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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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?)
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.
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.