As a speaker, I get to attend a lot of conferences and speaking events.
Before it is my turn to speak, I often sit and listen to the other speakers. One thing that I hear over and over again are cliched stories about people like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, etc. The speakers use these stories as analogous attempts to make their audience inspired and motivated.
But often, these generic stories have the reverse effect.
While it is admirable to talk about larger-than-life people, it is more interesting for your audience for you to talk about something you personally have experienced.
One time I was working with a group of new speakers to help them craft more compelling messages.
First up was a young man who began speaking on the topic of ‘Reaching the summit of your mountain’. During his talk, he explained how each of us is climbing our own mountain and have to keep persisting to reach the top.
After a few minutes of him speaking, the rest of the group started to drift away. I asked him to pause, and instead, tell us about a personal experience.
He froze for about 30 seconds, and then said ‘the only thing I can think of is when I got chased by a chicken.’
Instantly the group began laughing and were all eagerly leaning forward. They wanted to hear this story about a grown man getting chased by an angry chicken.
By the end of his story, he had crafted a new metaphor around the chicken being like his fear. This small thing that kept him running, even though it couldn’t really hurt him. The message resonated because the story was real and relatable.
The lesson here is to avoid generic, lofty stories that involve other people. We all know it took Edison over one thousand attempts to create the lightbulb. Nobody is going to be impressed or engaged when you reiterate somebody else’s story.
What we’d rather hear about is when you faced a fear or didn’t give up even though you wanted to.
Your stories are relatable and engaging when you tell them. And the best thing is, by sharing your own life experiences, you sound original because you are.