Brenda Knights Narrative

I get asked to do public speaking events. A lot of times when you’re asked to speak, you get butterflies to an extent, no matter how experienced you are. You can do research on who your audience is, but the thing I’ve found that always calms my nerves has been to speak from the heart. When I think about other speakers I’ve enjoyed hearing and learned from, it’s all people who speak from the heart, who draw from the place where their values are. That resonates with people.

Anyone can read statistics. I’ll often go to speaking events and see someone reading off a Powerpoint. The audience starts to pick up their phones. They’re disinterested. They’re not engaged. To engage the audience, you need to speak to the heart using real-life experiences so that others can say, “Yeah, I can see what you’re going through. I can see that happening in my business.” When you’re preparing to give a speech, you can think about your talking points, but find a way to connect your experience to the topic. That’s much more engaging than reading statistics. You can provide handouts with statistical information, but most people would rather listen to a storyteller than have someone lecturing them. When you look at TED speakers, they’re bringing their life experience in and telling stories of what happened to them. They might bring statistics in, but it’s the stories that get the audience engaged.

When I’m writing a grant or proposal, I need to sell them on why my proposal is better than the competition’s. I find that if you speak from the heart in your writing, you can draw that connection. You can say if you give us this grant, it’s going to be meaningful to my community. That’s going to make your proposal stand out over others. I’ll even add pictures with captions to tell the story.

If I’m writing a grant — say I’m looking to fund a wool weaving class — I’ll add a picture of one of our elders teaching a wool weaving class. In the writing, I’ll share that on this date we held a class and had very positive feedback, that community members enjoyed the storytelling, and that they felt they were putting reconciliation into action. The results will be that this knowledge will be passed down to future generations. I tell the story of it. That’s more impactful than saying that you want to do a wool weaving class and here’s how much it will cost. The people who are reviewing these proposals are looking for ones that are going to give you maximum value for the funding. I’ve been on both sides of the fence where I’ve written grants and where I’ve been an evaluator, and I can tell you that you’re shopping around for the best story.


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Business Writing For Everyone Copyright © 2021 by Arley Cruthers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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