Being vulnerable can be a result of sharing a story. A personal story is about transformation. You must share a failure, an error or a challenge that led to your success. Because it could expose them to criticism and judgment, professionals may be hesitant about revealing their personal struggles at work.
Some clients don’t like to use personal stories when illustrating their point, even though they are one of my most effective tools. Clients will often say something like “I don’t want the presentation about me”, “I don’t know any stories,” or “I can’t talk too much about myself.” The truth is, they aren’t willing to share their vulnerability. However, it is well worth the risk. The transformative power that vulnerability has on people is because they are rarely able to hear influential people sharing their personal stories, and especially if it was something that they had to struggle with.
Even though it’s natural to share stories around the table with our friends, we find that sharing them becomes more difficult in professional settings. You want to share a positive story about your life. It’s easy to follow a 3-act structure. First, establish your likeability so that listeners can root for and support you. Next, share how you came up with the problem. Finally, conclude the essay with a statement about how your experience led to changes or transformations. See the complete Hero’s Journey.
It may appear like this is an easy method to follow but many people still have difficulty with it. Telling a great story takes a lot of practice and skill. Translation: This means you have to admit that something is wrong or knocked back. Many people find this a difficult place to start, and end up cutting out the part they don’t like. However, it is the stories with the lowest points that can make them seem higher than they actually are. Like watching a movie that’s based upon a true story but with even greater power, it is more satisfying to hear highs as well as lows right from the source.
You can take, for instance, the TED Talk given by Brian Goldman from the Emergency Room.
Goldman made the point that doctors are flawed and the medical profession can only admit their faults in order to create safeguards for patients. Goldman admits to two wrongdoings in order to demonstrate his point. He admitted that one of his errors almost cost a young woman her life. Goldman could easily have made his point with stories he heard over and/or studied. His story would have been powerful, but not as strong. Not even close. Goldman told the story as he did. This not only draws attention and encourages people to look closer at themselves and others’ mistakes.
If you find yourself tempted not to mention something in your presentation that is uncomfortable or doesn’t suit you, ask yourself why. Consider: Is there something in the information that you have just learned that will help my presentation be better? Am I willing to take advantage of it?
Nancy Duarte, Inc.’s CEO, is also the author and Slide:ology and HBR Guide to Persuasive presentations. This passionate teacher is dedicated to sharing the power of persuasive presentation with the rest of the world.
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