Recently, I was having a conversation about using personal stories as the tool to engage your audience when I was asked the question, “How personal should your narratives get?”

It is an important question because it is the personal narratives that create connection and yet incorporating them is something that even experienced speakers struggle with!

Here are my thoughts on this question that could be helpful if you do training, facilitation or speaking of any sorts:

  • In the beginning of a relationship (trainer-trainee, coach-coachee or speaker-listener), the mutual trust is low. Personal anecdotes are a powerful tool to build trust. When you open up your heart and indicate that you trust them enough to share personal information with them, they trust you in return.
  • Your anecdotes should add value to the audience – Remember that your task as a presenter is to present the information. As long as you remember the objective and not self-indulge, you would be okay.
  • If there is stuff that you have not processed emotionally, do not use it. Please spare your audience the awkwardness they would feel if you get choked with emotion. A couple of years ago, I was a participant at a workshop where we were doing some work for the cancer patients. All the participants were either cancer patients or cancer survivors, some even had terminal prognosis. While mortality was being discussed in context of cancer, one of the organisers broke down because she was in the process of losing a family member to cancer. While her pain was real and people understood, it was just awkward because we were not sure how to respond. What could have been useful was not to participate in such a workshop as a facilitator.

Similarly, if there is something from your life experiences that you have not come to terms with; make a judgement on whether you would be comfortable using those examples. This is especially important when you work with people who are going through sensitive issues. ‘If in doubt, just cut it out’.

Like most things, striking the balance is important.

I hope that helps.

~P

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Want to learn the finer aspects of speaking such as how to integrate authenticity and build a talk that inspires your audience…the kind of things that can be acquired only through experience and not merely by reading?