Tell Me a Story

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn.  Tell me a truth and I will believe.  But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”  – Native American quote

At NAE4-HA this year I attended a super seminar on storytelling.  I went back and forth for some time as to whether or not I would actually attend (will they make me tell a story?  in front of STRANGERS?!) and finally took the chance.

I’m glad I did.  Not only did I learn a lot that day, but the whole concept of “storytelling” keeps coming back to my mind repeatedly as I tackle different projects.

4-H is phenomenal at teaching public speaking, but should we be going further?  If we know that the way to connect to people in the “real world” is through stories, should we be working towards this?

We’ve all coached kids through giving their “elevator speech.”  I’m going to go ahead an use this opportunity to voice what I’ve thought to myself for many years.

There is nothing I hate more than a canned elevator speech!   (Ok, besides root canals…and maybe clowns).

How many times have you heard, “4-H is the youth development organization of the land grant university system.  We have 230,000 Florida 4-H’ers ages 5-18.  We focus on three mission mandates of Science, Citizenship, and Healthy Living.”?  Sure, it’s the facts, but it doesn’t exactly knock your socks off and call you to action, does it?

Compare that with this 2 minute video produced by Chick-Fil-a:

This is a food company yet not once did they mention food.  Yet, they shared the stories of the people they interact with in a way and which it connects with the viewer on an emotional level.

We (as professionals, as volunteers, and as youth) need to be able to tell our story so that it resonates with others.  Within corporate culture there are some excellent models for this.  For instance, TOMS shoes- the founder befriended some children in a village in Argentina, saw that they didn’t have adequate shoes to protect their feet, and came up with the one-for-one model.  The consumer buys a pair of shoes, and the company buys a pair for those in need.

So what’s our story?  More importantly what is your 4-H story?  Think beyond the POW/ROA success story, but why is it that you choose to be a part of this organization.

My story…

I hated 4-H when I was 8.  My mom forced me to join because she thought it would be good for me.  I cried at my first club meeting because they made me stand up and talk.  I cried at my first Consumer Choices practice because we showed up on the wrong day and I thought I was there for forestry practice.  And I wailed hysterically so much the entire week of Camp Cherry Lake that I’m surprised Cabin 1 didn’t suffer flood damage.  But in between those terrible moments, there were also great successes.  I made some great friends of all ages in my club…teenage friends! I found out I was pretty good at talking, and loved oral reasons.  And, because my cruel mother made me stay at camp, I learned that I could face the unfamiliar, relax, and enjoy new experiences.   4-H helped me be a better person, and that’s why I wanted to work in 4-H, to make better people.

This is what I share when people ask me about 4-H (I can hit them with the facts later).

What’s your story?

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2 Responses to Tell Me a Story

  1. Eric says:

    Good points Stacey. Every meeting, every relationship, every publication needs to tell a story. This is the first thing I learned in grad school about scientific writing. I wish we spend more time discussing the difference between “what we did about this project” and “the story of this project”. The same applies to Success Stories. oooops… I did not notice the name does say they are “STORIES”.
    and I am sticking to it!

  2. I think the key phrase is, “a story.” Sometimes I believe we are guilty (myself very included) of trying to force too many stories on others at once. There is a public speaking equation that says a 10 minute speech gives you enough time to tell one story, and make one point out of that story. Any more and your audience is less likely retain information from your speech.

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