SpeakerQuestion: Telling a personal story

By November 1, 2012March 30th, 2020SpeakerQuestions

When presenting, I share my personal story about organ donation. But listeners seem to end up feeling sorry for me rather than inspired to become donors. What can I do differently?  — A.D. New Providence, NJ

Stories are engaging, memorable and carry an emotional impact. They also make a speaker human and relatable — all excellent qualities. Based on your question, I suspect yours is an extremely personal story, which also makes you both physically and emotionally vulnerable. Assuming that is the case, your listeners may express concern because they get caught up in you rather than your story. If that seems to be the case, try these suggestions:

  • If the story is too “fresh” and painful for you, it may be too soon to share it with an audience. Honor your personal needs and wait until the wound heals.
  • Practice out loud with people you trust so that you can re-cast the story in a way that is less emotionally charged.
  • Tell your story, but leave out the details that are the catalyst for your grief or sorrow.

Sometimes, simply changing a few sentences or eliminating a single emotional trigger can be the key to sidestepping emotional landmines while galvanizing your audience to take action.

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