Life Happens – and That’s Your Strength

Manufacturing Millionaires

Sherry Knight

President & CEO at StayUnstoppABLE.com

Life! It keeps getting in the way! You know what I mean – the gallon of milk gets spilled on the floor just as you’re running out the door to work, your parked car gets hit by a hit and run driver, your mom falls and breaks her hip and the list goes on and on and on. No matter, these are not necessarily life- threatening issues. Yet they are fodder for your presentations.

Let’s go a step deeper and consider the bank calling in your line of credit – NOW, the death of a child, a spouse, a parent, a life-threatening illness, winning the lottery, climbing Mount Robson (for those of you who do not know it is the highest mountain to climb in Canada), the birth of a child. These are all situations we deal with, some happy and some sad. And each can have a place in your presentation.

You see, when you speak, your audience wants to know the real you. I learned this one the hard way. I would share stories, the kind I read about everyone else because my life didn’t have anything I felt was meaningful to other people. Yet, when I started to be more authentic and tell my own stories everything changed. It was a cruel, yet happy lesson – I had spent so many years not telling my own story. Learn from me, use your own stories – you’ve got a ton, I know!

It starts by simply sitting down one rainy afternoon or a sunny afternoon on your patio, pen and paper in hand. A good idea is to fold your paper in half lengthways – write PROS on one half and CONS on the other. You already have your topic in mind so now ramble on through your mind to the various things that have happened in your life – the good and the not so good that might relate to your chosen topic.

It’s always a good idea to have someone with you that knows a fair amount about your life – mom, dad, sibling, close friend – it doesn’t matter who. The goal is to generate as many PERSONAL situations as you possibly can. There is no need to write down the whole situation; simply write down a few of the key words so you will remember the occurrence later when you go back through your list.

Have your friend ask you questions, or focus on things that have happened to you both. The purpose here is to get out as many things that have happened to you in life as possible. Go back – way back as far as you can remember to gather remembrances that might be valuable in your story.

Let’s go a step deeper and consider the bank calling in your line of credit – NOW, the death of a child, a spouse, a parent, a life-threatening illness, winning the lottery, climbing Mount Robson (for those of you who do not know it is the highest mountain to climb in Canada), the birth of a child. These are all situations we deal with, some happy and some sad. And each can have a place in your presentation.

You see, when you speak, your audience wants to know the real you. I learned this one the hard way. I would share stories, the kind I read about everyone else because my life didn’t have anything I felt was meaningful to other people. Yet, when I started to be more authentic and tell my own stories everything changed. It was a cruel, yet happy lesson – I had spent so many years not telling my own story. Learn from me, use your own stories – you’ve got a ton, I know!

It starts by simply sitting down one rainy afternoon or a sunny afternoon on your patio, pen and paper in hand. A good idea is to fold your paper in half lengthways – write PROS on one half and CONS on the other. You already have your topic in mind so now ramble on through your mind to the various things that have happened in your life – the good and the not so good that might relate to your chosen topic.

It’s always a good idea to have someone with you that knows a fair amount about your life – mom, dad, sibling, close friend – it doesn’t matter who. The goal is to generate as many PERSONAL situations as you possibly can. There is no need to write down the whole situation; simply write down a few of the key words so you will remember the occurrence later when you go back through your list.

Have your friend ask you questions, or focus on things that have happened to you both. The purpose here is to get out as many things that have happened to you in life as possible. Go back – way back as far as you can remember to gather remembrances that might be valuable in your story.

You won’t stop with this initial list – it just gets your mind going. As the next few days go on you will find things popping into your mind. Great, run to your list and add these things – this could go on for days, months and even years. I find things pop into my head even now about “my story” that just never popped into my mind years ago.

It could be because my brain didn’t see the relevance to this particular topic, or it could be that it was so painful that I was not yet ready to examine it. You see, the brain is a marvelous tool – it protects us and until we are ready to deal with some things the brain pushes them aside. And then, when we are ready to deal with it the universe presents us with a situation where we can bring the occurrence to the top of our mind and deal with it. Wonderful!

Pull out all the stories you have – you probably have 10 to 20 at this point. Now is the time to sit down and dissect the stories. That means writing out the essence of the key stories – you know, the ones you feel may have the most impact in your presentation. When I say write it out I suggest you may want to do this in bullet point – look at it from this perspective:

  • Situation – 3 key points
  • Feeling – how did it make you feel – like a failure, a hero, a master
  • Outcome – what was the final outcome – positive, negative (for it to be one of your best stories you do not want the outcome to be neutral)
  • Key Words – what are the key words that have impact for you

Once you have these keys down on paper it’s time to craft the story. Do this for at least 3 or 4 of your key life situations related to this topic. Why so many you may ask. Well, remember, you want a story to start, a story to end and possibly some stories in between – it all depends on the length of your presentation. If you are doing a 30-minute speech it will be very different than a half day workshop.

Some people like to write their story out – word for word and then go back and rework it until it is perfect. Others prefer to simply have their bullet points and go from there. There isn’t a right or a wrong – you simply do what works best for you today. And if tomorrow it doesn’t feel right, then you can change your approach!

Now it’s time to practice – weave your story into conversations with friends, family and people you meet at various times. Each time be aware of how your story is received by the listener. Are they leaning in to be sure they get all the story? Are they leaning back as this is overwhelming for them or they just aren’t interested? Are they giving small signs of interest as in opening their eyes wide or squinting showing they are with you? Are they saying little tell-tale comments such as, “Oh!”, “Huh-huh!” or “Um!”

Pay particular attention because this will tell you the way your story resonates best with others. You may need to move things in your story around, you may need to adjust some of the wording or even your own body language. By sharing your story, you receive valuable insights!

Practice does make perfect. One of the best things to do now is to practice in front of your mirror watching your body language as you deliver your story. The next step is to present your story to a camera. This is quite easy to do today – just turn on your cell phone and video yourself – if you have a tripod it will hold your camera steady but this isn’t a must. You are simply wanting to record yourself so if the video is jumpy it doesn’t really matter as you’re the only one who will see this.

Play it back and dissect it carefully – do your hands and your face match the words you are using? If they do, great, if not, then some adjustment may be needed.

Once you have done this for several iterations it is time to try it out on an audience. Now you can tell a well rehearsed story to your audience where you have honed your skill. By rehearsing you have created the neural paths in your brain so you have your story embedded there. There is no need to memorize your story, you have the pattern set so you can deliver it flawlessly.

A word about memorizing your stories – they often come out flat. No excitement, no authenticity simply because you are so busy trying to ensure you have all the elements just right. Trust me – it doesn’t work – been there, done that! Just be your authentic self and tell it like you experienced it.

This is what will make the impact on your audience. And, unless you are trying to help your audience understand something new or make a change then there is really no point in you delivering any kind of presentation. So, it is imperative you deliver your story in such a way that they will remember the experience.

You may have heard the words, “They won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel!” That is so true. It is critical you bring up their emotion – put them into your shoes – allow them to feel the emotion you have felt in their own shoes, so they can decide how to use this information you have just imparted.

Life is full of happenings. You simply need to allow yourself to bring forward the ones that are the most important to share with others so you can help them. Consider all your stories and choose the best ones for the one presentation and enjoy your journey! You never know, those other stories may wind up in another presentation!

Sherry Knight

President & CEO
StayUnstoppABLE.com
306-586-2315
sherry@dimension11.com

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