By Nathan Young - Storytelling Consultant
A couple of weeks ago I went to a happy hour event for a group that encourages young people to run for elected office. Obviously all the attendees were politically active people, and there were even some aspiring young candidates in the midst of their 2018 campaigns. I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of them, and when i mentioned that I teach storytelling for a living, they each admitted to me that they didn’t know much about storytelling and were curious how it could be helpful to their campaign.
"I realize storytelling is important, but the campaign already has me super busy and I wouldn't even know where to start," a young woman running for local office said to me.
"I really do need to work on storytelling for speaking publicly," the male candidate said. "It's not something that comes naturally to me."
A third candidate put it more bluntly:
“People keep talking about storytelling as being important for running for office. I understand how storytelling can be important for my communications team, but I’m not sure how I would use storytelling myself. Am I missing something? How can I use storytelling in my position?”
My answer for all of them was simple: Keep a story in your back pocket.
The basic idea is to think ahead about the questions you might be asked or the idea you want to communicate and have story ready to go that helps you communicate this idea. Keep that story in your proverbial back pocket so you can pull it out whenever you need it.
One of the most powerful things that storytelling can do it validate your claims. If you’re a young politician that wants to shows you can stand up to challenges, stick up for the little guy and not be bought off, you’ll want to have stories ready to go about a challenge you've overcome in life, a time you helped somebody that was down on their luck, and how you turned down money that was counter to your idealism. These are the stories that can help validate that you’re the kind of person you present yourself as politically.
But what if you’re not running for elected office? Can the same idea apply?
Of course it can!
If you run your own start-up or entrepreneurial business, you’ll want to have stories handy about why you started your business, how your product helps people and the different ways you’ve been successful in business before.
If you work in nonprofit marketing or fundraising, you‘ll want to have stories on the important work your organization is doing to give potential donors a sense of what they’ll be contributing towards.
If you’re a sales or account executive, you’ll want to have a story ready about a client you’ve helped in the past or how your product served the needs of a past client.
Even if you’re looking for a job, storytelling can be a tremendously important tool for job interviews. You can spend the whole interview trying to explain that you’re a “hard worker” or “problem solver” but no matter how emphatically you state it, it will never work as well as having a story ready to go that validates the claims you want to make.
But isn't this cheating? No! They're your stories. All the best storytellers learn and hone their craft from telling their stories over and over again. Having 3-4 stories on hand for different occasions can be helpful for all facets of your life. You’re most likely doing this already anyways. We all have our fun “go-to” stories for when we meet new people or want to make a good impression in our social lives. The idea would be to simply do the same in other facets of your life as well.
It might seem daunting to get a set of stories together at this point, but don’t sweat it too much. Just focus on getting one story in your back pocket for now and you can always add more as you go. Before long you’ll have a collection of stories in your head for all occasions.
Where to start? Perhaps let's think about an occasion coming up for where you might want to have a story handy. This could be a job interview, an important client meeting or a presentation you're set to give. What story can you have ready for this situation that will help validate a trait or quality you'll want people to know about you?
Want a little help figuring out what stories you can tell? I got the perfect tool for you. Sign up below and I’ll send you my Story Planner Worksheet. I’ll walk you through the steps of planning the stories you'll want to have handy for the next important occasion.