4 questions to ask yourself before you speak on stage

(AKA a resource I send to clients and potential clients that I never thought I’d share publicly but here we are :))

Glaring at her face on the video call, I stuck my bottom lip out.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled petulantly. “Do I even have to think about that?”

Michelle smiled warmly back at me. “You know you do,” she said. And she was right. I groaned.

When I found out that a long-time daydream of doing the closing keynote at Portland’s World Domination Summit was coming true, I knew I needed help. I coach speakers all the time, but writing my own talk felt like trying to cut my own hair without a mirror. I needed help. And I knew Michelle Barry Franco was the person to help me. What I didn’t know was…

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Telling a story in just one minute

We sat in the lobby of the conference hall. Janne had told me I could be brutal. “I’m Dutch”, she’d said, “I can take it!” But now, I wondered if I’d gone too far.

And then, she burst into tears.

“Oh my goodness!” I cried. “I’m so sorry!”

“It’s ok!” she said, smiling. “It’s a hard thing to do this, because it’s important to me that I get it right. But it’s ok.”

I’m the Storytelling Coach at the Portland conference World Domination Summit (think less Lex Luther, more do-gooders, trying to make the world a better place). Each year, Attendee Storytellers are invited to go onstage and share their stories.

This summer, hundreds of people applied on Saturday morning to tell a story. On Saturday afternoon, Jolie (the conference’s “Fixer and Voice of Reason”) and I combed through the entries, chose five.

Then, I had just half an hour with each, to pull the story out, and figure out they could tell it in one minute. A process I’d usually spend two or three hours with each person for.

Janne’s story was particularly tough, because she wanted to talk about…

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Want to find your best stories? Do this in restaurants.

I’m breaking a rule by writing to you today.

This week – last Friday until today – I was supposed to be in New York. On the final trip of a spate that has lasted almost three months, I was going to be hanging out with my mum, who had a week-long job there. But then her job got cancelled, and so I decided to do something I’ve never done before:

Take an internet break.

Email and social media. Not because I’m in the woods, not because it’s Christmas, just… to see what happens.

What’s happened is that…

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When you meet new people, do you ever just irrationally HATE them?

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but here goes:

A few weeks ago, I locked my bike up outside this juice bar in Portland, a tight ball of nausea in the bottom of my stomach.

I was at WDS – the conference World Domination Summit, where do-gooders (like me) try and make the world a better place – and arriving at my first ‘meet-up’. These are impromptu gatherings thrown by attendees. I had my own one the following day, a short workshop on How To Tell Compelling Stories. But this one at the juice bar was a storytelling meet-up being thrown by someone else – a lady I’d never met before, and was a bit scared of.

Two days before, I’d (finally, very last-minute) decided to put on my own meet-up about storytelling. As I scrolled through those other people had posted, I realised that there was already one happening on the same subject. Gutted at first, I then looked into the details and decided it was ok for both to exist. This one, by a lady called Sara Hunt, was going to be about how to figure out which of your own stories to tell. Mine was more about how to tell your stories. Also, hers was already full, so I figured it was even more ok to put mine on.

But I am a perennial people pleaser, and I was still worried that she’d be annoyed. So I sent her an email.

In it, I explained what I felt the differences were between our two workshops, and told her I’d love to meet her at some point – which was true; from her website and blog, she seemed cool and interesting. Then, I asked whether, if there ended up being a free spot, I could come along to her meet-up.

It took me about 20 minutes of writing and rewriting to compose this last question.

What if she thought I was just coming along to steal her ideas? What if she was annoyed that I was running my own storytelling meet-up and it made her not like me?

My fears were trumped by how much I wanted to go, so I asked. To my relief, I got a reply saying she’d love to have me along.

But now, I was actually here…

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WDS: Five Storytelling Lessons from Coaching the Attendee Storytellers at World Domination Summit

I stood up, feeling the fizz of excitement under my skin, and started looking around the empty lobby of the conference hall. It was evening. I knew that most people had left, but I needed to be certain.

Yep, I was definitely alone.

I walked to the space where there were no chairs. Then, silently and frantically, I began leaping up and down, alternately punching my fists in the air, before ending on a little stationary run.

It was Saturday night, and I had just finished coaching the Attendee Storytellers for World Domination Summit.

WDS is a conference where, once a year, several thousand do-gooders descend on Portland, to get inspired and try and figure out how to make the world a better place. Along with TED-style informative and inspiring speakers, every year, they have a number of “Attendee Stories” on the main stage – where people from the audience can apply to get up and have a go themselves.

I told a story a few years ago – you can hear it here – and, since then, I’ve become the Official Storytelling Coach for World Domination Summit. Which sounds like loads of fun – and is – until you know that I have just one afternoon to help all the storytellers get their 20 or 30 minute stories down to one minute.

One.

Tiny.

Minute.

It’s brutal but, every year, I do it – and, every year, the challenge makes me feel high as a kite afterwards. Hence the silent, solo leaping around.

Here are five things I learned from coaching this year’s attendee storytellers at World Domination Summit

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How to edit your stories but still make them compelling (4/5 in the story series)

As I opened the email, my heart started racing. It was even more exciting than I’d anticipated!

Two months earlier, I’d booked my ticket for Portland’s World Domination Summit – a conference full of do-gooders trying to change the world (like me!). I’d never been before, but knew WDS was a big noise in my industry.

The month before, they’d put out a call for Attendee Storytellers. By this point, I’d been running my live storytelling show for about a year and a half (and coaching all of the storytellers), so I figured I had a good shot. After all, there were, what, 500 people at this conference? So probably 30-odd would apply, and they’d choose around 25 of us.

They needed an inspiring story with a message. I wondered what I’d ever done that was inspiring… and then remembered. Oh yeah. My solo marathon. Two years before, after Hurricane Sandy led to the cancellation of the New York City Marathon that I was due to run, I’d made up for it by running one on my own, in London.

I pitched my story to WDS – starting in an action scene – and sent it off.

“CONGRATULATIONS!” came the email. “You’ve been selected to tell an attendee story on stage!” This was nice to hear, though not unexpected. BUT THEN:

“Hundreds of people applied, and you were one of only twelve selected!”

Well, THIS was exciting! Immediately, I jumped onto Facebook, to my local business group of business ladies.

“GUYS!!!!!” I told them, “Hundreds of people applied to tell a story at WDS, and I’m one of 12 selected!!! I’m going to be telling my story to 500 people!!!”

“Dude,” one of them replied. “The WDS audience is THREE THOUSAND”.

Oh.

Crap.

After getting over the fear of speaking to a room that enormous, I had another problem:

I had to get the whole story – Inspirational Message included – down to one and a half minutes.

As I talked about in part 1 of this blog series, when you’re telling a story, you need as much of it as possible to be action scenes. And, as I told you in part 2: action scenes require detail.

So how do you get the narrative of a very eventful 42 kilometer run – that, in the end, took over 7 hours – into a minute and a half?

First…

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How my patronising altruism WILDLY benefitted me

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t publicly admit having had this thought process. It shows that I can sometimes be an egotistical dick. But I like the end of it so much that I want to tell you.

I come to you from the train I’m taking from St Catharines (no apostrophe) back to Toronto. Last night I ran a workshop – my third in a year – for Brock University, on Networking That’s Effective and Actually Fun, for their entrepreneurial students in their BioLinc incubator.

One of the things I teach the students was how important it is to add value to people, long before you ask for anything.

An amazing way to add value is to thank people for teachings you’ve enjoyed, being specific where you can. Another is offering to make…

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How to Avoid Small Talk – with the Perfect Question (VIDEO)

My friend was once in a queue and overheard the man behind him loudly declaring, “You see, I’m the kind of guy who really doesn’t like to line up. I like to just get in and get out. But this? Not for me.”

I feel about him the way I feel about the kind of smug, annoying person who…

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Made a Dork of yourself in front of a VIP? Here’s how to deal. ASK (YES YES) MARSH (VIDEO)

Acting like a dork in front of someone we want to impress. We’ve ALL done it. There’s a reason why the video where I introduced you to your Dork Goblin – aka the spirit that comes down to possess you when you’re speaking to someone you want to impress, and makes you act the opposite of how…

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Top Ten Tips – Networking for Introverts (that’s actually FUN & EASY!) [VIDEO]

Having just come back from World Domination Summit – a giant conference of 3,000 do-gooders in Portland – and having actually enjoyed myself, I thought it was about time I shared a Top Ten of advice for anyone who’s off to a conference or event, thinks that they hate networking, and is REALLY NERVOUS.

Here you go. My favourite is pencil-mouth lady. Yours?

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