The stories that we tell each other are of the utmost importance. They matter not only in business but also in law. The stories we tell in our MBA applications and law school applications. The stories we tell in our interviews. And the stories we tell about our careers. We can inspire people behind us and inform others how they can succeed themselves. As such, I propose that one of the best things we can do is learn how to become better storytellers.
This quarter I am taking a class on public speaking. In short, we spend the entire time giving short talks and speeches in front of a group of about 15 other students. And then we spend the rest of the time helping evaluate classmates who give their talks and speeches. As you might imagine, this is one of the hardest skills to perfect. Not just because it’s tough but also because it’s something every one of us fears. At least at first.
The first thing we learn in the class is that public speaking is the thing people fear most. In fact, we learn that the order goes: (1). Fear of public speaking (2.) Fear of death and (3). Fear of spiders (Arachnophobia). But this doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, nearly everyone I know got a bit nervous about speaking in front of crowds. And the same is true for most of the people in the class. And these are some of the smartest, and most accomplished people across the US.
My goal today is to become a better public speaker and more importantly a better storyteller. Imagine how you feel when you go to an inspiring talk. Imagine how you left inspired and with more insight than before you heard it. And then imagine how you feel when somebody shares the details in a compelling way. Maybe they’re smiling. And maybe they discuss the nuances of the story and keep you on the edge of your seat. And in the end, you feel like you took part in their story, not just listed.
I propose that the ability to do this is one of the most important things we can learn. In the business world, we can tell great stories about our companies to investors to get more funding. And we can tell stories to recruit top employees to work with us. In the public sector, we can tell stories about our visions to inspire people to work on our campaigns. And we can tell stories about the future, not only to get more funding but also to build our constituent base. And in law, we can tell stories about our clients. And we can compel the judges and juries to see the merits of our side.
The ability to do this is what we’re all working toward in the class. And its also the ability that differentiates great leaders from good ones.
So what’s your story?