To make a real change in education—whether by running for office, starting your own nonprofit or becoming more active in your school—you need to know how to advocate your cause and ultimately the students who are facing educational inequity. And in order to do that, you’ll need to persuade others to join you in your fight.
That’s where storytelling comes in. Powerful stories can captivate influential audiences. So to create stories that will grab your audience’s attention and gain their support, start building your storytelling skills now with these five tips:
1. Understand your audience. Who are they, and what’s their story? What are their hopes/dreams/fears? What do you agree on—and what don’t you agree on?
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What worries your students’ parents about their child’s education? What issues is your community facing that’s impacting its schools? Knowing what they care about will help you make your story relevant to them and make them more willing to listen.
Don’t know what’s important to your audience? Ask them. Before you make an effort to persuade someone, take the time to get to know who they are. Also talk to fellow LEE members who have experience with a similar audience. Use the LEE member directory or attend an event in your area to reach out to others for their insight.
2. Be authentic. Authenticity builds trust. By telling your true story and revealing an ounce of vulnerability, your audience will be more likely to trust what you say and sympathize with you.
Being yourself can also take a lot of courage. It’s not easy to admit your weaknesses and stand up for what you believe in. But part of being a LEE member is about developing the confidence to take risks and make difficult decisions that are rooted in your values.
3. Get personal. We each have our own story about what makes us get up every morning and continue fighting so that every child has the opportunity to receive a great education. Don’t be afraid to share yours.
Take Maribel Gonzalez, a LEE member who is working to transform low-performing schools and revolutionize school leadership. “I started out of a place of anger because of my own personal experience going to low-performing schools,” she says. But now she channels that ire into confronting the status quo and mobilizing communities to work toward reversing educational inequities.
What is it that makes you passionate about what you do? Share with your audience what made you want to help inner city kids go to college or run for a school board seat. It'll give them a better sense of who you are and why they should join you in your fight.
If you aren’t sure just how open you should be, look at some of our other member stories to see how they’ve shared their experiences.
4. Appeal to the senses. When your audience sees what you see and feels what you feel through the words that you choose, you’ll gain their empathy and increase your chances of gaining their support.
How do you make someone have that kind of a visceral reaction? Use figurative language like similes and metaphors; change your tone of voice to reflect the story; and when recalling a memory, describe how you felt physically. Were you anxiously wringing your hands? Could you feel your heart pounding in your chest? Make your audience feel like they’re there right alongside you.
5. Leave them with something to think about. Writer Brandon Sanderson said, “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” Draw your audience into your story by letting them form their own conclusions about the ideas or issues you’ve presented. Put it into a global context so that they can see the bigger picture behind what you’ve just shared.
The goal is to get them to take the next step toward wherever you’re trying to persuade them to go. Call on them to take action, and give them guidance for what they should do to resolve the problem they’re now faced with.
Ready to take these tips and run with them? Make the next move in your leadership journey by logging into our website to access more resources on becoming a better storyteller.