I guess you could say I write with my feet … or at least ON my feet. By that I mean, I first delivered many of the laughs, the life lessons and the harrowing adventures I share in my book as speeches – speeches I wrote and delivered intending to help other speakers find their voices and tell their stories.
The science of speaking confirms that people learn better and remember more if you attach a memorable story to the information you hope to impart. Stories make information “stick.” As a speechwriter and coach, I worked with executives who had big news, bad news and/or brand news to deliver. Those smart men and women impressed shareholders, analysts and employees with their command of the facts, but they often struggled to deliver those stats in a memorable way. Pie charts and percentages will take a speaker only so far. When the stakes were high or they faced a new or challenging audience, they would bring me in to help spice things up.
When you give a speech, whatever point you have to make, ask yourself what real-life anecdotes you could offer to illustrate your point. I often had to coax my clients’ stories out of them. I remember one particularly tedious pre-speech interview with an architect. His firm planned to pitch a project to the surrounding community – a high-stakes speech. In the interview with me, he touted all kinds of numbers – budgets, deadlines, man hours and measures – in a monotone I feared he might carry into his presentation.
Finally I asked, “Do you LIKE what you do for a living?” Almost insulted, he perked up instantly and blurted out, “Yes, of course!” I said, “Then we need to notify your face about that … and your voice. … Tell me WHY you like it. Tell me WHY you wanted to become an architect in the FIRST place …” That led to all kinds of compelling memories we could tie to the facts and figures of his current project to make them more compelling. We crafted his message so that, if his audience rejected his firm’s pitch, they weren’t just saying no to numbers; they were saying no to his dream … to their shared dream for their community.
Essentially, I found MY voice (and many of the chapters of my book) by putting words into other people’s mouths and asking myself the same questions I asked them.
Early on, I told my stories at Toastmasters, at Rotary Clubs and chambers of commerce. Then corporations and associations started paying me to tell them. Woot! A lot of us don’t realize we HAVE stories, but we do. You have a story worth telling. As I say in my book, my autobiography isn’t just about me. When you hear my stories in my voice, your memories will bubble to the surface in your voice. Tell your story, whether you write it on your feet, as I do, or with your fingers. Find your voice.