I had a session with a new client last week. He’s a pretty brainy guy and I’ve seen him tell great stories. Thirty minutes in, he said to me, a bit deflated:
“I don’t know… I don’t think I can ever be a captivating storyteller, I have a really technical background and I’ve always been told that it holds me back…”
I was baffled. Did he really think his expertise, his technical background, his years of study and research were somehow a barrier to being a storyteller?
Because really, the opposite is true.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with plenty of academics and start-up founders who deliberately use impenetrable language. But passion and excitement are contagious! I recently interviewed an insect migration specialist, Will Hawks, for Climate Curious (a podcast I co-host). His topic – bugs! I hate bugs. But listening to Will I couldn’t help but be drawn into his stories, his excitement and his love for these little creatures. I even committed to going on a bug hunt the next time he was in London!
The key is to lean into your knowledge – geek out – but to do it in a way that doesn’t exclude others. If you want everyone to care and be enthralled – be it about quantum mechanics or renaissance art – let your passion shine through.
And that is exactly what I told my new client. He was silent for a moment and then I saw him smile and relax – his whole posture changed… the way it does when someone finally gives you the permission to be yourself.