Storytelling has taken on new meaning in the educational world. What was once thought of as a way to engage young children has evolved into a craftsmanship for adults to connect with one another. Storytelling is used to share an educator’s passion, purpose, and “why” by leaving a lasting impact on their audiences that goes beyond the classroom through presentations, keynotes and Ted Talks alike. Storytelling has become our own movie and we are the stars ready for action!
Throughout history you can find storytelling examples such as Egyptian writings on walls and Native American folktales that helped children “understand” how stars were placed in the sky. As educators we have used slates, felt boards, and imagery, but the one thing that I found to have the most impact was more in the deliverer that ignites the delivery. I have taken tours with animated, interesting, and knowledgeable tour guides that had me hanging on every word. Passionate tour guides that threw out a fact or question that built curiosity within my mind. Not to mention the moment they pull out an artifact that we each scramble quickly to catch a small glimpse. Like the time that I was on a Just Ducky Tour in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA… as we cruised by PNC Park, he didn’t just talk about the players of all time, he took out a trading card with Roberto Clemente on it just as we were approaching his very statue. Those are the tours I would pay 10-fold for… such an experience! I also have had tour guides that were monotone, scripted, and did not make me feel worthy of their knowledge to which I could get up and leave without hesitation. To me, one understood how to make the connection through storytelling, while the other simply did not.
The connection between gestures, expressions, and rich history amplifies storytelling to allow for others to be engaged, empathize, learn and walk away with a sense of wonder. This is still true for education, and quite frankly for many other areas such as commercials, movies, tours, and other platforms that are trying to connect with the human spirit to “sell their why.” The science behind it is quite interesting. For educators, a TedTalk is no different, nor is a Keynote (Speaking from an audience member’s point of view that is). The key elements must be there.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Keep in mind that your audience is filled with your customers. Who is in your audience? Are they “experienced” beyond your years, millennial, urban or rural, teachers or admin? Believe it or not it matters. And when you care to know them, it hits them right in the heart. And when you don’t, you leave them walking away from what could have been a game changing moment for every child in education. What level of learners are they? How I prepare for elementary students is most definitely different than secondary. The same can be said for a conference specifically connected to technology verses one that is referencing philosophy, ESL, ADHD, ODD, or an overarching view on innovative practices and forward thinking methods. Is it a district with rich history, built on the “steel mill” mindset that would be offended if you come in on your pedestal pushing points on social media that just shuts them down before you ever get to your second point? Give them relevance. Find a way to relate this to the betterment they are so passionate about… remember they too have passions. Don’t assume anything and don’t put yourself above them in any way. Make them important in your world. Aren’t we all in this together? Check your ego at the door and remember… we all put our pants on the same way, right?
CREATE A CONNECTION-TRUST
You must give them a reason to care! This is your chance to share your vulnerability. No one wants to be talked down to, nor do they want to hear something that simply does not pertain to the betterment of their practice. Know your “why” and create a connection between it and your audience. If you truly want to engage them, give them a part of your world. When I think of the speakers that bring me in, they are willing to trust me with their experiences, both good and bad.
KNOW YOUR CONTENT
The nature of storytelling comes from repeated telling of the same story. Be sure to know what it is you want to say and “rehearse” it repeatedly. Know the ins and outs of your content and be able to push yourself to question your own why. Research other approaches and allow for questioning… it is then that you will be able to clearly gain the confidence of your audience through the understanding you have of your content. Gather up your friends and share your presentation with them, allowing them to time you and take notes on ways for you to improve.
Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled. Laugh. Live in the moment. Allow yourself the joy of the experience. When I was in the “Storyteller Club” at Slippery Rock University, it was an eye opening experience that I have carried with me to this day. Taking 5 key props and retelling a story to 6 year olds was magical as you pulled out the next tangible connection to the imagery they created in their own minds. The suspense was priceless and the WOW factor of the real life moment left them in awe! This same method can hold true with adults as you talk about a pivotal point in your story… one that you spotlight by taking out that small token from your pocket and the audience feel as if they can touch it themselves. Then it pops up on the screen for the entire room to see. The suspense was there… the connection to your story became real AND then you brought them one step closer when you shared it out with the entire group front and center.
Inspire your audience! Give them the fuel they need to relight their fire. Give them moments, but allow for them to finish the story… their story. Give them the sense of renewal needed to reinvent themselves. Create the opportunity for each of them to visualize their own impact through your very own story. Pull them up, dust them off, and send them back into the world a little more curious and filled with wonder!
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” —Brandon Sanderson
This is your moment so OWN IT! Carry yourself with confidence and allow yourself to feel every word. This is YOUR STORY/YOUR WHY… they will only know you messed up if you “tell them” through words or body language. Know your “rest stops” and the amount of time it takes to get there. This is your time… Now get out there and CRUSH IT! #OwnIt365EDU