Author: Grainne Delaney, storycoach Art Partner
Meet Henry. As a Financial Partner he is deeply analytical, wants the facts clearly and simply delivered. He is not afraid to speak up, likes debate and follows the rules. We are discussing his Storytelling goal; to make more impact by being more personal when talking to clients.
I only have an hour’s coaching session to get him up on his feet, moving. He is one of those experts that comes across as distant and tense. A talking head. A very clever talking head, but disconnected from his body and can only broadcast data, the facts, in a serious monotone. He rarely smiles.
Facts + Personal Response = Story
I sense an allergy to actors. He is reacting to me with extreme caution as if any sudden emotional expression may trigger him to shut down.
‘I don’t want to look like a Clown and I’m not Sylvester Stallone!’ he tells me. ‘I want to stay authentic – too much jumping about it’s not me. It’s acting. I’m not an actor. It’s too much.’
‘Do you want to make an impact?’
‘Then we need more colour’, I say. ‘More landscape, more highs and lows, more geography. The audience need a reason to stay listening. And the glue that keeps them engaged is emotion. You need to show more emotion.’
We have to take a calculated risk and use this hour to experiment, to step outside our comfort zone, to stretch.’
‘I’m already out of my comfort zone sharing something personal.’
‘Yes, it’s personal’, I reply, ‘but that is only one part of the equation. You are presenting the facts of ‘Here is what happened to me’. We have to add the other half of your story: how you felt and thought about what happened.’
Circle Solution: Action – Reaction
I draw a circle on the board. For every (external) action there is an (internal) reaction.
Slowly, we build up an emotional map, ‘subtext’ in theatre-speak. His personal response to what is going on underneath the events and facts. The journey of his inner life. Discoveries, decisions, his thought process. I write these down on the inside of the circle.
I tell him straight.
‘Here’s the deal: If you don’t share the inside of the circle, you don’t really share anything personal.’
E-Motion = E (energy) + M (movement)
He feels more confident about the ‘why’, now we have to explore the ‘how’.
‘So what do I do with my hands?’ he asks. That is my next challenge. I only have half an hour left to get him active in the space, to ‘embody’ his story physically.
Energy comes through the body, but he is speaking so fast that his body cannot keep pace with his words. Information is streaming from head to mouth in statements that are all the same length. I ask him to speak in slow motion and as he slows down, his body starts to make more natural, congruent gestures. His words begin to pass through his heart before they come out through his mouth. He starts to relive his story, not just retell it.
We experiment with colour. Using emphasis, pause, scaling, different levels of tension, positioning in the space, hands open, closed and filming short extracts. Reviewing, repeating, rehearsing.
‘I feel awkward’, he says. But when I show him the film of his last 2 minutes, he is surprised.
His presentation is more dynamic. There is more flow. More variety. More Life.
‘I look quite normal on the outside!’ he smiles.
‘I still have doubts’, he says as he shakes my hand to leave.
‘Well that’s perfectly normal, you are pushing your envelope and stepping outside your comfort zone, big time. You have agreed with yourself to try something very different and of course it’s going to be uncomfortable, at first.’
Being a performer takes tremendous courage.
Tips for adding E-Motion.
There are many ways to add emotion to a presentation or story. It is not about exaggerating and expressing. It is about identifying your inner life, the emotional journey you go on.
You want to share not only the series of events that took place, but also the highs and lows, the changes, the twists and turns that affected you in such a way that you take us to that moment and allow us to experience your story as our own.
Here are some steps to start rehearsing with.
- Identify your inner life, your E-Map (Emotional Map). You don’t have to share or demonstrate all of it. Choose the moments in your journey that have the most action or change for you.
- Speak those moments as if you are in the present tense. Make it a live event, in the here and now. I am. You don’t retell a story, you relive it.
- Use your breath. Remember when you were angry, sad, joyful. What was your breathing pattern like?
- Rhythm. When we are emotional we speed up or slow down. Experiment.
- Tension. Muscle tension affects the tone of your voice. Play with adding and releasing tension in your hands, jaw, shoulders.
- Weight. We can bring attention to an important word by using more power behind the breath to make it stand out.
- Pause. Again. Silence gives us status, but also signals a significant moment. Use it to highlight a decision, before a personal response, or after a reaction. Let it resonate.
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Deliberate practice leads to peak performance.
Grainne Delaney is a performance artist, psychologist and storycoach at Art Partner. The past six years over 700 consultants, accountants, directors and partners followed the storytelling course ‘Into the light: the science & art of storytelling’ that she runs with Andreas Vonder and Art Partner.
Want to experience this first hand?
Join our open course starting January 8th, 2021, join Art Partner’s ‘Into The Light’ Storytelling training: www.art-partner.nl/intothelight or contact us for possibilities of inhouse training.
Contact: Robert Tordoir, 0648409132 or email@example.com