In this guest blog Jessica Southgate shares her insights and take-aways from sounddelivery’s Being the Story event which took place on Friday 16th September.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of attending sounddelivery’s Being the Story, the first event of its kind to celebrate the power of thought-provoking storytelling. These are some of the key reflections I left with, including how charities and campaigners can communicate their messages better.
1. Powerful stories connect us
Over the course of the day, the audience heard from ten inspirational speakers, all of whom had very varied life experiences and a wide range of stories to tell. But something powerful connected them all. Sharing their life experiences, personal or professional, had an impact on others. It created an inspirational shared narrative of possibility.
Telling ‘real’ stories can be transformational. It can help people see an issue differently, make different decisions and bridge the gaps that sometimes divide us.
What took place on the stage also connected us as an audience. Gone were the usual awkward loiterings or pretend phone-checkings in coffee breaks. People spoke to one another. Through their generosity in sharing their truths, the speakers unlocked a warmth that brought us all together and broke down some of the walls that stand between strangers.
2. Even the saddest stories have the power to make people smile
On the face of it, the prospect of a whole day listening to some of the most painful experiences of people’s lives could appear emotionally overwhelming. Would it be too upsetting or challenging to be valuable?
Not so. Time after time, when speakers left the stage the audience felt lifted, more positive and motivated to make a change in their own lives or work.
Don’t be afraid of telling what might seem to be a difficult or challenging story. It is an amazingly humbling experience to hear from someone who has turned what could have been their undoing into a source of strength, particularly when they do it positively or offer a solution to a problem.
3. Don’t think you already know the ending
In our media saturated world it’s too easy to assume you’ve heard it all before. You know about the struggles of Syrian refugees, you’ve heard about cuts to legal aid, you’ve followed Helen’s story on The Archers so you know about domestic abuse. But that’s not always the case, as hearing how individuals are affected differently by problems often shines a new light on them.
Through my own work I’ve had the honour of hearing many people share their stories with me and, without fail, every time they do I learn something new. Collectively, we need to keep finding ‘new’ angles on ‘old’ problems.
4. Stories come in all shapes and sizes
Stories can be told in different ways, and different things tell different stories. A book, a photograph, a new job, a new home, a new business – these either tell a story, or are a story in themselves.
5. Every organisation has a story to tell, and they should be telling it
Whatever the purpose of your organisation, whoever you aim to support or improve the lives of, you hold a wealth of untold stories just waiting to be given justice to. And the power to tell them lies with you.
Whether that be involving people with lived experience in your fundraising activities, working more closely with journalists you trust or making some time for brainstorming or training with your team to consider how you might communicate your messages better – we can all help tell the stories of the change we want to see.
Jessica is a researcher and service user involvement expert working in the field of gender, youth and social justice. @jess_southgate
If you attended Being the Story and would like to share your thoughts in a blog please do get in contact. We have compiled the highlights from the day including all consequent blogs in this Storify.