October 19, 2016
Here’s the thing about business storytelling: without emotional connection, you won’t get far.
A couple of weeks ago I was struggling with a very annoying cold that forced me to blow my nose every 10 minutes. It so happened I had to moderate a workshop of a very important client for three days during this period.
The thing about being ill is that it’s just a complete waste of your time and energy. You’re not present in the moment, as your attention is geared towards trying to control yet another sneeze while keeping your professional posture before your clients.
Let’s be honest: no one likes a sick person near them. Just the thought of one probably makes you squirm. So you now fully understand where I stood here.
As a storyteller strategist, I like leading my sessions with (you guessed it) stories. I usually avoid telling my own because I always feel I might come across as an egocentric. Plus, my vast experience in journalism was all about getting someone else’s story. Talking about others is so much easy.
But make no mistakes: sharing something personal with a stranger is the best immediate connection you can ever wish for.
So there I stood in front of some 16 participants all looking very eagerly at this storyteller. The event organizer had been promising them three days full of fun exercises and engaging revelations. And now I had to deliver it. Even though the only thing I was good for was to crawl back to bed with a cup of ginger tea and my laptop so that I could binge watch my favourite Netflix series until I fell asleep.
I had already planned a couple of ‘thank-yous’ and a joke – a giggle is my entrance to my audience’s hearts. I would then proceed with a listing of some of my most accomplished work to prove my expertise to the audience before me.
But as I got up from my seat, gripped to my Kleenex, and took my position, I decided to change the beginning of my presentation completely.
My audience needed a distraction from my running nose and clown-like voice. So I connected with them.
The purpose of the workshop was to talk about connecting to an audience. To use a common literary reference, why not showing instead of telling?
I shared small personal stories about who I was and what got me to stand before them on that day. I told them about my childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina, my adolescent vision of changing the world, and the reason I changed so much over the last few years.
I saw smiles, I saw facial expressions of recognition in themselves, I saw minds wondering to the deepest ends of their soul, recalling those sweet revealing moments that make us who we are.
And there it was: the human connection between me and this room of 16 strangers. I was ready to share. They were ready to listen. Now, I could lead. There was no more need to prove my expertise, because what happened in that room goes beyond that.
Think about it: do you listen to people about whom you don’t care? Do you take on board advice from experts who you just don’t get?
Once that bridge is built and the gate is open, there is only prosperity awaiting.
Here’s my tip for you: be human for a day. Try it. You might just like it.