Seven tips for sharing stories about your work
By Lori L. Jacobwith, Master Storyteller, Author and Trainer
Someone asked me recently, what makes me a “master storyteller?”
Malcolm Gladwell says you should have 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert or master. So after more than 25 years of finding, telling, and coaching literally thousands of stories as both a nonprofit staff person and a trainer & coach, as well as writing Boring2Brilliant (a free ebook you can download) -- I consider myself a master!
One of my "soap box" topics has always been share MORE stories about the impact of your work.
Recently, while working with Sara, the CEO and Founder of a wonderful health-related organization, I found myself really having trouble paying attention to how she was describing their work.
So, I asked Sara to share a real example of what she meant. I asked her to tell me about a real person. I knew that a real person example would keep me listening and continue to care about what Sara was saying throughout her 15-minute presentation.
Sharing client stories wasn't new to Sara, but she struggled with how to use a story in short, 3 to 4 sentence bites to paint a picture. The speech she gave was good, but it could have been even better had she used a few rules about stories:
- Stories should be about real people who need something, hopefully something that YOUR organization provides.
- Allow the person in your story to have a real name, age, and to speak for themselves.
- Minds wander, get real quickly. In about 4 - 10 seconds your listeners tune out if you haven't grabbed them. Don't tell me you are going to tell me a story about someone, just tell it. Starting with the person's name, age, and a few descriptive words.
- Keep your story short. 6 words to 2 minutes is the length I recommend.
- Allow your story to cause me to feel something. Anger, sadness, happiness, pride--it doesn't matter what the emotion is; I just have to feel something.
- Your story should have a moment that paints a picture so I see myself or someone in my life. Could be aging parents, the daughter of the person who made my latte or took my bank deposit today, or even my own child.
- The best stories are told by the person themselves. Clients telling their own stories are the most moving way to share how your organization makes a difference.
A great story versus a so-so or ho hum story can make the difference between keeping your donors and volunteers connected and losing them to the next good cause.
Make sure to put a face on your work often.