There is a stumbling block to getting started as a speaker that is rooted in the impostor syndrome. It sounds like this: “But I’m not a real expert so why would they want to hear from me?”
The question then is, what is a real expert?
I believe you can credibly present yourself as a real expert on a given topic if you meet the following conditions:
- You have lived the subject matter. You have started the initiative, tackled the problem, and attempted the solution.
- You have a story to tell about #1 that includes a compelling historical narrative (what happened, why it happened, your lessons learned) as well as all of the ways it has made you more curious about what might happen next (your new questions, your hopes and plans for the future).
- You care about helping people. You want to share something with others to make their life easier, to save them a little time and smooth their road just a little bit more.
- You have the ability to present yourself confidently, you can speak clearly, and you are willing to say, “I don’t know” when someone asks you a question the answer to which you do not know.
Finally, speaking is about storytelling. Stories are how we connect and how we learn. Images, quotes, everything that went wrong, how you got out of a jam, moments of truth, these are the things your listeners are hungry for.
A real expert is someone who commits themselves to being the expert of their own experience and who trusts that there’s always an audience for someone who is willing to share it.
A week ago I had the privilege of introducing “Storytelling for Career Success” to a group of young professionals who were generous enough to say “yes” to an invitation to test drive my new workshop. By their energetic participation they taught me what worked, what needed help and, most importantly, that what I shared with them is both practical and valuable.
This past Saturday was Round 2 and again I was inspired by a group of open and dynamic participants, each one willing to step into the unknown and share their story. It was an outstanding day, one I am smarter and better equipped for having led.
What I know beyond a doubt is that when we connect through story we break into a new world of possibility. It’s a world where we become known for more than the 12 point font of a resume, where we live into David Whyte’s affirmation that, “we shape ourselves to fit this world and by the world are shaped again.” (Working Together)
One participant put it this way: “The highlight for me was figuring out how to tell an emotional, vibrant story with structure and organization. I was amazed to find that past experiences I never thought applicable in an interview can be used in an amazing, powerful way.”
Another said this: “Before this experience, I was pretty confident in my story. What I realized throughout the experience is that I haven’t been telling it in the most effective, powerful way. This experience took my story from a little, shaky tale, to an intense, powerful testimony. Not only do I feel more confident about going into an interview, I feel more confident in myself.”
With humility and gratitude – and a powerful sense of purpose – I am committed to author, and be authored by, the unfolding of this new story.