Telling Stories About Yourself

Coyote Storyteller by RIchard Shields

Coyote Storyteller by Richard Shields

Humans are wired for stories. So if you really want audiences to connect with you, weave stories about yourself into your presentations.

Have you ever read Reader’s Digest? I used to flip to the columns “Life in These United States,” “Humor in Uniform” and “Laughter the Best Medicine.” I loved these 100-150-word jolts of stories. I looked forward to their punch lines.

Aesop had it right: short bursts of stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Stories from which listeners could derive meaning and identify with. Fables showing characters’ vulnerabilities and strengths.

Recently, I attended the SCBWI Summer Conference. After awhile, sessions began to blend together. There was so much rich helpful information! So many quotable quotes spilling from keynoters’ lips! But one of the most memorable keynote presentations for me was by Matt de la Peña. Why? He anchored his talk with stories – – about his family, himself, his vulnerabilities. He shared a story which led up to his leaning against a post, waiting for his first big crush to emerge from the fast food place across from his high school, expecting her to run up to him to thank him for the heartfelt poem he had penned for her, but was crushed when, instead, she went another way to avoid him. I pictured each moment of that scene. And he brought the story up to the present day. A story with a beginning, middle and end.

Whether you are speaking to an adult audience or to kids, remember to weave in a story or two about yourself – ones that listeners can connect with. Dig for funny or poignant nuggets from . . .


  • Growing up years
  • Disappointments / heartbreaks
  • Celebrations (disastrous or otherwise)
  • Unexpected kindnesses from others
  • Family vacations (or lack thereof)
  • School (conflicts or triumphs)

    If you’re not sure how to structure your personal stories, take a look at the compilation, Reader’s Digest Life in These United States: True Stories and Humorous Glimpses from America’s Most Popular Magazine, or stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series created by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. 

    But most of all, tell stories from your heart. You’ll connect with listeners as surely as you have connected with readers through your books.

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