Story Telling in Paris

Story Telling in Paris

We had finished running the storytelling workshop in Paris and had 4 hours and 45 minutes before we had to catch the plane. What would you do? Yes, we found a little restaurant in the back streets and, luckily for me, my companion Graham spoke reasonable French (whereas mine was patchy) and ordered a wonderful leisurely meal.

Time passed and then suddenly we realised we only had an hour to get to the airport. Panic set in as, initially, we could not find a taxi. So here’s the good news and bad news. The good news was that we did eventually manage to hail a taxi – the bad news was that it was at this very point that we were meant to be at the airport. The further bad news was that we then sat in traffic for what seemed like forever, but was in fact two full hours.

Graham and I were due to catch different flights. Graham was more fortunate than me and still had reasonable time to catch his plane. My plane, on the other hand, had already taken off. The real concern for me was that I was due to be working in London the following day, and yet the next available flight I could book for the UK was scheduled for 10:30 am that next morning!

I quickly reconsidered my plans and phoned my wife Bernadette back home. I asked her to book me into a local hotel room somewhere near the Eurostar railway service, and to buy me a train ticket online. In view of the timescales, I knew I would have to continue to wear my current clothes as my clean suit was hanging neatly in my car back in the UK.

Finally Bernadette had found me a suitable hotel, but she was unable to get the train ticket. I had no choice but to risk trying to buy a ticket at the train station.

Rather late that night I returned to Paris and eventually found the hotel. It was quite tiny……and it was closed. The main entrance had been locked at 11 pm and so I began banging on the doors until a man answered:

“Oui?” a voice enquired in the darkness.

“I have a reservation”, I said. Unbeknown to me, ‘reservation’ in English thankfully sounds much like ‘réservation’ in French, so I had a good chance of being understood.

“Non!”was the abrupt reply.

“Oh, mon Dieu…” I thought.

After having explained in broken English that the booking reservation had only been made about an hour ago, he disappeared inside to check. He eventually returned with my booking details and gave me the key to my room. It was now 1 am the next day and I had to grab some sleep and be up at 4.30 am in order to try and catch the Eurostar train back to London.

Life is full of drama

Take a moment to think about this story so far, it’s relevance and how it was unfolding for me. Quite dramatic, isn’t it?

As a public speaker you use stories to engage, connect and bring information to life. Your stories matter.

Now, the first time you hear the story about the many Starfish on the beach you are likely to think it’s a great story. But when you’ve heard the same story for the 100th time you’ll probably want to scream.

If you have not heard the story about the Starfish on the beach, here’s a shortened version. Get ready for it now, it’s a great story, but if you already know the story then skip the next italicised paragraph otherwise you will scream.

A man was walking along a beach after a storm and discovered that thousands of Starfish had been washed-up along the shoreline. He continued on his way and came across a little boy who was throwing the starfish back into the water one at a time. He watched the boy for a while before saying, “There are so many starfish strewn across the beach here that you’re not going to make any difference are you?”

The young boy looked up at the man and then briefly peered at the next starfish held gently in his hand. He then threw that starfish back into the sea and said, “Made a difference to that one!”

Great story. Scream if you need too.

You have a wealth of stories

Every audience wants to hear your unique stories, so why does this matter? Let me tell you a story to illustrate the point.

I am sitting at the back of the room watching a dynamic speaker on stage. The benefit of being a public speaker for me is that I often have the opportunity to watch many other speakers at big events. Let’s call this speaker Dan. Dan is starting to tell a series of stories and he tells them very well. I recognise the first one and I’m not the only person to do so. The guy next to me leans over and says, “Isn’t that a Tony Robbins story?” It was. Dan moves onto his second story. The same man leans over again, “Isn’t that a Brian Tracy story?” It was.

This pattern of the man leaning over and recognising where Dan’s stories had come from continued a further four times. OK, I understand we all borrow stories from time to time; however, it’s always important to acknowledge and give credit to the original source for that story. Perhaps once or twice would be fine, but Dan was telling the stories as if they were his.

So, in these circumstances what do you think happened to Dan’s credibility at this event? What do you think happened when someone else in the audience also found out that Dan had stolen the stories? That’s right!

We already have Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy stories and so the best people to tell their own personal stories would be Tony and Brian.

Let’s hear your stories please…..but where are we going to find your stories?

Where to find your stories

You are likely to have heard about the value of carrying a small notepad around with you at all times. This is often regarded as a good idea because it allows you to capture and record notes about life as it happens. However, I have never really got along with this technique and prefer an alternative approach.

What works best for me is to set an alert on my phone for 8.30 pm each evening, as this would signal a time to put aside 10 minutes to write about something that happened to me during that day. This can be about anything; even the little things such as my daughter learning to ride her bike, the dinner I cooked that went horribly wrong or……..missing that plane!

This is very much like keeping a diary and has great benefits. It has allowed me to discover and record a wide range of stories that have unfolded in my life….stories that I could use. Of course, these would vary greatly in value, but every now and then a story would be quite profound and have such great meaning that they were worthy of sharing. It would be these gems that find their way into my speaking engagements.

And so I began to notice that by the third time I told my story about missing the plane in Paris to my audiences, it began to take on an even greater life of its own. I now tell that story all over the world at my events and courses.

By now you might be wondering how that story concluded…..

After just a few hours’ sleep, I got up and made the journey to the nearby station where I managed to buy a ticket for the Eurostar train and successfully arrived back in London, smartly suited and booted, for my important appointment.

Whatever technique you choose from above to use to capture your own stories, they will reap benefits. Once you have an interesting story to share, please post the details below. I’d love to hear your unique stories, but remember; you can only post a Tony Robbins story if you are Tony.

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  1. Hi John,

    Just to say that I have that habit too- record a short summary/stories which happen on that day. After 5 years of doing it, I realise how much I have gone through, or more important is those memories that ‘created’ by those surrounding beloved family, friends, colleagues and myself.

    Some tips to share, I use a Google Doc Spread Sheet to record my ‘stories’- a bit geeky I know. The columns for the same day of the year are lay side by side, i.e. I can browse 7th July of 2015, 2014, 2013…by sliding to left of the page. I always remind my wife about things that happened in the past around the same day/session of the year. My reminder to her last night was ‘Remember we’ve been to the lavender field last year today? The smell was so pleasant and we’ve tried the purplery lavender ice cream for the very 1st time?’. She always enjoys my reminder.

    I found that the most important thing is those sad stories becoming not too sad; those big matters becoming small matters after been ‘baptising’ by the time.

    1. Hi Sean, Thank you for sharing your insights and methods. Purpler lavender ice cream is now on my goal list. Sad stories are powerful on many levels and are part of the rich experience of being human.

  2. Chet Pandya says:

    I remember meeting you John for the first time many a moon’s ago. I remember telling you very excitedly about Tony Robbins, Robin Sharma, Bob Proctor, Marissa Peer etc, and telling you all their stories. You paused and as calm as you always are just looked at me and said the world does not need another T.R, or R.S or B.P or even a M.P. BUT it does needs a Chetan Pandya. I will never forget that day.

  3. Chet Pandya says:

    My story, meeting you for the first time many a moon’s ago. Me telling you Tony Robbins story, Robin Sharmas story, Bob Proctors story. Then you listening and calmly telling me “the world does not need another T.R or R.S or even a B.P but the world does need a Chetan Pandya”

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