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 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.
Storytelling is the future.
In Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she says this:
For three days I sat and watched some of the most amazing and provocative talks that I've ever seen. After each talk, I slumped a little lower in my chair with the realization that in order for my talk "to work" I'd have to give up trying to do it like everyone else and I'd have to connect with the audience. I desperately wanted to see a talk that I could copy or use as a template, but the talks that resonated the most strongly with me didn't follow a format, they were just genuine. This meant I'd have to be me.
Though she is speaking about TEDTalks and that style of public speaking that people often feel the need to replicate or imitate, we wholeheartedly agree with her sentiment. And we think that Toastmasters leads to a need to make it “work”. Templates don’t work. Authenticity does.
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.
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?
I work out five times a week. I’m not sharing this fun fact to brag or because there’s a correlation between physical exercise and storytelling. I’m telling you this because my exercise routine exposed a huge roadblock in the way that I communicate.
I go to an exercise studio on the 4th floor of an office building. The lobby is tiny with not too much foot traffic. The elevators are slow and I usually have a good five minutes of waiting for one to arrive. Peter is the front desk associate. He’s in his 50’s or 60s and is always smiling and says “Hi, how are you today?” In most situations, this question prompts me to launch into a story of how my day has actually been and then inviting a story a return.
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:
It’s been two weeks since the Presidential election and there’s still a lot to process. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, there’s a ton to be angry about. Life is confusing right now. And stressful. There is a lot of social media uproar, and digital freaking out. There are protests and community gatherings. There’s also a lot of people that don’t know how to leave their house and face the day. It’s overwhelming.
I have a confession to make. Well, first I will back up and give you a bit of context, and then I will confess...
Yesterday I launched Tell Me A Story's very first online storytelling class. I created a version of our "story pitch" workshop, Tell Your Story: Crafting an Authentic Elevator Pitch That Works, for Skillshare. This class includes 12 minutes of video instruction, and a project to upload. I will be leading group discussions within the class and giving personalized feedback on each and every project.
We all have a story. What’s yours?
This phrase lives on the front page of Peter Zook’s website. Peter is a licensed social worker with a clinical concentration and specialization in mental health. He runs his own therapy practice in Philadelphia.
I run a storytelling organization, so of course I was drawn to this phrase when scrolling down his home page. But the main source of my intrigue came not from the story nerd within, but the thought: What does storytelling have to do with therapy?
I used to be terrified of going to formal networking events. I never felt like I had the right outfit; I wasn’t confident when talking about what it is that I do for a living; and the idea of having to stand alone at any point during the evening would overpower my thoughts and I’d become too scared to go.
In honor of Tell Me A Story's 5th Anniversary, we've asked storytellers that have been a part of the community to share a little bit about what they do and how it connects to the stories they've told on the TMAS stage. Below is a blog entry written by Martha Cooney, founder for Story Up!
Back in 2013, I attended the first ever Bullish Conference in Miami, Florida. The website described the weekend as “a powerful summit for aspiring entrepreneurs, experts, and gentlewomen.” This conference was founded by Jennifer Dziura, the creator of Get Bullish. I found Jen’s articles at a time when I was torn between looking for a full time job in a field that I could care less about and committing to my career as a freelance teaching artist and performer.
Like millions of other story fans, I was addicted to Season 1 of the podcast Serial . I mean, I’ll pretty much listen to anything that Ira Glass tells me to. But once I heard the first few episodes, I waited anxiously for the following week’s download. For those of you who haven’t heard of this podcast here is the premise as stated on its website:
“Serial tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. And we won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us.”