Everyone has a story to tell. Life experiences are the threads that are woven into the fabric of who we are and what we are about. People choose to chronicle their stories in many different ways. Some take photographs and videos of their adventures, travels and family gatherings. Others choose to journal and keep diaries of various events. Motivational speakers keep “snippets” of these experiences in their heads. They archive people, places and things and use these materials in their seminars and keynote presentations. They link these life experiences to intended outcomes and purposes. Expert motivational speakers have the ability to take a personal life experience and transform it into a poignant and hopefully, useful message. Their skills at story telling can bring listeners to laughter, sometimes tears, and at times meaningful silence.
Stories can be as grand as the adventurer who spends twenty five days traversing the frozen tundra by dog sled or as life changing as surviving a horrible auto accident only to be left a quadriplegic. Most stories are about human triumph and tragedy even if on a smaller scale. The motivational speaker taps into the universality of human existence through stories.
Below are some examples of “snippets” that often times find their way into my presentations, whether at keynote engagements or team building seminars.
There is the story about the time I decided to give the other girls in the boarding school a tour of the nuns cloistered sleeping quarters (which are off limits) while all the good sisters were supposed to be in chapel. Of course, Sister Lucy wasn’t feeling well and remained behind that fateful day. The punishment? Cleaning the chapel hardwood floor with soft cotton balls. What lessons do you suppose were reaped from this experience?
Another story was when a wood chuck got into the garage and chewed its way up the inside wall all the way to the ceiling header. Leaving the door open for a day made no difference. It refused to come down, or get out and I solved the problem by standing on a step ladder, above the point of entry and driving a nail into the wall only to remove it and fill the hole with hornet spray in the hopes of driving the animal down the wall and out the door. The spray forced the animal down the wall and out the hole directly under me! Dazed and fogged, the wood chuck moved into a corner of the garage. A pair of heavy fireplace gloves and a straw broom were the weapons used to rid the building of this intruder. No amount of noise and sweeping would move the heavy animal and with frustration mounting it was time to finish the deed. Placing the broom on the woodchuck’s head and quickly grabbing the tail and madly swinging it above my head to keep it from biting my arm was almost too much. Laughter always comes when that visual is rekindled.
Then there was the summer job between my freshmen and sophomore year of college when I worked in a poultry plant standing eight hours a day in rubber boots, rubber apron, rubber gloves and hair net on my head pulling chickens off a hook and pulling their insides outside! The motivation to finish college was never so clear.
Many more stories unfold. There is the one when I climbed Mt. Washington, not by car either. Or when I found out at thirty four that I were adopted. Or the story about sitting in a tree stand deer hunting only to have a huge bull moose decide to stand directly under that same tree. How about the night I heard coyotes howling for the first time while camping in a tent? And of course, the time I stuck my tongue on the frozen chain of the playground swing set. The stories go on and on.
From childhood to young adulthood, to middle age and to older age, we all continue to acquire stories. Hang on to them, re-visit them now and again for it is these stories that reflect our common humanity. And it is these everyday happenings that are the tools used by expert motivational speakers.