In October of 2018 I put my name in the hat to tell a personal story, live, in front of strangers. The theme for all of the stories that evening was "rivalry". Assuming most other brave souls that had put their names in the hat to tell stories would expand upon elementary school scuffles and sibling fights, I opted to tell a story about our family pet. She was known for her food aggression, and biting my brother's friends.
As nerves kicked in and I sped through my dog-rivalry-story, I noticed points where the audience was particularly engaged or quiet. Humor engaged them. Mystery quieted them. They found it hilarious that our dog was like a mini-Gollum growing up (her dog food was Gollum's "precious" -- his ring). They stilled when I took them down the story's path without a clear end in sight. The deafening sound of hands excitedly smacking together when you have finished your story on stage is a sound you never tire of hearing. I left the stage and sat down to bite my nails as my numerical fate was decided.
Storytelling in front of strangers, who will judge you with numbers and decimal points, accelerates the growth of your new, thick, presentation-skin. While the judges in the audience have a rubric to guide them in the scoring process, they also have three glasses of chug-able innocuous red wine to guide them in scoring process. Most importantly, the judges vote with their hearts, not their heads. And so does most of the world. Storytelling on stage in front of strangers is no different than public speaking in a corporate setting: the audience decides whether or not they like you, and your merit is reflected through that lens. In storytelling, your merit is reflected in points. In public speaking in corporate America, your merit is reflected in salary increases, raises, and promotions. Most important of all, the more persuasive you are, the more elevated your perception by others at work.
Public speaking presenting in corporate America always has a dose of persuasion. I would argue public speaking has a healthy dose of persuasion:
- A designer pitching new designs, sketches, and inspirations for a future season
- A manager selling his team on new products and services
- A job candidate giving a mock presentation in an interview
- An entrepreneur pitching their idea to venture capitalists or angel investors
- A sales leader sharing challenging news about changing commission structures
- An HR representative explaining their partnership with a new team and establishing trust
- A financial advisor briefing on quarterly earnings
- A PhD candidate defending their thesis
- A VP giving a thinly-veiled pep-talk after less than desired year-end results
- An employee explaining to their manager why they deserve a raise
To effectively persuade, according to Aristotle (and his advice has stood the test of time = 2,000+ years), there are five key elements:
The most convincing, and heavily-weighted element of the bunch? Pathos; connecting emotionally with an audience; storytelling. We are drawn to people, their stories, and how we feel or how people make us feel. We make judgements about people based on whether or not we like them and their stories. We buy from people we like. We sell to people we like. We build friendships with people we like. We connect to others through emotion.
I started speaking in public when I was twelve-years-old. It's a skill I have practiced for nearly 20 years. Storytelling, while under the public speaking umbrella, was not a skill I had dusted of in many years. If my storytelling skill were like a traffic light, it turned green on October in 2018.
Like any skill, storytelling requires practice.
Like any skill, public speaking requires practice.
All skills require practice in order to improve.
Why, then, do we assume that everyone in the working world is capable of giving a succinct, persuasive, articulate, and clearly communicated presentation if they have not practiced?
More confusing still, why do we assume that everyone in the working world has had practice or training in public speaking, storytelling, and presenting?
We give Kindergartners play dough and clay to develop their hand muscles and fine motor skills. Once developed, we give them pens, crayons, and scissors. We teach them to write their own names, cut out colors of the rainbow, and draw pictures of their grandparents. In high school, we put teenagers behind the wheels of cars in empty parking lots. We teach them about the car, where the lights are or how to unlock the parking brake. We sit next to them (albeit full of fear at times) and coach them through on-ramp etiquette, speed bumps, and driver awareness. Yet, suddenly, when released into the working world, we're expected to know how to speak in public without training, development, a layout, or guidance.
I know that most people are not only afraid to speak in public, but that they have not practiced the skill. In some cases, clients have never practiced public speaking or been given any sort of training. I'm here to help, and I'm here to lead the change.
My mission is to help clients not only feel comfortable speaking to others in any kind of venue, but also to help them meet their goals, whether they are to teach, to entertain, or to sell.
Through coaching, education, and training to help my clients articulate their individual voices, I believe I can make an often nerve-wracking experience not just effective, but fun.
Ready to start?
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or DM me on Instagram @articulatewithhannah
The happiest palindrome,