This blog entry relates to the Public Image and Communication session that my colleague Nelson Scott and I presented to the Rotary District 5370 Fall Learning Assembly on October 22, 2016 in Edmonton, Alberta. We focused on storytelling as the key to communication in Rotary as well as in other parts of our lives. While our presentation was directed to Presidents-Elect of Rotary Clubs, Assistant District Governors, Youth Chairs and other Rotarians involved in leadership roles in their clubs and in Rotary District 5370, the main points of our discussion relate to all parts of our professional and personal lives.
See Nelson’s notes from his presentation Individual Stories Connect People In Ways That Facts and Figures Never Will.
Why is the Significance of Storytelling?
Storytelling has been the primary method of communication throughout history. People sitting around fires in caves told stories, and some historians suggest that early cave painting may have been used to preserve the stories for the use of future storytellers. Most of us learned about storytelling from our parents and grandparents, and from the poems and novels we read as children and later as adults.
The universe is made of stories, not atoms. The stories that we tell literally make the world, and If we want to change the world we have to change our stories.
As storytellers – and we are all storytellers – we don’t tell people what to think, but we do remind them of the questions they might wish to think about. We share our stories with others in part because it helps us make sense out of them. These stories are not complete unless we share them.
Stories can captivate an audience – and listeners retain them far better than facts, spread sheets, and statements listed as bullet points on a screen. Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They help us to see patterns where there is chaos, and meaning where there is randomness.
Stories build relationships. We want to establish a relationship with storytellers and their stories, and we want to share experiences and ideas with them.
We learn about ourselves when we tell stories. People listen to us when we tell when we tell a story, hoping that we’ll succeed and and that they can join us on the journey. Our journeys are often similar and we learn about ourselves when we are presenting and when we are listening.
Telling Your Rotary Stories
Business leaders are now focusing more on stories in their presentations and less on facts. We remember most of the stories that we hear but we remember comparatively few facts and data that are part of presentations. Also, people are more interested in why you do what you do, why your company sells a particular product or service and how you decided to go in that direction. If you tell them they are much more likely to form a relationship with you and your company.
Many Rotarians think that effective public relations and communications strategies consist primarily of billboards, media releases and articles in The Rotarian magazine. These strategies are not primarily storytelling, although they do contain information and knowledge.
Stories are about individuals. They’re about us and the people we have worked with and learned from. We all have stories, stories that could inform and excite people about Rotary and what it does – and, even more important, what it could do. People are usually more interested in why you do something than what you do.
Stories are about us. They are often about how we have failed, then learned and finally succeeded, but perhaps not in the way that we expected. Your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable is what draws your audience in. As storytellers we share what is true to us at the time.
Learn more about storytelling, invite storytellers (Rotarians and others) to speak at your club and to help you find your voice as a storyteller. Tell your stories to friends, family, prospective members and others.
Stories are about change. No struggle, no change, no story.
Using New Media to Share Your Stories
Rotary International is using Facebook, Twitter and other new media to share information and stories. We as individual Rotarians and representatives of our clubs can share our Rotary stories with people in our community and throughout the world by using new media such as Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes one e-mail from one person can change the lives of hundreds or thousands of people.
We, as Rotarians, use storytelling, traditional news media, and social media to tell our stories. We cannot depend entirely on any one method of telling those stories, but, rather, must learn how to tell ourselves and the people in our communities about what Rotary does, and what it can do.
Links to Stories I told as Part of this Session, and Links to Other Podcasts and Blogs About Storytelling
How to Use New Media to Tell Your Story – Jerome Martin, a presentation to the the annual conference of the Alberta Institute of Agrologists, Banff, 2016.
Rotary International An exciting and comprehensive summary of what Rotary is, does, and can do.
The Moth – True stories told live.
The Kim Phuc Foundation International: Healing Children of War – Kim Phuc, ‘The Girl in the Picture’, told her amazing story at a Rotary conference in Jasper several years ago.
The TED Blog – This series of presentations illustrate the power of storytelling. Great presentations, including fine visuals: and almost all of them are no longer than 18 minutes.