Updated: Oct 27, 2021
The stories we tell, particularly about our own lives, are made up of moments strung together to give an audience a beginning, middle, and end experience. The kinds of moments we use determine the kind of story we tell, rudimentarily speaking, sad moments for a sad story; happy moments for a happy story.
Here's the challenge: while YOU may have experienced something, and it has left a mark on YOU, YOUR life, YOUR outcomes, the audience has NOT had these experiences, but nonetheless you have to deliver something they can relate to and appreciate.
What you CAN’T do: RELIVE the moments. It's, in fact, impossible: the moment has passed, and it only lives in memories. No one will be able to smell those smells or see those sites with their own faculties. No one will be able to fully, sensationally, understand what you've done or been through.
What you CAN do: RETELL the moments. Although this seems obvious, it's actually a complex skill one must practice and master prior to presenting. That might sound daunting, but it is quite simple to understand and put into practice. For example, say you're telling the story of the most thrilling roller coaster ride you’ve ever been on.
You probably spent that ride screaming at the top of your lungs with your hands up in the air, and perhaps you even threw up afterwards. But in RETELLING this story, you wouldn't scream at and/or vomit on your listeners, would you? Rather, you would recreate the moment with colorful language to set the scene; craft the feelings for the audience to excite, or nauseate, them.
It's called storyTELLING for a reason, not storyLIVING. Your audience deserves a performer who has internalized and digested their experiences, as opposed to someone who is still working through them. Words are powerful vessels for emotions, so choose and deliver them intentionally, and wisely.