shutterstock_275272916You’ve created something really amazing. Everyone wants to know more. The story of your success, how you got there, and what’s next draw curiosity-seekers and other interested parties like flies to flypaper.
So, what do you tell them? What’s your narrative? Do you have your usual spiel all dialed in? Is it something that rolls off your tongue without you having to think about it too much? Perhaps most important, though, is it strictly about your work or does it include you, the person?
Take a second to think about this.
The usual company narrative – dare I say, the “fallback” – is the one you might have generated for the VC community or for Wall Street, or it’s the one your marketing people crafted for selling your products and services. Or maybe it’s a combination of those two. If so, it’s probably great, but it’s not enough going forward. It’s actually not inspiring enough.
Audiences and your stakeholders crave a more earthy, gritty, revealing and more personal articulation of the journey – your success, how you got there, and what’s next. They want to feel it, feel a part of it, and they want to be inspired. By you. They want to be drawn in, engaged, connected. By you, the leader.
This matter is top of mind for me. I recently have had several requests from Marketing, Communications, and Brand Managers who have come to me requesting public speaking help for their CEO’s. Their concerns have ranged from the leader being “awesome but dry and uninspiring” to reports of being “brilliant but unable to connect.” Ouch!
Despite these less than stellar reviews, my experience in coaching executives and entrepreneurs tells me that it’s there, it’s in them. It’s usually pretty close to the surface, it just needs to be coaxed or allowed to come out. It may even need to be teased out by a trusted friend or advisor. But it’s right there.
So, what am I suggesting here? How do you go about creating a more personally inspiring narrative? Where do you begin?
Take a deep dive. Tap into yourself, your deepest self. Prepare to open up and share your vulnerability as well as your passion – for example, what makes you doubt yourself and what makes you tick, what scares you and what excites you.
Here are some questions to prompt your thinking:
What was my worst fear when I started this job/venture?
What was my worst moment?
Where did I most go right/wrong?
Where did I overshoot/undershoot?
What was my biggest surprise?
What do I love to do every day?
What do I love most about this project/company?
What have we forgotten/underemphasized?
How have the people I work with impacted me personally/professionally?
How has this venture exceeded my expectations?
What is my greatest wish for this project/company?
The answers to these questions will provide you with sound bites you can use to open with, weave into your existing presentation, or even formulate an entire talk. Think about using these sound bites as being transparent, but on steroids: being as open with your thoughts and feelings as you are with information.
There’s also a lot of chatter about the effectiveness of storytelling, both the wisdom and the science behind connecting with audiences by using stories. Everyone loves a good story, because they love to be entertained – even, or especially, during an informative or persuasive presentation. Your dreams, nightmares, successes and failures all make great story material; sharing them would make audiences feel very much a part of your journey.
There’s a lot to be gained – and nothing to be lost – by using your story, your narrative, and engaging your audiences and stakeholders on a deeper level. Make a note of the reactions and comments you get from people after you do. I’m willing to bet it will result in greater buy-in and engagement – from employees, investors, customers, and even vendors and partners.

Beth Levine