Hey everyone! It’s Elaine here, editorial manager of Get Storied. I’ve been working with Michael and the Get Storied team for more than a year now, part of the behind-the-scenes birth of StoryU. I had the privilege of attending the San Francisco event, as co-producer, part-time caterer, as well as a participant. First, I want to share some brief backstory.
The Life of a Writer & Storyteller
I’ve been a writer almost since before I can remember. I was one of those annoying kids who thought it was cool to interview my 5th grade classmates, write up their stories and have my mom photocopy, collate and staple them for me so I could pass them out on Monday mornings. (The downside was, kids in my class nicknamed me “Scoop” because I was always trying to get the scoop on them. This name stuck through middle school.)
Since that time, I grew up, went to grad school, and became a professional writer and business owner. I’ve interviewed around 1,000 executives, experts, entrepreneurs: everyone from high-net worth individuals and social change-makers…to shamanic healers, Tibetan monks and movie stars (well, okay, one movie star).
Here’s the rub — and if you’re a storyteller, coach or consultant, maybe you can relate:
I’ve spent so much time and energy telling other people’s story, that somehow, my own story sometimes gets lost. I am courageously comfortable in the role of interviewer, listener and synchronizer. In fact, people tend to reveal themselves to me, most likely because I offer them something that many don’t: I ask questions. I listen. I care.
I can weave what you say into a beautiful story. One that matches (or comes close to…) your own voice. I’m a master at mirroring and merging (thanks, Pisces), and it’s served me well as a writer.
Yet when it comes to my own story? Forget it. I’m a writer without words. I have no idea where to begin. So it was important for me to attend StoryU, not only as part of my job, but also for personal reasons. I wanted to look at my own story and see—what was (*is*) holding me back? And how I can move forward from here. This what I learned.
My 7 Takeaways from StoryU Live
- We all have a story worth telling.
There’s an aspect of our own power that we discount. Yet, what the world most wants to know is what we take for granted. What’s the part of your story that is yet to be reconciled? What part of yourself have you left on a shelf? That’s where your greatest power is. For me, it’s allowing myself to be fully seen.
Tap into emotional content.
In order to resonate with your audience, your story needs to appeal to emotion. It helps when you make people feel good about themselves. Validate why they’ve struggled with a specific challenge or obstacle, rather then trying to scare them straight. Nobody remembers what you say in the story; they remember how you make them feel about it.
- Own and inhabit your story.
What if you looked at everything that has happened to you as a path of initiation? How has your life and the universe conspired to give you these experiences, in order to get you to your true work in the world? Look at the turning points, the triggers and the prompts that helped you discover who you really are. We all have a story of who we were born to be. Remember that you are your own character in development.
- Every good story needs creative tension.
Most of us (companies and organizations, especially) are great at sharing our successes. You’ve heard it before: high note after high note after high note. After a while, who cares? It’s boring just hearing success stories. The interesting part is in the tension. The low notes…the twists and turns…and what somebody learned from overcoming obstacles. No tension, no story.
- Nobody wants a victim story.
You have to be careful that the emotion and tension doesn’t feel like a sob story. Are you telling your story from the point of being a victim? Or from an empowered place, as in “Here’s what I overcame. This is why this work matters so much to me.” Look for the gift behind the wound, and tell that story.
- Help your audience locate themselves in your story.
In thinking about how to get your customer’s attention, remember the question they are asking themselves: Do I belong in this story? Find out what your audience really wants and make it safe for them to open themselves to say yes.
- Storytelling is about presence, not performance.
Take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Your audience will forgive you if your story is rough around the edges. (This one is particularly helpful for me.) Remember: the thing you have that no one else does is your story. Share what’s real for you, and that’s enough.
I hope these 7 bite-sized learnings will inform your story as much as they did mine.
The Community Counts
At StoryU San Francisco, I found myself in a room full of bright, creative people, each with a fascinating story to share. The cast of characters included everyone from acupuncturists to executives, filmmakers to fundraisers, communications officers to copywriters. We had a money coach, a wisdom coach, a sex coach…and all kinds of creative marketing and sales professionals.
These were people who were willing to listen to me articulate my own stumblings of a story, and also coach me through it. They offered their presence, their honesty, their humility. I was as touched by their stories as they were by mine.
What all of these individuals shared in common is a simple recognition: Story is powerful. It’s personally powerful, and if you’re in the business of change—no matter what that change is—story is a mindset and approach to learn and practice.
I came away from StoryU Live knowing this: We can’t tell a story in isolation.
Every storyteller needs a listener or an audience—no matter whether you’re just starting to craft a message, or if you’re well into the tweak, polish and perfect stage. We need each other—a community of people—to run-by and refine our story, time and time again. That’s why we’re building StoryU as a global learning community.
For any one of you struggling with voicing your own story (like me), there’s a place for you. There’s a community of smart, engaging people who will coach, inform and support you on your path. And there’s a growing cohort of story practitioners and professionals who are committed to seeing you succeed. You can find it at StoryU.
Want to Know More?
If you want to know more about the StoryU experience, here are some quick 90-second clips from StoryU grads in San Francisco about their biggest takeaways:
There’s no such thing about learning too much about how to
tell a story for maximum emotional impact. – Julia Allison, Journalist
StoryU gave me tools to humanize organizations and to have conversations
grounded in emotion and true story and in something people care about
in a simple way. – Paul Ichilik, Change Management Consultant
Authenticity is the way to propel success. To be able to be vulnerability in front of
your audience – to share who you really are – is what people buy.
Your products and services are secondary. If you can show them who you are
and tell them a way that’s succinct and inspirational, your success will propel.
– Mary Liu, Empowered Women Speakers
In addition check out, the social recaps from StoryU NYC.
- Review Mike Bruny’s fantastic recap of StoryU NYC on Storify
- Search for #StoryU hashtag on Twitter
What’s Next: StoryU Online this Fall
StoryU is far from over. We’re launching StoryU Online coming this fall, and sharing these learnings (and more) around the world. Want to stay in the loop? Get on the list here for early-bird discounts and cool bonuses.
Add a Comment: We want to hear from you.
- What’s the biggest question you have when it comes to your story?
- What would you like to learn most in an online program?
Your insights will help inform how we approach our program. Drop us a comment below.