One of the first forms of human communication was verbal storytelling, which was used to pass on traditions, learnings and history. Today, stories are still at the centre of all that we do and say. But when we think of stories, we often think of childhood fairy tales, the latest thriller from Stephen King, or the rags-to-riches story of a world-class company figurehead. We don’t think deeply about the ability of stories to provide meaning, create context, and instil a sense of purpose in us.
Nonetheless, storytelling has emerged as a powerful communications tool – one that is integral in business. The fact that stories create impact is well evidenced by the recent success of TedX, Humans of New York, and Kickstarter. Stories can make presentations more memorable, make ideas and concepts stick, inspire us, motivate us and make us realise that we are not alone; more often than not, someone else is experiencing something similar to ourselves. However, in the era of presentation slides and status updates, many of us have forgotten how to tell a good story.
We are surrounded by stories every day. In fact, over half of the world’s human conversations consists of storytelling. It is common knowledge we are receptive to stories than we are to data or hard facts. This is because stories help us relate, they allow us to empathise, and they allow our brains to process information in a form that is more digestible and memorable.
At the Women in Focus Conference earlier this year, we were privileged to hear some very personal stories from our community members, about their business journeys. And what we came to realise was that ‘real stories’ aren’t always about success, bravery, break-through or resilience.
Sometimes, often even, they’re about failure, fear, heartache and adversity – but with a clear message of strength, tenacity and turnaround.
Following the Conference, we received resounding feedback from our attendees about the positive impact of this sort of storytelling – and we responded. We created a new event series for our community members called ‘Real Stories’, with a focus on truth-telling and business learnings being shared with our community.
We reached out to our community for expressions of interest to share their story on stage at one of our three events held in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. We had an overwhelming response, which made the task of selecting just seven presenters for each event very challenging – the stories were so inspiring!
Many of the women who we invited to present had no previous experience with speaking on stage. Some of them had never before shared their story in public. To help them feel more comfortable, we provided them with specialised speaker training from a professional coach, together with lots of laughs and encouragement to overcome nerves and fears, stand tall and tell their story on stage.
Our Real Stories events were held over a two-week period in late November and were a resounding success, with a standing ovation from the audience in Melbourne. The stories shared were as diverse as the women telling them. By way of example, we heard from:
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