How to rescue a very public disaster (using my favourite psych fact)

Standing in the booth, looking out at the ten people awkwardly dancing in a space that was built for 400, I felt sick.

I’m about to tell you one of the most important pieces of information I know. Then I’m going to tell you the rest of that story in order to prove it’s true and to help you hold it in your brain (because that’s what storytelling does!).

Here’s the fact:

The most important parts of any talk, blog, presentation or podcast is…

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how to write a bio that people actually enjoy reading or hearing (3 Steps!)

While I love doing things that are public facing — speaking on stage, getting interviewed on podcasts, being part of a panel, writing guest blog posts, running workshops for organization — there’s one part I always used to hate. Being asked that question:

“Could you email over a short bio?”

Because summing up your entire career in one paragraph is harrrrrd.

But also, a bio is one of those things that “you just have to have” — which is entirely the wrong way to think about it. Instead, you should be asking yourself my favourite two questions…

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The simple trick that saves you hours of time and gives you 10X the impact in your business, career or passion

If you have a business, a career, a passion that you want to turn into a business or career, then there’s one super-simple thing you’re likely forgetting to do, that means you’re wasting your time and effort.

It’s something that needs to happen before you do ANYTHING. For example, you need to do it before you:

Write a blog post (I did it before I wrote this one!!)
Write a bio
Go to a Networking event
Write literally anything on your website
Interview someone
Be interviewed by someone
TELL A STORY
Name your Instagram account
Do a talk
Decide to start a podcast
Write a newsletter
Post on your Facebook page
Do a Facebook live
Make literally any decision about your business

I see people ALL THE TIME not doing this, which means the thing they did – that blog post, that talk, that About page on their site – was a huge waste o time.

Here’s the thing you need to do first

Ask yourself, “What…

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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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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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You’re ruining your best stories. Here’s how to stop (3/5 in the story series)

Kneeling on the floor next to her armchair, I lay my head in my Granny’s lap. As the thick wool of her skirt skritched against my cheek, she stroked my hair, and sang to me in Russian.

“Mne nekuda bolshe speshut!
Mne nekovo bolshe lyubit!
M’sheek, ni gani, loshadey”

Three years earlier, when I was 18, my…

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Networking: When It’s OK to Lie

I know the ten commandments suggest not to, but sometimes, thou SHALT lie:

If you’re on a night out, your friend asks whether her hair looks weird – and it does, and there’s nothing she can do about it right now, tell her no. If your brother was right in the middle of an important interview and accidentally let out a massive (and noisy) fart, then he asks you – mortified – if you think the interviewers laughed at him after he left, say, “They probably don’t even remember”.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’m usually all about not lying – not being a fake, schmoozy, gross caricature of everything people hate about networking.

But sometimes: you need to. Here are those times:

(1) When extracting yourself from…

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Exactly What to Say When You Walk Up To A Stranger at an Event

Within my career to date, it was the bravest move I’d ever made. Or maybe just the scariest.
Part of me couldn’t believe I was about to say this – to a TOTAL stranger. Someone I’d never spoken to before.

And at one of these events!
The kind I knew I should be at, but was terrified of. I’d only gone because my buddy Steve had said he would chum me. Then he got held up at work, but I hadn’t discovered this until I was outside the door. And I figured…well, I’m here. And I really need to meet some of these people.

After what felt like HOURS (but was more likely five minutes), I made the decision to do it. I spotted my target… walked up. And SAID IT…

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A Behind-The-Scenes Tour of my Brain Going to a Conference

When I tell people what I do, often they’ll say, “Oh I hate going to networking events!”

Here’s the thing: so do I. They can feel like everyone’s trying to sell you their thing, plus they tend to have snacks at a time meant for dinner, so my hunger gets confused.

But a conference? I bloody love a conference. Have done since I started going to student radio conferences in the 90s, and now love going to ones where I meet other people like me, who are trying to use their powers for good. I love the learning. I *LOVE the meeting people. I love that sometimes, I get to show off a bit.

But, in spite of of all that, I kind of emotionally go through the ringer before each one.

This weekend, I’m at World Domination Summit – which, while it sounds like a Lex Luthor/Doctor Evil meetup, it’s actually talks, meetings and mini-events for 3000 entrepreneurs, who are all trying to make the world a better place.

So, in celebration, here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at my brain, in the run-up to going to, and at the start of, a conference…

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