When we share the unique ways we experience the world, it enriches us and those we share ourselves with. Telling stories leads to greater understanding and connection, but it’s also a fundamental part of who we are. Our initial understandings of danger, of loss, of love, of triumph are communicated via our care givers, through fairy tale, folk tale, cautionary tale.
My uncle Neil was one of the greatest storytellers I’ve known. As a child he bamboozled me with his outrageous adventures to the North Pole, the tomb of King Tutankhamun, his daring exploits on hang gliders and racing his red motor bike through rural Ireland. At thirty-three I’m still trying to extricate fact from fiction (Was he really chased by a polar bear?!) When Neil died unexpectedly in 2015, I felt compelled to write my first play ‘Wolf Tamer’, so I could share his stories with people who would never meet him. Expressing my own personal story of loss allowed me to connect with audience members in ways I hadn’t anticipated. After the show, people came up to me and told me about the loved ones they’d lost. I hadn’t realised that sharing Neil’s story, and ultimately my own, would allow me to bear witness to other people's lives. Together we reminisced about the larger than life, or kind, or unforgettable people who had shaped our lives and our narratives.
For several years I had been helping my Public Speaking clients use storytelling to connect with their listeners during presentations. Then one day, a client asked if I could help her improve her storytelling skills for every-day life. She had a friend who was an ‘excellent storyteller’ she said. This friend was so compelling he drew crowds at the pub, his dramatic twists and punchlines eliciting gasps and belly laughs.
‘Could I do that?’ she asked. I thought about it. ‘Of course’ I said.
Like all aspects of public speaking, storytelling is a skill that can be learned. Over the weeks we transformed her ten sentence anecdotes into well structed tales with moments of comedy, pathos, and suspense. Using her real-life experiences, she learned how to draw her listeners in, how to bring characters and locations to life (and how to do a very convincing Scottish accent!)
Not only was she able to connect with work colleagues through humour, and deliver pitches that instantly grasped attention, she felt a new sense of confidence in social settings. What she had gained was an ability to share her experience without fear of not being funny enough or interesting enough. She allowed herself to be seen more fully. To be unafraid of stepping into the spotlight. To be unafraid of taking up space.
I encourage you to tell your story.
I am a theatre maker and public speaking coach.
To enquire about how coaching can help you, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0747 3962 662.