Flash forward to the next class. All of the kids were abuzz, talking about the character they had created. Of the fifteen students, fourteen of them brought in drawings of the character. Each drawing showed what their personality was like and what superpowers they possessed. What about that fifteenth student? She sat quietly in the circle with a look of horror and embarrassment on her face. And she was clutching a shoe box.
When I first started telling stories on stage, I thought that what I was doing was doing stand-up comedy. I would perform on comedy nights, with other comedians, and people would laugh at what I said. But my material had a different rhythm to it. I wasn’t out there just to get a laugh every few seconds, I was sharing things from my life that I could now look back on and laugh at (and with). And the payoff for the audience — who would still laugh, repeatedly, along the way — was a complete story, that they could connect to, relate to, and feel joy from.
Lately the most visited page on the Tell Me A Story website is… this one. The problem? I wrote the original blog post in the Spring of 2016 and so much has changed for me since then!
In the past three years, I went full time with Tell Me A Story and have been building it into a full service brand. I started a podcast. I joined several professional networking organizations. And I grew less and less nervous showing up to events because as I showed up as my true self.
Just presence and an open mind to meeting new people, learning new things and seeing what might come of it way down the line.
When beginning to craft your personal narrative it can feel like there are so many places that you could begin. And when you are overwhelmed by the number of starting points, it makes it all the more difficult to begin the story brainstorming process. There are two common anxieties when it comes to crafting a story that you want to share with your audience. The first is the deep rooted belief that you don't have a story worth telling. There are many many reasons why this statement is false. Every single one of us has a story worth sharing. It doesn’t have to be monumental. You just need to have a purpose for sharing it. The second major worry when it comes to finding the right story to tell is the feeling of having so many personal narrative ideas that you just can’t wrap your head around where to start. Here’s where the tidying up comes in. To find the best story to tell, you need to brain dump all of the ideas out of your head and then check in with each one to see whether or not it sparks joy.
I want to share an experience that I had in front of the audience two weeks ago. I was thrilled when comedian Alise Morales asked me to be a part of her show The Roast of Your 15 Year-Old Self. This show usually takes place in NYC but Elise comes to Philly every so often run the show at Good Good Comedy Theater. I was ripe with roast material! 15 Year-Old Hillary had a wild ride, and this was something that didn't become apparent until very recently.
When I think of the term Table Topics I think of an impersonal speech. I think of worrying about the perfect delivery of an off-the-cuff two minute speech on a surprise subject that I may or may not be passionate about. But what if we reframe this activity into something that is joyful, unique, and builds connection between you, the speaker, and your audience?
Last month I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the number of small group workshops that I offered through Tell Me A Story. The way my business is set up, I only ever run one workshop at a time, but in theory I could rotate between three Deep Dive workshops (it takes place over a month to 6 weeks and meets 4 times total) and two Master Classes (two hour one-off sessions) and then I have these two hybrid offerings PLUS my 1-on-1 sessions with clients. Is your head spinning reading this? Mine certainly was.
Here's the thing: I've watched many brilliant TED Talks. And I am sure there are many brilliant ones just waiting to be discovered. But I do not think that a TED Talk makes you a thought leader. I do not think that following a very rigid format is the best way to connect with your audience and communicate and idea that you are passionate about sharing.
Yesterday afternoon while getting ready for the show, and seeing Instagram comments re: the 8th Anniversary like “Happy Birthday!” and “Congratulations!”, I thought is this something to be congratulated on? Is this a big milestone or a big embarrassment? I settled on the latter as the answer to my query.
I left college in NYC with a degree in Vocal Performance and crippling stage fright. For the first few years out of school I could hide from the fear because I wasn’t putting myself out there to be seen, judged, evaluated, or even praised. After one Summer of auditions, I took an office job and spent most of my free time at brunch, watching reality TV, and going to DJ nights.
Last week I moderated a panel discussion on developing your personal brand. There was a lot of debate amongst the panelists and audience members regarding how much we share from our personal lives when in a professional setting. Should you have two Instagram account? (My intern recently told me about FINSTA vs. RINSTA, and my mind was blown.) Do we stay buttoned up - both on the inside and outside - and keep our hobbies, passions, and feelings at bay?
Here’s my philosophy. Meld the professional with the personal. Be yourself and use storytelling as your guide. Here are six ways that crafting your personal narrative will help you professionally.
From Hillary Rea, founder of Tell Me A Story:
When it came to the stories and storytellers that shared their experiences on the TMAS stage, this year was quite exceptional. It was very hard for me to choose just ten stories to highlight, but the list below (in alphabetical order) are the ones that have stuck with me since I heard them live. Here’s to 2019 and all of the stories to come!
From our Fall 2018 intern Mary Rayer:
It’s hard to believe my time at Tell Me A Story is ending. One of my favorite parts of this internship was helping at the live show (shout out to Shot Tower Coffee, you’re all wonderful!) Thank you to everyone I met in the community for being so kind and welcoming. In closing, here are my top 10 stories (in alphabetical order) from 2018, including some of my favorite quotes and random commentary.
When running your own company and representing your own brand, it’s important to tell a story. And so often the story told is too general or isn’t rooted in true experiences. These stories lack structure and aren’t actually about the person running the show. (Hint: That person is you.)
Before you can jump into a brand story or a customer story, it’s necessary for you to find a story that answers the question: How did you get to where you are now?
Public speaking, storytelling, and leadership all tie together and the more you can align the three, the better off you will be as a strategic and impactful communicator. I think of it as speaking your truth.
Three summers ago I got emergency gall bladder surgery while on vacation at the beach. When I spent my entire vacation in the hospital, and then two weeks lying on my couch at home not working, I started to panic. I had freelance jobs, paid my own health insurance premium, and did not have any vacation days or sick days. And now I was stuck with a huge out-of-pocket fee and way too much free time. I HATE down time.
I’ve always had an urge to write a storytelling manifesto. Each time I’ve sat down to write, I’ve thought two things: “Where do I begin?” and “Why me?” With each ponder of these questions, I fold down my laptop, get a cup of coffee, and wander around my co-working space until I came up with something else to do. What's held me back wasn’t a lack of expertise on the topic, it was more the worry that if I put these thoughts down on paper, they will be set in stone. And that notion is terrifying. The concept and ideas behind the word storytelling have grown so much. Humans have a multitude of channels for communicating the moments and ideas they hold deep. How can I dig through all of this in just one document?
In honor of the various pop culture yearly round-ups that circle around the World Wide Web this time of year, we present to you our favorite stories from 2017. Here's to a fruitful year of stories in 2018. We're back at Shot Tower Coffee on Wednesday, January 17th for a live storytelling event on the theme Renewal.
In no particular order (but alphabetical) here are the storytellers and the tales that we'll remember for years to come.
If you're a binge watcher, you can access the full playlist of stories over on Vimeo. If you prefer to take the stories in one at a time, continue scrolling.
One of my favorite things to do, when I’m at a conference or event, is to observe the people who are presenting. Sometimes they are referred to as “thought leaders” or “keynote speakers” or “esteemed guests”. Sometimes they are famous… or infamous. When this person is introduced - they are hyped up by the person who is hosting. There is a long list of credits, accolades, and other intimidating factors. All of this build up raises my expectations to extreme heights and I assume their presentation will knock me to the floor. This is an expert, they will inspire. Ultimately I’ll leave not only learning something new from them, but learning something new about myself. (#fitspiration, am I right?)
Wow, 2016 flew by. It's hard to believe that we produced six Tell Me A Story live shows at Shot Tower Coffee, three Fibber shows with Good Good Comedy and a special event Tell Me A Story at Arden Theatre Company. It was truly hard to choose our favorite stories from 2016. But we did it.
In no particular order, here is our Top Ten storytelling moments of 2016: