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…

READ MORE

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

READ MORE

Late for your plane? Try this

I caught sight of him and my heart sank. I had about twenty seconds to decide whether or not I could hide – then realised that there was no way.

I bloody LOVE airports. Sometimes, after I land (especially in a UK airport), I just hang around for a bit, to soak up the atmosphere.

“Hey, you!!” My friend Talib waved, from three rows ahead of me on the plane. “Are you going to WDS??”

World Domination Summit is a yearly conference in Portland, where several thousand do-gooders getting together to make the world a better place. I go every year – and am now the conference’s Storytelling Coach.

“I am!” I said, waving back. “Let’s chat when we get to Calgary!”

I’d met Talib a few times before and really liked him. He’s smart, articulate, funny, and it’s always a nice change to find a man working in my very woman-heavy field, of coaching and personal growth.

But I love travelling alone. LOVE. And I worried that, him being here was going to cut into my special airplane solo time.

Five hours later…

READ MORE

Worried your stories aren’t exciting enough?

“I don’t know if my stories are worth telling…”

If this thought has ever crossed your mind-threshold, I have great news:

Good stories mostly aren’t about content. It’s about the way they’re told.
Think about it: we all know that one person who can make ANY story sound amazing. And we’ve all been stuck at the party with that other person, whose story you can tell has exciting elements, but dear god WHEN WILL THEY STOP, because this is mental torture.

If you need a little further proof, here is a wonderful story, about something not totally life-changing.

Added extra: this story (from my live show True Stories Told Live) was told by a journalist, who asked to come and be coached by me to tell a story, and then tell it, purely because she has a crippling fear of public speaking, and her editor wanted her to write about it.

What you can learn from that? If you’re well prepared and have a great story, you can totally fake your own confidence. Here she is, doing just that:

READ MORE

This is easy, makes people feel INCREDIBLE – and nobody does it

Walking into the food court, I looked over at the Greek place and saw that the man wasn’t even there. Relief flooded my chest.

That solves it, I thought – but then, I noticed him. Not behind the counter but in the kitchen area at the back.
As I passed, I could tell he hadn’t seen me. Pushing my way into the dingy washrooms, with the grip of anxiety in my chest, I began my internal battle.

Don’t bother. He doesn’t even know you’re here. You’re scared of talking to strangers, and it’s not a big deal.
The tension released a little.
But, Marsh, it’s the nice thing to do. You’d like it if you were him. And the tightness came back.

Three days before…

READ MORE

The MOST important part of any story (it’s probably not what you think!) (5/5 in the story series)

I put the CD into the player and felt my stomach fizz with excitement. After months of stillness, finally, I was going to bring the room to life! I pressed play and looked up, expecting to see all the seniors bopping along. Instead: nothing.

No movement. One old lady eventually looked at me and furrowed her brow.

“This is The Beatles?” she asked.
“Yes!” I replied.
“Huh.”
She went back to her newspaper.

I was volunteering at the day centre for seniors with dementia, and I wanted to move them with music. But they had other ideas…

That’s one way to begin this story. Here’s another:

This is a story about the power of music, and surprising yourself – about the time I made a CD for the seniors that I work with, thought they didn’t like it, and then got shocked by an old lady, who danced the jitterbug with me like she was 16 again.

It all started when I first put the CD on. After months of stillness, finally, I was going to bring the room to life…

I ask people (during client calls or storytelling workshops), “Which is the most important part of any story?”
Here’s what they usually guess:

The narrative
The detail
The ending
The climax

In fact, the answer is…

READ MORE

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…

READ MORE

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…

READ MORE

Make every story captivating, using this Hollywood tip (2/5 in the story series)

The young man looked at me, his eyebrows raised in a question. He was handsome, though surely fifteen years younger than me. Stood below him, I flushed, and felt the small grip of panic in my chest. I knew what I wanted, but I had no idea how to tell him.

“S-s’il vous plait…” I stuttered, taking a deep breath…

READ MORE

The ONE thing you must know, to tell powerful stories (1/5 in the story series)

The night that the doctor told us my granny was dying, my mum and I lay mattresses down on the floor of her room.

We wanted to be near her. For practical reasons, so that we’d be there if she woke up and needed us. But also for primal ones. We’re Russian. We have a strong herd instinct. It was the end, and we needed to be close. So we lay our mattresses down to sleep.

Except – I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking, “What if …

READ MORE

Page 5 of 7