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This post is not about stand-up comedy. I know this is a huge disappointment to those of you who know I spent over five years doing stand-up. Sorry, folks – this is about standing up and telling your story.

The particular storytelling opportunities I’m talking about here are networking events and organization meetings like Business Networking International (BNI) – those moments when you’re given the chance to stand up and tell a group what you do, or those places where you’re in a series of one-on-one or one-on-several conversations about you, your company, and your business value.

Do you have a set spiel? Something that you have down pat, that you can say backwards and forwards without thinking?

How sincere, how authentic do you think that sounds to your audience?

Canned Spam, anyone?

Or do you absolutely hate being the focus of attention, and wind up standing up but focused on your shoes, the table, the painting on the wall over there – anything to avoid making eye contact and actually reminding yourself that you’re speaking, in public, to an audience?

I feel your pain.

I’m an extrovert, and I do enjoy speaking, yet I only felt truly comfortable telling my story at these events after I knew what my story was. I’ve observed other people make that journey. In many cases, I helped them through it with presentation and story coaching. Once you get to that place of comfort, telling your story is organic – it comes easily, from the heart, and communicates clearly to whoever you’re talking to, be it a small group at a networking breakfast or, better yet, as the program speaker at that breakfast.

Stories are how we connect with each other, and with the world. This is true in business, in marriage, talking to your kids – or anybody’s kids. There isn’t any area of life where you won’t find stories necessary, and where you won’t, at some point, have to tell, and sell, your own. In the moment. Stand up storytelling.

The approach I’ve seen so many people use – the one I referred to above as pasteurized processed pork product – is to come up with a spiel you can easily remember and repeat, and then do just that. Lather, rinse, repeat. The issue you face if you do choose to tell your story that way is this: how can you communicate value without some element of passion?

You have to keep your story fresh, for yourself AND for your audiences. Canned won’t cut it. Look and listen carefully to what you’re saying when you talk about your business value, your products, your services.

If you don’t like what you’re hearing, if you’re struggling to figure out just what your story is…you know who to call.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

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