How to Discover Your Personal Stories


Build Narrative Into Your Presentations


Lesson Info

How to Discover Your Personal Stories

And so this is one of our favorite exercises. This is the one that really gets the ball rolling with narrative and learning what narrative is for you personally and how to interpret it for yourself and it's a simple exercise that's called portkey. So portkey is inspired by a piece of the Harry Potter universe, any Harry Potter fans? Alright. Heidi, what is a portkey within the universe of Harry Potter, what is it, what does it mean? A remembrance or just something that will spur somebody else's thought. A remembrance or something that spurs someone else's thought, yeah. Jared would like to add to that. And then Jared wants to yes and that I believe. Yes and if you touch a portkey it will teleport you to another place. Yes. Yes and so that is what we're going to be doing, teleporting to another place, but not by touching an object but by hearing and using a word as a prompt. So that's what this is all about. So the way this works is someone is going to be inspired by a word,...

I'm gonna give a word to you as the group there and this can be true for you at home as well if you want to try this, when I throw out that word, let's see if you can come up with a story as well. We also have a download for this so you can go on there and play with the different prompts that we have for you. But I'm gonna throw out a word. Someone is gonna say that word takes me to, and they're gonna tell a story. A couple minutes I guess is the most we want this story to be, so Booth if we could have a couple of minutes on the clock, we'll have a timer for everyone's point of reference, and so they're gonna tell a story. And the story must be true. It must be something that happened to you. And it must have a beginning, middle and an end. We're going to get more into structure in a bit, but you just need to tell a story that has a beginning, middle and an end. And if you're one of those people, and sometimes I have stories like this too that you go I have absolutely no idea how this ends or where I should end this, I want you to just think about this very simple way to end, get to a stopping point and just go and that's my story. And the story's over. It tells people that that's the end and you can move on and so after that person has told that first story, they're then gonna offer up a word that they used. So a word from their story, and they're gonna throw it out like the one that we just did about Luigi, we might say wine, wine was said several times. You might throw out wine, makes you think about a wedding reception or maybe a trip to wine country, whatever it is, and then someone else is gonna take that word and say wine takes me to, and then you're gonna tell that story. And we're gonna keep doing that, we'll do, I don't know, maybe three or four of those and then we'll, yeah, kinda talk about how that kinda went for everyone. But what I want you to think about is that even if you don't think you have great stories or even if you don't think you're a great storyteller, that is not completely true, that's your own opinion, we all have wonderful experiences that have happened to us in our lives so therefore we have wonderful stories and this exercise is really about how quickly can you access them and how can you figure out the best way to apply those stories to the right situation. But right now, I'll just use that word as a prompt. Wonderful. So I'm gonna give up a word, so let's go with holiday. Holiday takes me to. Holiday takes me to Italy where when I was quite young I abandoned school and I went and I lived in a castle. My family thought I was crazy. We'd often go out actually with baskets and we'd go out and we'd collect herbs and the whole day was around food. And it would be around lunch and it would be around wine. And we'd go into the town and you could buy wine very cheaply and we'd buy very large bottles of wine which by the end of the day would be empty. And the most beautiful thing about this is it wasn't just us, I went with a girlfriend, but Enzo Destefano was there, so we connected with this local actually Sicilian who was living in Florence and we had lunch with Enzo and with his girlfriend and then the middle of the day was sleeping. So in Italy we would sleep and then over a day we'd have this amazing, my god, two hours of sleeping after the bottle went down like this and the food and then we had a second day because we'd wake up at four in the afternoon and it was like you got two days in one. And then, you'd go out to town and of course eventually you'd be having dinner and, you know what, there would be another bottle of wine which would eventually go down like the first one. And then finally you'd go to sleep and you realized wow, I got two days in one and tomorrow is coming soon. And that's the end of my story. Give him a round of applause, very good Jonathon. (audience applauds) Alright, Jonathon, think of a word, not the one that you were inspired by but another word you just used, offer it up to the group and then whoever's inspired take that word to another story. Sleep. Sleep. And that word can inspire you, it doesn't have to be a literal story about sleeping, it could be, alright. Sleep takes me to a time when I was living in Washington DC, which is my hometown. I had just moved into a new apartment. One bedroom, all alone, very excited, I had moved all of my things in but I hadn't unpacked yet. I got home, I was pretty hungry but I was really excited to unpack and get things just looking beautiful in my new space, so I said what's the easiest way to make some food or order food or whatever. I said, okay, I'll just boil an egg, not a problem. So put the fire on, I'm like, okay, usually I have a timer but I thought I was good to go. Boiled the egg, I went to my bedroom to start unpacking, I don't know if I fell asleep, I'm not sure, I just know I was up, and I heard, like I think it's because I heard a noise. But I just didn't think anything of it. And so I got up, I was like, you know what, I think I'm hungry, maybe I'll boil an egg. And so I go to the kitchen and I see that there's a pot on the stove with the fire going, nothing in the pot, and it looked kind of, you know white, when you boil water all the way down and it's just like the crust is kind of there, the only way that I had known that I'd already boiled an egg was because of the smell and the chunks of egg that were in my kitchen, yeah, in my brand new place I had egg, I was finding eggs for like months, (group laughs) and it goes like oh, there's another piece of egg. So it like stank for a week and I had eggs just randomly in my kitchen as like a scavenger hunt of sorts but, yeah, that's my story. Give her a round of applause, thank you for sharing with a cautionary tale. Now take a word out of your story, offer it up to the group. Packing. Packing. Or unpacking. Packing or unpacking. Packing, the word packing takes me to a time when I was eight or nine years old and we were spending, at that point, winters in California and a few months of the summer in Montana where I was born. And so every year at the end of the school year I packed things up for the next few months and we would take a road trip up from the southern California area, Moreno Valley, and drive all the way up to Missoula, Montana. And I was there with my, I mean, we were driving in the car with my mom and my brother and I and going through hours. And I remember going past a field of lava in, I think it was Nevada, and then driving up farther and going through parks and four corners, which is where I guess Colorado and, what are those states that make that four corners? So that long road trip each way was long but really interesting, my mom tried to make it kind of interesting for us, staying in motels and whatever. So the word that comes out for me is trip. Trip. Trip. We didn't give her a round of applause. Lets give her a round of applause. (audience applauds) I think we were all being very respectful and letting her gather her thoughts because that's another part of this is embracing silence so we were waiting to make sure you were done. So trip, two minutes on the clock, this will be our last story. Trip takes me to Chapel Hill, North Carolina when I was 22 years old. I had just graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I was with my best friend and we went into work for our last day at a restaurant called Mediterranean Deli. Mediterranean Deli dot com, if you want to check it out. (audience laughs) Jamil, the owner of the restaurant, became like a dad to me over the four years while I was working there, and he kind of came to me and my best friend and he was like, he just looked into my eyes and he just said like, you know, you're in the land of milk and honey, this is America, go travel, do things, get out of here. And, you know, he just looked at me and I said okay. And so that was our last day at work and I started like a business with my best friend that day and we decided to go on a trip. And so we went on a road trip in my Honda Accord, 2008 gray Honda Accord, we got in, it was so beat up, and we just drove up north and we ended up in Chicago and we went to this like crazy party with a bunch of people we didn't know and then we drove up to the like peninsula, the upper peninsula of Michigan and as you know everybody from Michigan, they're always like I live here or I live here, they do the hand thing, so we drove up to the peninsula, we slept on the beach and then we drove back down and we ended up outside of Detroit, and I read about Dearborn, Michigan. And if you are in Dearborn, Michigan, the signs are all in Arabic. So it was like, it's the biggest like Arab immigrant population in the US. So I thought like I was in another country in my own country and the food and the people were phenomenal and it was just like one of the best trips of my life. We went to this restaurant called Shatila where they make baklava and it's like 50 cents a piece. And I'm such a foodie and it was me and my best friend and we're just like eating all this baklava and having a good time and that's where it takes me. That's the end of my story. Give him a round of applause. (audience applauds) We just wanted you to be able to finish. Thank you, so let's talk about that for a second, thank you for sharing those stories. Yeah. Wonderful, so. When you heard a word, because of the, first of all this is how we share stories in general, you didn't do anything that was out of the ordinary. When someone says something or shares something with you in a social setting, it triggers memories, it triggers similar experiences or maybe the opposite experience and you share that too when it feels appropriate. And this is just how we kind of yes and very naturally and organically in social settings. But a little twist in this is obviously you don't get to preconceive, because you don't know what your story is going to be about, you're gonna get a prompt. So this forces you to actively listen and let that person tell their story and instead of you going, oh, I'm gonna tell him my Chapel Hill, North Carolina story, you don't get to do that. You just go I'm gonna listen to his story and then if he gives me a word that makes me feel like I have a story about that, I'll tell it as well. But what was your experience for those that told a story in terms of like having to listen for that prompt? Did that help you find something to kind of latch onto or did that for some of you make it challenging? Jared. Hearing the word helped me, it inspired me to come up with something in the moment, and on the few before I came up with different ideas then I was like, oh, I wish I would've thought of that sooner 'cause I think I had a good one. But it was just really fun to get energized and like almost relive part of that memory, I felt like I was reliving part of it. Yeah. It felt really real. You said, you know, other times you said you thought you maybe have like a good story and I think we all have that impulse of like trying to find a good one or the right one or which one's going to impress him or her or make me look smart or make me look entertaining or whatever, but this exercise and so many of the exercises we're doing in this class and our other classes are not about getting it right, it's about getting the reps in, and that idea of this mindset of being an improv thinker and being an improv thinker and having the improv thinking mindset is about not judging your ideas and your impulses and just going with them just so you can start to kind of optimize the way that you take in information and then output something else. Because really think of these words just like we've said, I've said in another class, as a hyperlink on a webpage. You say trip or you say wine or you say unpacking or packing and I click on that and maybe there's like a little page of multiple stories. Well don't scroll up and down that bullet point and go that's the good one. Just go that's the first one I saw and I'm just gonna tell that one and don't judge how good or bad it is, and the more you start to think like that, the better you'll get at being able to filter which story is right for that audience and that occasion. But you can't really get good at that without practice and you can't really practice if you're always searching in your head for what to say. So what about for the people listening, what was the experience there? What was it like to hear these stories that people came up with based on a word? I thought they were really inspired stories so after I was thinking wow, it was, they seemed scripted, but they weren't and that was the really cool thing, that it just came out of packing or unpacking or trip. And you could see somebody practicing for days and not tell the story as well as they did. Yeah, really simple prompts with really wonderful stories. Were they perfect? Probably not. Because if you wrote it down or refined your performance based on the fact that you could watch yourself in this class, I'm sure you would do something different. But the way you did it in an organic and natural way was perfect for what we were doing right now. So thank you for sharing. And then we want to remind you at home that we do have this download so if you'd like to try it, we have an exercise that will give you prompts and so you can set a timer for yourself and based on the prompt, tell a story and then move onto the next prompt. Yeah, yeah I think there's about 20 different prompts and you can go through that deck multiple times and tell a new story based on each prompt. Yeah.

Class Description

When you watch a movie, read a book or even listen to a song, what’s the thing that draws you in? The story. By framing what you want to express within a narrative, you help people better understand, follow and care about what you’re saying.

Infusing stories in all of your business communications—from presentations to meetings to casual interactions—will get your colleagues to really listen to what you’re saying. They’ll also enjoy listening to you and never find you boring.

This class will help you develop ways to structure, create and explore narrative. We’ll use tried and true improvisational techniques as well easy, practical and applicable tools. By the end, you’ll be able to mesmerize your audiences and have them hanging on your every word.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Connect with others through story.
  • Use a story spine to craft your story, give it definition and develop mission visions.
  • Explore different ways to add story to everything you present and share.
  • Personalize your content so you can ease your nerves and establish deeper connections with your audience and colleagues.
  • Avoid presentations that are too long or too short, rambling, overly technical, and either too high level or too complex.
  • Conquer your stage fright by weaving in a familiar story so you can connect to yourself more deeply and feel a sense of calm on stage.
  • Inspire and engage your audience with a great hook that’s never boring.