THE CHANGING ECONOMY WHERE THE STORYTELLER RULES
BY ROSH LOWE
The world has shifted. Covid-19 has forced us into our homes and unfortunately left many jobless, hopeless, and scared. But there is hope.
We have one of the greatest opportunities in front of us and that's a virtual audience waiting to be inspired, engaged, and motivated.
The other night I stared at my phone, I've been doing a lot of that lately, and I received notifications of ten people going live on various social media platforms.
As the creator of a public speaking method that fosters connection, I was stunned by the missed opportunities.
“This is your chance,” I screamed.
The ability to share your story has become more important now than ever. Those who know how to connect will prosper and those who allow their fear of public speaking to reign will inevitably be left behind in the new economy which will value mental health and self help more than materialism.
We have all witnessed the temporal and fickle nature of wealth. It can disappear overnight. The only thing that is permanent is our connection to our families, our coworkers, and the global community.
The stage is yours.
I was nine years old when I made my Broadway debut in Mame with Angela Lansbury. Four decades later when I close my eyes I can’t still feel the anticipation. The butterflies as the orchestra begins the overture, the excitement of connecting with an audience, I felt like I mattered.
This power didn’t exist off stage. It wasn’t present on the playground, at home, or in school. But the stage was a place of pure freedom. I was able to get into a character and escape.
Unfortunately, the stage for child actors is not permanent. After a seven-year run, the stage was ripped from beneath me, puberty and acne won out.
I was thrust from freedom to the real world where the joy of expression is stunted by judgement.
We have all fallen into this void where self-esteem is sucked from us. A nasty comment from a friend, a jeer from a bully, the teacher with subtle insults and so on push our inner voice into submission.
But now when the world is stuck in quarantine the voiceless will be left behind. Those who can share their story will standout. We have returned to the campfire mentality. We are sitting around in a virtual world roasting marshmallows and waiting for the next storyteller to step up.
A personal narrative in a public setting benefits those listening who will relate, learn, and be inspired by the speaker.
But what is the benefit to the speaker? Many times, our self-limiting beliefs thrive in silence. The negative self -talk benefits from isolation. The verbalization of anxieties, fears, and struggles has a therapeutic effect.
The real you is not the person who has been cut down by insecurity and self-doubt. The real you is powerful, strong, courageous. Why am I so confident when I say that? The hundreds of people I have trained all have one thing in common. In some way their life experience has stolen their voice. This doesn’t have to be a big traumatic event. In fact, sometimes, the small incidents along the way make the greatest impact.
There was a client who got cut from a baseball team, a client whose mom favored his other siblings, a client who failed to make a play in high school. These are all defeats that we make part of our personal narrative. We all write an autobiography in our head and this directly impacts our present-day motivations, interactions, and ultimate success.
So, the question is how do you return to your authentic self?
How do you return to the true you?
How do you resist becoming a phony?
Be in touch with your emotions. Don’t compartmentalize your life.
On the stage, a performer is forced to emote. Emotions are the key to finding your motivation.
As Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook writes in “Lean In,” “Sharing emotions builds deeper relationships. Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about. To really care about others, we have to understand them — what they like and dislike, what they feel as well as think. Emotion drives both men and women and influences every decision we make.”
So let me give you clear tips the next time you decide to have your voice heard.
Don’t be afraid of nerves. Adrenaline is fuel. You need to harness the nervous energy. A common mistake is that nervous speakers tend to pace. They want to release this nervous energy and pacing is comfortable. Don’t pace. I want you to remain anchored on the stage. Use your movement judiciously. Step forward when you want to get the audience’s attention and step back when you are transitioning between ideas or scenes. Think of a speech like a concerto. You are the conductor. The instruments you have at your disposal is your voice, your movement, and visual aides.
Your voice is a powerful tool to communicate emotion. A speech has a rhythm. The voice is used to accentuate when an audience should pay attention. Don’t be uncomfortable raising your voice, when you want to drive home a point. Visualize the classic bell curve of story structure. Each scene in a speech has its individual structure. There is rising action followed by climax and then descending action. The speaker’s voice should mirror the flow of the scene.
Our most effective connective device is emotion. A speaker should use visual aides to further their story. For example, I was working with someone who gave a speech about climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. They were so used to giving power point presentations that they used pictures to tell their story. When the slides came up on the screen they described what the audience clearly saw. There was one slide of the speaker with a backpack and she simply said, “That’s me climbing up the mountain.” I told her, “Show me don’t tell me.” I wanted her to get to the motion behind the picture. That’s the deep level of communication. What was going through her mind? How was she feeling? How did this moment relate with her overall message?
Use your words carefully. Every word matters. The clearest sign of an inexperienced speaker is someone who rambles. So how do you keep focused? Remember your message. The message of a speech is like the hub of a wheel. If you feel you are deviating from message then you are going off course. Make sure you keep your speech on point. There should be no empty words or filler coming out of your mouth.
When you rehearse your speech, don’t memorize the words. This is another common error. You should review your scenes. This is very effective in connecting with the audience. Talk to your audience. Ask them questions. Bring them into your life. You can’t do this if you deliver a speech in a robotic way.
Why does all this matter?
As Steve Jobs said, “The most powerful person in the world is the story teller. The story teller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” Yes. This process is that important. Do you want to become a leader? Do you want to influence your colleagues? Do you want to grow?
It starts with connection.
Quick mental checklist:
What is my message?
How am I connected to the message? Bring me into several personal stories.
What is the conflict in my story?
How did I overcome that conflict?
What can the audience learn from me?
What is my closing message?
Use visual aids and “wow” moments to connect and move the audience.
The time has arrived for the storyteller to emerge.