Bears, Ancient Persia and Making the Boat go Faster

What do you call a group of graduates?  For some, the preferred collective noun is “bunch”.  This could be an unconscious way of putting them in their place as they enter a business, or a way to reflect presumed youthfulness, energy and vitality….”bunch” has a bouncy feel when you say it.

Whatever the reason, in collectively grouping people you serve them up as a whole; a many-headed mass with one personality, one way of thinking and one set of behaviours.  Put this group of graduates in the same business and you have a person potentially under two layers of varnish in the eyes of others before they’ve even introduced themselves.

Unless you run a storytelling workshop for them, which I had the pleasure of doing this week.

A process of discovery

We spent the day teasing out and structuring the story behind how each of the team had joined the organisation, in the process creating a LinkedIn post and a pitch that could be delivered without PowerPoint. If you thought you’d get “went to school, went to uni, joined a grad scheme” you couldn’t be more wrong.

Tales of the unexpected

In all, I heard fifteen unique stories that ranged from a lyrical tale about having the coding skills of a bear, to an enlightening journey along the information highways of Ancient Persia.  My mind rowed across the room as coxing skills were used to show us how collective tactical and strategic efforts would make the business boat go faster.  A teacher who didn’t ‘do’ tech had become tech, sales skills were honed in the family sewing machine business and a year in Germany resulted in life changes more profound than ‘gap-yah’ tattoos and the wearing of bracelets.

A great day in the office

Spending the day getting to know these people reminded me that I have found a way to make a career out of doing things that I love; working with words, getting to know people and helping others with their storytelling. We had fun, we worked hard and at one point we laughed until we cried (something I am yet to master in my stand-up performances, perhaps there is a message there….).

You’d better watch out

I’ll leave it to the team to share their stories when they’re ready, but as soon as they do I’ll be re-posting them on my LinkedIn timeline.  Watch out for bears, Ancient Persia and making the boat go faster.


The Ten Minute Storytelling Workshop

How much can you teach people in a ten minute workshop? As someone who’s used to having at least a few hours to coach others in storytelling as a means to free them from PowerPoint, being offered ten minutes at an Athena Networking meeting felt like a pretty tall order, but I thought I would give it a go.

And so it was that yesterday I found myself in a hotel meeting room in Thatcham on a bright sunny day reciting ‘Round and Round the Garden’ to a group of twenty businesswomen. For the uninitiated, here’s how it goes:

Round and round the garden
Like a teddy bear
One step
Two step
Tickle you under there!

To me, it’s a perfect illustration of a great story and (with the right attitude and knowledge of your audience) it can be incredible well told.  The principles that make it so are relevant to business, and can help you to tell your story in a more natural, compelling way.

If you want to know why I think this is the case, and to find out whether a storytelling workshop could work for your team, invite me in to deliver ten minutes of training to you.  It’ll be fresh, informative, and there won’t be any PowerPoint.

Or dive straight in by booking a workshop for your team. You can read about the kind of results you can expect in this post


Harry’s Way

I wasn’t sure if I should go at first. My grief wasn’t as acute as everyone else’s. No tears waiting to be shed, no memories to reminisce over, no noted absence were I not to show up. But this was family, so I decided to attend. Thought it would be the ‘right’ thing to do.

And so I went. Went into a pub and was recognised. Hugged, remembered, loved.

Faces different but the same. Years of absence compressed, forgotten, unimportant. It felt good to be there, amongst the generations, taking my place in the family tree.  

Questions were asked to shortcut the distance created by time: “How are you?”   …   “How’s your mum?”  …  “How old are you now?”  

The pub emptied and we travelled to the service where so much of my flesh and blood had arrived they couldn’t all fit in the chapel. We stood outside, hearing stories through the loudspeakers that talked of a man well lived and well loved. A poet, a dreamer, a builder, a father.

Talk turned to how he had impacted peoples lives; “He was my friend”   …   “We married each other on a beach” …   “They’re not supposed to take one of ours.”

We go back to the pub, share stories and photographs and remark on the names introduced generations ago and still present today. We are the set of each other’s jaw, the shape of our noses, the curve of our brows. I gaze across the room, marvel at the amount of lives one man can touch and wonder if we really are all related.