Any good leadership development training will tell you that sharing your personal story, giving others an insight into your values and why you care is important for building a team and achieving your goals.
The practicalities of sharing your personal story effectively can be rather daunting, though.
Over the years, I've told numerous different personal stories (learning as I go) with the purpose of sharing a little bit about who I am and what brings me to be so passionate about the work I'm involved in.
I still categorise myself as a novice. I reflect on some of the stories and cringe - but I firmly believe in having a go. If it doesn't go to plan at least I've learned something, and can build on the positives and negatives for next time.
The thing with stories (sometimes called your Public Narrative) is it's a craft and can only be learned by practising, sharing, gathering feedback, reflecting and telling again.
The purpose of this blog is to share some of my reflections to help others have a better chance of success first time round, and reap the rewards of sharing your story.
Recently I was facilitating the launch of the national #AgeingWell Improvement Communities. I felt the overpowering need to share my story so that I could express my empathy and show that I was acting with the audience rather than for them.
Out came the pen and paper. I quickly crafted a story about my great uncle Ted (picture below) and why I was so passionate about the care of older people. During the tea break I practised my story with a trusted colleague who coached me to draw out key themes which would be pertinent to the audience. This is the live recording in front of 320 delegates... https://youtu.be/zkES-oKb0Zc
It's not perfect, and the point is it doesn't have to be to engage and move your audience. These are my top eight tips for crafting your story...
- Purpose - Think about why you are telling your story, and what you want people to do after they have listened to your story.
- Have a simple structure to your story - Start with your personal story (story of self), then connect this to your audience (story of us) and follow with what action you would like people to take (story of now).
- Include a practical action - Think about the purpose of your story and what you are asking people to do. Your ask could be anything from asking them to attend a meeting or event, share the message with a wider audience, change clinical practice or take action to change behaviour.
- Involve all the senses - During your story (story of self), utilise all the senses, make it visual by explaining what you saw. Describe what you did, what you could smell and taste. Don't be afraid to show emotion. By describing the detail, you will make your story memorable to the audience.
- Use relational language - In your 'story of us' and 'story of now' using relational language like "together we can" or "we will have all experienced..." will draw your audience in to your story and cause.
- Keep it short and to the point - A worry of mine is talking too long; about 3 to 4 minutes is about the right length of time to spend sharing your story.
- Practice, Practice, Practice - Practising your story is key to successfully achieving your purpose. Even better, practice with a friend and ask them to coach you in delivering your message succinctly with your key messages within a set time.
- Prompts and notes - We'd all like to have the confidence and memory skills to go without notes and this will come with time as your craft grows. However you may want to have some prompts on paper or a presentation slide to help you keep your train of thought. A great way of having visible prompts is in the form of photos that both yourself and your audience can see and connect with.
These are my top tips and I have an ask of you... please share your experience so we can learn together AND share this blog with a colleague so that they too can craft and share their personal story.
If you'd like to learn more about the power of story telling and how to build courage, confidence and skills join the School for Change Agents on our free online learning platform.
When we tell our own story, we teach the values that our choices reveal, not as abstract principals, but as our lived experience. We reveal the kind of person we are to the extent that we let others identify with us. Marshall Ganz