FILWP Presenting Tip #009: Avoid ‘live’ (unprocessed) stories


Because we, as human beings, connect through our hearts and our emotions, telling stories (especially personal ones)  when you present have huge power.  FILWP Presenting Tip #009 highlights a serious proviso for you to take into account when you decide which stories to share.


A few years ago I started a presentation with a story of a little boy that was born into a family during a period of hardship; of how the circumstances and the way that little boy was treated shaped the way he felt about himself (not good enough) and about the world (that it was cruel).  

I asked the audience if, given his circumstances, it made sense for the boy to come to those conclusions about himself and life. 

They agreed, and I could tell that some people were very touched by the story; when you think about it, the story isn’t a far-fetched bit of science fiction but rather a common-day experience for so many of us.

Then I said, “That little boy was me.” … and remained silent.  (A future tip in the series will focus on the power of pause.) In that moment something in the room changed; the audience, who were already ‘warm’, opened their hearts even more and the rest of the talk was a beautiful, connected experience.


When it comes to telling (your) stories, there is a very important rule:  only tell those stories that you’ve already processed.

By ‘processed’ I mean that you avoid stories that still affects you deeply emotionally to the extend that it overwhelms you, i.e. you break down and sob uncontrollably, or get so angry that you practically spontaneously combust.  

When I say that we connect to our audience and our audience connects to us through emotion, I do not mean volatile, uncontained emotions.  Uncontained emotions might (and probably will) scare some of your audience or at the very least put them off and disconnect (rather than connect) them – which is the last thing you want if you want to be an effective presenter.


It is very beautiful (and powerful) when you as a speaker share real, authentic and appropriately emotional stories and show your own emotions and vulnerabilities because it makes you human, and therefore easier to relate to. 

If done well, it will evoke emotional states in (most of) your audience that will help them to connect to you, and therefore, your message.  That’s a good thing! And, only if it you’ve processed your stories sufficiently (through therapy, talking it through with someone or simply time itself) so that you can tell the story rather than the story telling you.