It’s early January, and Christmas trees have been dragged to curbs to be hauled off with the trash. Pine needles have been ingested by vacuum cleaners around the world. Curios, coffee tables and other furniture have reclaimed their rightful positions in living rooms and dens. Artificial trees have been disassembled and sent into 10-month hibernation in attics and basements. Undesired gifts have been returned or exchanged. Resolutions have been made (some may have already been broken), and the excitement of the holidays has been replaced by the routine return to work and school.
But the holiday experience doesn’t have to end. Holidays always provide a wealth of stories that can be used year round. The stories are there; we just have to recall, rehearse, and repurpose them. Think about your Christmas experiences, using my simple three-question guide:
WHAT AMAZED YOU?
WHAT AMUSED YOU?
WHAT MOVED YOU?
Think about the places you visited, the activities you enjoyed, the people who were with you, the meals you devoured, the long drives, train rides, delayed flights…everything that made the holiday season SPECIAL. Did you go on a road trip? What was that like? Did you fly somewhere to meet loved ones? Were you reunited with someone whom you hadn’t seen in a long time? Did you host family or friends in your home? What did you talk about? Laugh about? Cry about? These are the seeds of your stories, and one may become a signature story, if told correctly.
Andrea and I are always thrilled that our children come home for Christmas. Over the years, we have invited friends to join us during the Christmas season, but this year, we decided to keep it intimate…just our children David, Joel and Andrene, and us…and our daughter’s boyfriend Roland. One night we went downtown to see the sound and light show. Our friend Bryan invests a lot of time erecting miles of Christmas lights downtown. He collaborated with the Macon Pops to provide the music, and created a delightful choreographed light show.
It was AMAZING!
We had some wonderful weather and enjoyed a 4-mile walk. We went bowling and my team lost by 2 PINS on the FINAL FRAME. It was up to me to hit only 5 pins on that final frame and I managed to hit only 2 pins. It was a loss, but we had SO MUCH FUN!
It was AMUSING!
Each day we watched movies and played board games, and each night we went to bed after midnight. Our time together was particularly special because Andrene received a recent medical diagnosis that requires her to be on medication, perhaps for life. But that didn’t dampen our joy. Andrea pointed out how touched she was to have all our children home again, and seeing the way that Roland cares for Andrene was precious.
It was MOVING!
I’ve just given you an overview of our holiday experience, without a lot of detail. But as storytellers, our connection to our audience comes from the common emotions that we experience. THE COMMON CONNECTS, and when we provide more details, develop the characters, and use effective descriptors, our stories can come alive.
You have stories from the holidays…perhaps more than you know. You can, and you should tell them. Invest some time reviewing your holiday experiences. Thetre’s gold back there! But there’s one final piece. What value does your story have for your audience? What can you or they LEARN from these experiences? Sometimes you will speak purely for entertainment purposes, and a MESSAGE or LESSON isn’t required. But if it is, you can find it. My story about the amazing sound and light show could be used to talk about COLLABORATION or TEAMWORK. The bowling story could also speak to TEAMWORK and PERFORMANCE UNDER PRESSURE. And Andrea’s emotion about having our children home could be used to focus on THE PRIORITY OF FAMILY or CARING. I’ve learned that while I can see a clear message in my stories, individuals in the audience may see something more…and sometimes, they see something more POWERFUL.
You and I may never know the full impact of our stories, so it’s always helpful for us to keep a growing story file. The holidays are over, but the memories remain, and our shared memories may be just the thing that someone in our audience needs.
Keep your holiday memories alive and TELL YOUR STORY!
At some point, we’ve all had to receive help or assistance in both big and small ways. Recall a time when you RECEIVED help. Maybe it was an automobile repair, moving furniture, or a ride. Whatever form that help has taken, you likely have a a story to tell. Think about the IDEA of assistance and you’ll find that you will also have a message to share. Believe me…you can HELP others when you TELL YOUR STORY!
STORY Q & A
Q: When telling a story, how do I show different characters when I have a very small speaking area, like a lectern at the head table during a banquet?
A: You don’t need to move to different places in your speaking area to depict different characters. Simply shifting your weight and turning your body slightly to the left and the right can get the job done. You can also reinforce the difference between the characters by slightly changing the tone, pitch, and volume of your voice when you depict them. If you can, and if it supports the story, you can also modify your accent to magnify the difference between the characters. This simple technique will help you to effectively TELL YOUR STORY!