SpeakerQuestion: How do I tell a personal story?

From the platform to the boardroom, Stephanie Scotti answers your questions on engaging, involving and inspiring your audience. Have a question?  Submit it here and Stephanie will get back to you.

Q:  When presenting, I share my personal story about organ donation. But listeners seem to end up feeling sorry for me rather than inspired to become donors. What can I do differently? A.D. New Providence, NJ

A: Stories are engaging, memorable and carry an emotional impact. They also make a speaker human and easy to relate to — all excellent qualities. Based on your question, I suspect yours is an extremely personal story, which also makes you vulnerable on some level. Assuming that is the case, your listeners may express concern because they get caught up in you rather than your story. If that seems to be the case, try these suggestions:

  • If the story is too “fresh” and painful for you, it may be too soon to share it with an audience. Honor your personal needs and wait until the wound heals.
  • Practice out loud with people you trust so that you can re-cast the story in a way that is less emotionally charged.
  • Tell your story, but leave out the details that are the catalyst for your grief or sorrow.

Sometimes, simply changing a few sentences or eliminating a single emotional trigger can be the key to galvanizing your audience to the desired action. It won’t lessen the impact of your story, but instead give you a more powerful result.

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