Bringing Storytelling to the Classroom

How do you get people to tell their stories? That was the first question a student asked as I showed the importance of #storytelling to two communications classes at Aurora University.

I pulled out our K+L Storytellers signature multi-colored beach ball, had the students stand up and I asked a single question. What is something about you that nobody here knows? I tossed the beach ball to the first student, who ducked allowing the ball to bounce off the unprepared student behind him. (That’s why we use a beach ball instead of a baseball.)

Speaking to a communications class at Aurora University about the importance of storytelling in business.

Speaking to a communications class at Aurora University about the importance of storytelling in business.

Around the room the beach ball flew to the next storyteller. One young student has lived on her own since she was 17. Another collected exotic animals, including an alligator. A third has traveled to more than 20 countries.

The final catcher of the beach ball was instructor Franklin Rivera, who led 44 men into battle upon his graduation from West Point and is also related to former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell.

In the second class, students were asked about their No. 1 obsession. The responses ranged from music to cars to sports to fluffy cats.

The exercise was fun, and it especially kept the 8 a.m. class awake. Asking questions leads to storytelling. And by continuing the line of questioning, we began to understand each person’s unique story.

K+L Storytellers takes a similar approach with middle market, culture-driven companies that want to better understand and project their stories, both internally to improve culture, and externally to increase brand awareness.

Like many college students, companies have short-term goals and long-term vision. Sharing stories with emotion and authority provides a trust with the audience, which is a foundation for increasing sales.

Spinning a few Dad jokes aside, what was some of the feedback of our classroom experience?

·         Ebony Scott, a junior marketing major, said marketing professionals “have a responsibility to depict clients in the way they want to be represented and how they would want their stories to be told.”

·        Senior Dirk Schoger.said, “Your lecture on storytelling was interesting and informative. The material and the stories you had to share with the class were very engaging, which is proof of the effectiveness of a good story.”

Nice to know our future storytellers are poised and ready to bring their stories to the world.

A Story: Keep Going

shoes-1260718_1280.jpg

I love to run, but I detest feeling cold. So last Saturday, I went to our local Vaughn Center, plunked down two dollars in quarters pilfered from our family coin jar and exchanged them for the privilege of running the track.

Six times around makes a mile. It's really not hard at all. Unless you are Marvin.

I don't know if that is his name, but that's what I'm going with. He looked like a Marvin, a rather nostalgic name befitting a man who is most probably in his seventies, wrinkly skin on his dark-skinned face, still broad-shouldered, still built like the athlete I suspect he once was. He wore chinos and a black polo top.

When I spoke with him, I didn't ask him his name. It was enough for me just to approach a stranger. Many people don't know this about me, but I'm a real introvert. Big groups terrify me and meeting strangers . . . don't even get me started. But this man did something that was so massively impressive, I had to work up the nerve to tell him the truth. And I did. I thanked him, straight out, for inspiring all of us that day.

Marvin walked at a complete 90 degree angle. He used the rail around the second floor track as a guide because, obviously, he really didn't have a lot of clearance to see far ahead. He would stop a lot. He would stand at the rail and watch the basketball and volleyball players below make three-pointers or spike the ball over the net.

I imagined him fifty years before. A great player, someone with promise, maybe a scholarship to college or the captain of his high school team.

Then something happened along the way. Was it a car accident? Years of hard work stacked on top of each other? An illness winning the war on his body?  

So I asked him, after thanking him, if it was painful to walk. Because it looked like it was, and he shook his head and said, "Oh yeah. My back, my lower back." He was sitting on the bench alongside the track when I talked with him. I figured I had one more question before he thought I was a nut, so I asked him what I really wanted to know: What motivated him to come out here and go through all this pain?

His eyes had a fierce light of goodness. He stared right at me and said, "I've got to try. I've just got to keep on tryin'."

I thanked him again. It was one of those moments where I felt like I'd been touched by an angel. One human being sharing with another about courage, life, determination.

MicheleBlog.jpg

Michele Kelly is CEO and Co-founder of K+L Storytellers, a brand storytelling and content company passionate about helping middle market companies scale through story.

This Spring Break, Ask Your Children to Tell You a Story

As a corporate storyteller and copywriter, words are my playground. I would flip through our 30,000-pound, hard-covered dictionary as a child, my finger landing on random words. This is how I learned the word "philoprogenitiveness" (it means a love for one's offspring) at age seven. (My offspring, by the way, cringe when I share this quirky childhood indulgence😂.)

Read More

3 Questions to Turn Values into Palpable Energy

Values fuel our lives. They are our uniques — for us as individuals and as companies. Our flags, planted firmly in the ground, show red with vibrant love for others, pure white for honesty in all matters, green for our respect of the earth, and rough hewn browns for the value of being approachable and down-to-earth.

What are your colors and how are you changing the world of your customers and work-mates with them? Let’s explore together.

Read More

Hiding in Plain Sight a True Art Form

phone-2556886_1920.png

What if we had only three ways to communicate with each other?

·         Writing a letter and sending it via the United States Postal Service to a business or residence

·         In-person visit at home or at work

·         Calling a business or residence on a land line telephone

In the first three decades of my life, these were the only methods of “getting a hold” of someone. And they were effective because each method nearly always elicited a response.

Today, we can reach someone instantly. Multiple applications provide a direct pipeline to your mobile device, tablet or personal computer. Besides email and texting, we’ve got Uber Conferencing (they have a great hold song if you haven't heard it), Facetime, Skype, Slack, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, and LinkedIn. Leaving a voicemail is almost shocking to the system (it requires a lot of energy and time to hit “play”). An article in Psychology Today cites that inboxes are one of the most common triggers to social anxiety and productivity-related anxiety.

It’s easy to see why we all want to run from the mayhem.

Hiding in Plain Sight

There’s no place to hide, so we’ve become creative to avoid being reached. We hide in plain sight.

Phone numbers and physical addresses of business are disappearing from websites and business cards. Instead, we leave a note and send it off into the web abyss and cross our fingers that it will reach the right person AND they will be kind enough to respond.

When a phone number we don't recognize pops up, we watch our phones do the dance. We need “approval” from someone to connect on LinkedIn and other social platforms and, oftentimes, contact information is buried or nonexistent on profiles.

But the No. 1 way we hide is by ignoring the call, text, letter, email, IM, social request, etc. altogether. We simply do not respond. That fact has nothing to do with technology. That fact has to do with people making a choice.

While we haven't done a formal survey on this, we sure have heard people talk about this phenomenon that, with all the ways in which we can communicate, it is getting harder and harder to elicit a response. Is that the story a company wants to convey? How is responsiveness a reflection of a company’s brand?

What are some of your experiences with unresponsive responses?