So, the point is here, that the essence of the story was true. The emotions were true. Did everything happen in the exact sequence of the film? No, probably not. Does it matter? Not at all. The point is mistakes were made, a ship sank, 1500 people died and many more people lost loved ones, livelihoods, hopes and dreams.
In the same way, your story has meaning and emotion, and truth. But it doesn’t have to have all the details in it that actually happened at the time. It doesn’t have to be verbatim what was said and exactly who said it, at the precise time it was said. Things can have happened in a different timeline to the one you put together in the story.
Does it matter? Not unless it changes the truth of what you are saying.
When you are telling a story whose aim is to impress your audience with your cleverness or your success, the facts better be true – because otherwise you look like a jerk and you ARE telling porkies.
But if the point of your story is to show your audience they can change their beliefs and give them hope of a better future, and having a different person say a key line, or missing out some time on the timeline, works better – then DO IT.
Your purpose is not to narrate a historically correct sequence of events. Your purpose is to inspire, to motivate, to help your audience to change. It is a STORY, not the 10 o’clock news.
If you would love to craft some memorable, action-making, audience-grabbing stories and need help with that – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s talk about the Sensational Speaker Positioning Program, where you will learn how to be a world-class storyteller and more.