One of my favorite stories is from one of my students, Rohan, at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. I am an adjunct professor teaching public speaking, communication, and business storytelling. The student final is a five-minute TED-style talk.
I use the story below as an example in my workshops, keynotes, and training. It is profound. It has a twist. It flows beautifully. His Better Tomorrow MessageTM of “Don’t be the idiot in the Red Convertible,” is clever, catchy, and memorable. I could go on and on extolling its virtues…
When you are preparing your conference presentation, your training class, your report, your LinkedIn profile, your opening to your all-hands meeting/town hall, whatever it is, select experiences that are profound, that are meaningful to you. AND select experiences that will resonate with your audience. Ensure you have an inspiring message, your Better Tomorrow MessageTM (BTM), and a compelling call-to-action. Your BTMTM and your call-to-action are the cornerstones to engaging, memorable business stories.
“Don’t be the Idiot in the Red Convertible”
Last summer, on a Friday afternoon, I heard my mom’s car outside. She usually never comes home from work this early. I was excited because I had one heck of a road rage story to share.
She walks in, smiles, and asks “how was your day Rohan?” Without even looking at her, I jumped off the sofa and on to my feet. I started ranting about how this idiot in a red convertible cut me off on the highway. He swerved across the lanes just to take an exit. Then, at the last minute, he realized he was on the wrong ramp, and cut back to main road again, cutting drivers off in front of me.
I kept on ranting for a solid five minutes. It was only after finishing, that I really looked at my mom’s face. I expected her to be laughing at my story. Instead, I saw her forcing a smile, as her bottom lip trembled and her eyebrows furrowed. Her eyes were wide open, glistening as teardrops collected on her lower eyelid, which was like an unsteady dam waiting to collapse under the pressure of the water current.
She was crying on my shoulder, instead of me crying on her shoulder
My heart sank, as I asked her what was wrong. She told me with a shaking voice, her brother, my uncle had just passed away. She finally broke down. I wrapped my arms around her to console her. For the first time in my 18 years of life, she was crying on my shoulder, instead of me crying on her shoulder.
After hours of sitting down and talking with her about the whole situation, she went upstairs to rest for a while. And as I sat alone, an overwhelming sense of shame came over me. I asked myself, “How could I have not even paid a little bit of attention to my mom? Without even giving a second thought as to why she might be home early, I ranted and rambled on about some irrelevant idiot in a red convertible.”
That’s when the irony hit me. I realized…I’m the idiot in the red convertible. I’m the idiot that went off on a tangent, without looking straight ahead and failed to read the signs right in front of me. I’m the idiot that rashly swerved in that direction, only to realize my mistake, and cut back to the main road.
That’s when the irony hit me. I realized…I’m the idiot in the red convertible.
By then, I had put my mom through the agony of listening to a petty story, when all she wanted to do was have a shoulder to cry on. That day taught me how hurtful it can be to be unaware of your surroundings and the people in front of you.
While it is important to get your voice heard in the workplace, it is equally as important to be able to step back and learn from the insights of your coworkers. By listening and learning first, you will avoid conflict and avoid jumping to impulsive assumptions. When you listen, people tend to look to you with more respect. And when people respect you, you demonstrate leadership, no matter what your job title is.
FURTHER READING ON BUSINESS STORYTELLING
- Turn Your Everyday Experiences into Engaging, Powerful Stories
- Add Suspense to Your Story with “Near-Impossible Goals”
- “Pause” with Purpose in Speaking, Training, and Storytelling
- In Storytelling, Balance Emotion and Benefit
- Epizeuxis – Increase Impact with this Type of Word Repetition
- All Story Examples
Photography Source: Pexels