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Your story should be heard: let’s work to tell it!

March 18, 2015

Did you know that personal stories and gossip make up to 65% of our conversations? Or that a fact “wrapped” in a story is estimated to be 20x more powerful than the fact alone?

 

Once upon a time (aka last Saturday March 14th), the Human Impacts Institute hosted a workshop event on Community Storytelling at the McCarren Play Center in Brooklyn (its last of a four-part series on health, toxins, and consumer advocacy). While consumers often feel overwhelmed by the negative forces of pollution, greenwashing, and misinformation confronting us, we had special help from the fairy godmother of awareness-raising: Amy Braunschweiger, award-winning journalist and Web Communications Director at Human Rights Watch.

 

Amy led the interactive workshop, where participants were encouraged to think of stories they wanted to tell - from improving school lunches to writing a DIY manual on combating climate change. She discussed tools we can use to help tell our story - and how that story can come in many different forms: articles, books, movies, videos, but also dancing, singing - even a tweet can tell a story!

 

She also invited a very special guest: Annie Willis, a climate activist and high school senior who lost her home to Hurricane Sandy. Annie talked about her process in forming her story, and how her struggles led her to become involved in the Global Kids program, and most recently, a key force in the movement to ensure all New York City children receive climate education in school. You can see her tell one of her stories here.

 

Below are a few storytelling tips to get started - you can check out more ideas here - or get inspiration from others’ at the Storycorps website here.

  • Keep it simple: good stories are easily understandable. Don’t try and impress people by fancying up your language. Instead, engage them with what you’ve experienced

  • Believe in what you’re saying: Be honest with yourself and your audience. Your audience will sense it if you aren’t, and if you are they’ll become more deeply invested in what you have to say.

  • First-hand experience: Share what you know, maybe something funny or painful or wonderful that happened to you or a family member. It’s easiest to tell a story on a topic we know simply because we know it.

  • Seeds of change: In the best stories, someone’s perspective shifts. When you stopped being afraid to follow your dreams of opening a restaurant? When climate change became real to you? People will invest themselves in you.

  • Make it personal: Telling stories of struggles and overcoming barriers helps people relate to you – everyone’s been there.

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