Why You Need to Be Fearless in a Storytelling Speech

Posted by Tom Frey
March 21, 2014

Effective business storytelling in a professional presentation requires being fearlessly YOU.

Tom Frey


We're closing out storytelling week with some thoughts from Ovation Team Member, Tom Frey. Tom shares how he encouraged one participant to tell a story she thought wasn't worth telling, to positive results.



Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created–nothing. - F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I’ve often found that the people who don’t think they have a good story end up telling the best ones.

I was recently working with a group of people on business storytelling, specifically how to use story as metaphor in a professional setting. I asked them to go off by themselves and jot down a brief story with the aim of working on it and then telling it to the whole class.  I gave them all a few minutes and then went around looking to see if anyone was really stuck.storytelling speech

I found one of the people in the class sitting in a little teleconference room, looking really anxious.  She said she had nothing, she couldn’t do this, and she really just wanted this part to be over.  I asked her what she had so far and she held up a legal pad with the words “Bum Powder” written on it several times, circled, and crossed out here and there. When I asked her what it was about she said it didn’t matter because it had nothing to do with the subject at hand, it wouldn't have a global reach, only she couldn’t get it out of her head and think of a proper story.  I asked her to tell me anyway and she said:

“Coming back from vacation with my husband and my seven year old daughter, the customs agent asked if we had anything to declare.  My husband said no, and I said no, and the customs agent asked my little girl if she did, I don’t know, I guess as a joke.  She said, 'I don’t, but Daddy’s lying.' I was mortified, and the customs agent didn’t think she was cute anymore.  I asked her to tell me what she meant and she blurted out in her loudest seven year old voice, 'Daddy bought Bum Powder and didn’t tell anyone!'  Of course everyone in line burst out laughing and I wanted to die.”

Maybe we can’t always use the words “Bum Powder” in the boardroom, but it certainly was one of the best stories of the day, it related directly to the problem the group was talking about (honesty will out), and it would never have been told if she hadn’t had the courage to use something specific about her own life.  

-Tom Frey, Team Ovation 


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