The best stories are about finding the ‘gift of the hit’

When you tell a story in your speeches or presentations, are you making it as compelling as it could possibly be? Are you developing all the essential elements of story to have your audience leaning forward in their chairs, eager to hear more? Are you clear about the most compelling element of any story?

A book to be published in Canada next week begins with a quote from concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’.

In a storytelling context, when a person runs head-on into a problem they can choose to do nothing (not much of a story) or they can choose to fight back (usually a heck of a story). The most compelling component of any story is the struggle.

The Gift of the Hit, by speaker and author Peter Davison, is packed with stories of people who made a choice to act in that space between stimulus and response. People like Peter. At the age 45 this motivational speaker and adventure traveller was stunned to be told he had Parkinson’s Disease.

Eleven years after that diagnosis, Peter looks back and says Parkinson’s was the best thing that ever happened to him. Of course it’s not been easy. He had to work through denial, frustration and anger. And a couple of years ago he had to give up his speaking career. His voice was – his words – too wonky. But he says the blessings outweighed all that. The blessing of love. The blessing of two young children. The blessing of being a Parkinson’s educator and advocate.

The book comes from the question Peter asked himself: what if, within every tragedy, adversity and setback in our lives, there is a blessing to unwrap? How would our lives change?

The stories in the Gift of the Hit showcase the strength of the human spirit through the accounts of ordinary people who have embraced extraordinary events. People who chose to find the gift within their hit.

We’re honoured that Podium Coaching founder Halina St James was invited to contribute her story to the Gift of the Hit. Halina writes about being a successful presentation skills coach and speaker who suddenly lost the power of speech, because of a stroke. She writes about re-learning her alphabet. Learning to speak again. Learning to write again. And regaining the confidence to speak in front of an audience.

The Gift of the Hit is packed with remarkable stories of resilience in the face of adversity. Characters struggling to achieve their quest, in the face of challenges and obstructions.

But every one of us has stories to tell. Life isn’t easy. Running a business isn’t easy. Developing a new product isn’t easy. Persuading people to think in a different way, or act in a different way, isn’t easy. And that’s a good thing. Because in facing up to – and overcoming – those challenges, you discover a wealth of stories to tell. And those stories will be what people remember.

Tom Peters, the celebrated business coach, once advised manufacturers: ‘No-one wants to hear you bragging about your widgets. They want to hear how hard you had to work to make them the best widgets.’

So when you are looking for stories to enhance your speeches and presentations, look for those examples of obstacles being overcome. The obstacle is the stimulus. How you or your team react is the growth, the freedom… and the story.

When you tell your story, don’t gloss over the struggle. Don’t say ‘we ran into some problems but we overcame them’. Describe the struggle. Be specific. Paint a picture. Let the audience share in the experience.  That’s how you turn facts into memories.

The Gift of the Hit will be launched on Sunday Sept 18 at 7pm at the Halifax Central Library in Nova Scotia.