Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story. ~ John Barth
One day, Lance challenged his audience with this question: “Why would anyone listen to me? I’m just an ordinary guy from the Midwest who has lived a pretty good life with few problems.”
At first glance, this sounds like a legitimate question. Why would anyone want to listen to a speaker who hasn’t accomplished a great feat or overcome great odds?
There is no doubt that hearing a well-told tale of surviving a near-fatal accident, climbing Mt Everest, or winning Olympic Gold can be compelling. There is one problem… very few people have experienced these events. For this reason, it is difficult to relate to them. It is possible to link a theme to these stories [i.e. overcoming adversity or focusing on a goal] but very few speakers effectively make this link.
Consequently, Lance’s question was short-sided. The majority of people sitting in your audience consider themselves to be ‘ordinary’ because they haven’t experienced those uncommon events… and that is to your advantage. You can connect with them by sharing lessons learned from your everyday life.
In a previous article, you read about the six common emotions that people share – Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Surprise. These emotions are the connecting link that will allow the listener to relate to you and be pulled into your world.
For example, if you are a parent, you have felt the pain of watching your child struggle and fail at various times [learning to walk, riding a bicycle, passing a difficult class], as well as the joy of seeing that child overcome challenges. There are various lessons that can be gleaned from these stories – the importance of persistence, how to learn from failure, being patient while your child learns, etc. When people relate to your story, they are more open to hear and use the message you are sharing.
The next time you feel like Lance, that you are ordinary, remember this lesson, as well as the words of speaker Michael McKinley: “Audiences have seen smooth; they’ve seen slick. Don’t fake who you are. When giving speeches, you can work so hard on the WHAT that you forget the WHO; which is you. The audience wants to see your vulnerability and what you’ve done with your failures. They want you to offer hope that they too can overcome whatever obstacles come their way”.
ACTION Step: Think about the stories in your life that have taught you your most important lessons. Write down information about the incident, the lesson learned, and the emotion[s] generated by the event. These are the foundations of your most compelling stories