Do people really want to hear my story?
Do I want to relate personal details to strangers?
Whether you’re an executive presenting your sales pitch, a college graduate interviewing for your first job, or a high school student speaking with an admissions officer, your personal narrative can be the key to reaching your goals. Telling someone else about why you believe in your work, what you seek to achieve, or why you’re the best candidate connects you to your audience in a powerful way.
Yes, other people do want to know why you’ve chosen to work in a specific field, why you want to attend a particular college, or why you have a service or skill that you’re promoting. We all have a fascination with the details of people’s lives, primarily so we can learn and sometimes identify with other people.
At a recent Democratic presidential debate, the candidates were asked to describe a setback in their professional lives. Vice President Biden chose to speak about the accident that killed his wife and young daughter and seriously injured his son. He took a bold step in relating this critical event in his life because it shaped everything personally and professionally that followed. Sworn in as a senator sitting at his injured son’s bedside in the hospital, he undertook the most challenging job of his life while in mourning. The odds were certainly against him when he became a member of Congress as a grief-stricken husband and father. Yet he prevailed and the rest is history. While some media individuals criticized his choice of this personal event rather than a professional incident during the debate, no one could deny the power of his personal narrative with viewers.
The answer to the second question: do you want to share your personal story? You’re the storyteller and you have the right to share whatever is comfortable. Your goal is connection, not catharsis. The specifics you choose should have a direct link to the context; for example, why you’re a good candidate for a job based on your personal experience.
A case study:
A client recently asked me to write a personal narrative she could weave into a presentation of her organization’s investment approach. She chose to work in this field because of her family’s immigration and success in this country: their careful investment strategy allowed them to accumulate enough money to support them in retirement. She wove this narrative very successfully into her presentation using her personal history as the basis for her confidence in her team’s product.
You control the narrative so rest assured, no one compels you to reveal personal details you’d prefer to keep to yourself. But using your own story to connect to others is one of the most powerful, effective tools to reach your audience and create your success. Use it and empower yourself!
You may want to read more articles on my blog related to this area: Learn To Tell Your Story, Be Happier and Healthier By Telling Stories Throughout Your Life
Check back soon for more articles on effective speaking, speech writing, cognitive function and speech pathology.