The shortest distance between two people is a story (Terrence Gargiulo)
If the above quote has any validity (and I sincerely believe it does), then the ‘7 Stories’ event last Thursday evening in Leaf, Manchester created many new bonds between the 100+ people who attended.
Organised by presentation design agency Buffalo 7, this inaugural storytelling showcase was a huge success and I was privileged to be one of 7 speakers (it seems seven is THE number) asked to share their personal journey on a very public platform.
Chief Exec Lyndon Nicholson introduced the show by explaining the format and his belief in the power of storytelling. I was asked to open the batting and I talked about my journey from the golf industry to the world of oral storytelling within the business sector (something I call ‘Verbal PR’).
In a way I’m glad I went first; it allowed me to relax and enjoy the other stories, all of which seemed far more dramatic than mine – rejection, homelessness, life-changing illness, even being told to get lost by Gwyneth Paltrow!
The thing that always amazes me about storytelling is how you can never anticipate how someone will relate to an anecdote or life story. They will always see it through the prism of their own experiences, which is why a story provides so many potential ‘hooks’ for the listener to latch on to.
Rather than summarise all the talks from the other night (photos and video footage will no doubt emerge in due course) I’ll include their names and contact details below. But I do want to share some thoughts and themes that came from their collective experiences.
From crisis to clarity
Like myself, most of the speakers had experienced a watershed in their lives – a health scare, career crisis, bereavement, etc. It stops you in your tracks and forces you to reflect, on everything. And from crisis comes clarity; perhaps a clearer sense of identity and purpose. In a way it’s a shame that it takes a crisis to trigger such a discovery. Busy fool syndrome anyone?
Reserves in the tank
It’s amazing what people are capable of when they stretch themselves. I watched Seth Godin start a talk with, “Everyone, raise your right arm – high as you can! ……….. Bit higher.” At that point delegates stretched their arm a little further, despite having previously been asked to raise it to the max – a great way to show how we hold something back in reserve. Who would have thought that a blind man could become a skilled woodturner?
What the mind can perceive, the body will achieve (Chris Fisher – Blind Woodturner)
Equally surprising is what can be achieved through sheer energy and determination. There’s a great term for this in presenting – emotional transportation. That’s where the energy and passion of the speaker moves across the room and infects the audience.
It’s very hard to drive change in your life without help. A recurring theme in last Thursday’s event was partnership, whether that’s your broader tribe of supporters or those closest to you. The recognition of partners provided some of the most moving moments of the evening.
Hearing the stories of others helps put things into perspective. I remember attending an event in Manchester a few years ago, shortly after I’d experienced some crises of my own. But then I met Richard McCann who spoke about losing his mother to the Yorkshire Ripper in 1975 – suddenly my problems didn’t seem so insurmountable. I subsequently interviewed Richard and he’s now busy inspiring others around the world with his extraordinary story.
Finally, there’s a message here about vulnerability. Brene Bown spoke eloquently about this at TED Houston in 2010, but it’s something that business people in particular are reticent to put on display. Thankfully, people like Dominic McGregorare showing the way when it comes to talking about issues like alcoholism and mental wellbeing.
Brown reminds us that the word courage is derived from the French word ‘coeur’ (meaning heart) and it certainly takes some courage to put your whole self out there. But those who do tend to build stronger and longer-lasting relationships.
A big shout out to Buffalo 7 for getting this format off to such a great start. Here’s the link to the next event. If it turns into a TED-scale success at least I’ll be able to say I gave the first talk!
As promised, links to my fellow speakers from 7 Stories:
I mentioned my mum in my talk – she’s actually 90 today, and I believe I got my storytelling genes from her. Happy Birthday mum!