Four Steps Towards Courageous Storytelling

Stewart Bewley

In Hollywood the hero always finds courage to save the day, slay dragons and jump over buildings. We don’t live in Hollywood. We live in the real world, where you might not jump over buildings, but—at some point—you will have to speak courageously.

That might mean abandoning the PowerPoint, using picture instead of three-letter acronyms, challenging your CEO, or pitching for $10m. Here are four things you can do to take those steps.

Step 01. Ask these four questions

My wife, Liz, was once faced with a daunting audience. To make sure she stayed fully present to them and to her message she asked herself the following four questions. They are brilliant and I regularly do this on presentations that really matter.

i) Who is in the room? It removes the fog of presenting into a vacuum and gives you razor sharp focus on your audience.

ii) Who am I trying to impress? If you are trying to impress someone you will focus too much on them. You will try and say things that sound impressive...but they will sound shallow.

iii) Who am I trying to avoid? Choose to look that person directly in the eye and own the space. If you are trying to avoid someone your presence will be reduced and you will become a shadow.

iv) Who is this really for? For the customer, the end user, your own self esteem? Will this presentation potentially make the company more successful and bring something to the world? Having that bigger perspective gives you courage to tell bold stories and be bold in the room.

Step 02. Visualise the entire presentation.

Your brain is amazing. If you can imagine something, your brain thinks you have done it. So let’s harness that. Stand up or sit down, plant both feet on the floor, close your eyes and spend five minutes imagining yourself delivering your presentation. See yourself speaking the beginning sentence, the middle section and the end. Visualise your audience responding and see yourself taking them on that journey. It means when you are presenting you will already have been there, your brain will be more comfortable and you can present more confidently.

Step 03. Be physical.

Another phrase for courage in storytelling is: be deliberate. Choose deliberately how you are going to sit or stand. Don’t just fall into it. The most important thing is that you anchor yourself when you can—with two feet to the ground, legs shoulder-width apart. To the ladies reading this, I know an in person meeting wearing a skirt makes that impossible (thank you for the reminder!), so anchor with one foot. But whatever you do, be deliberate. Smile—deliberately, sit—deliberately, use your hands—deliberately.  

Step 04. Silence your gremlin.

You can read about this in my book The Storytelling Hero, but in short: name your gremlin. Mine is called Ken. He is 65, short, fat, bald, white, wears a brown tie and off-white shirt. He is always rude and says things to me like, ‘Calm down’. He is my inner critic. I have named him. Now I silence him. When he says to me, ‘Calm down’, I say, ‘I have a lot of energy and I love bringing it to my clients.’ My courage to name my gremlin, courage to recognise what he says and courage to speak truth means I am more present as a storyteller.

The outcome of these four steps will be vastly different. It may be a difficult conversation you need to have. It may be turning your camera on. It maybe pitching for $10m. But one thing I have learnt when it comes to storytelling—you have to behave your way into those moments. You have to actually do it. So go and do it!

Stewart Bewley

Stewart founded Amplify back in 2011 from an acting background, believing that if you unlocked people’s voices you would unlock their story and their businesses would thrive.

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