by KJ McNamara
Lately, I have been teaching the power of a good story. We cannot fully understand something we have not experienced. We cannot fully comprehend something we have not lived… but we can understand the feelings you express when you tell a story. So today I want to say: tell your story. Tell your truth. Be bold enough to be vulnerable and let them see what you are made of. Vulnerability is the key to connection. Connection is the key to recruitment.
As we close out August, the busiest month of our work… I have to thank all of the people who let me shamelessly tell stories about them without their permission. As a people who communicate for a living we have all learned that stories can be powerful in articulating a concept that is complicated.
So, thank you to my Father, John F. McNamara who I repeatedly exploit through pictures. For those of you who have heard me, you know that my love for my embarrassing father is genuine and powerful. I also want to thank one of my best friends, Stephanie Wollenberg from Sikeston, Missouri (now living in New York, New York). She does not know that I tell the whole world our story of a subway ride and a little boy who loves his turtle. She also does not know that I tell half of the world about the most vulnerable moment in her life when her 7 year relationship came crashing down around her and I was the one she chose to help pull it back together. Thanks girl! I’ve got your back.
I have spoken to men and women everywhere and I have learned that the true stories you tell are powerful. Your story is powerful. Your story will make a person join your organization, but you have to be bold enough to tell it unedited.
Your life is what your fraternity & Sorority is. Your chapter exists through you. It exists because of you. Your story is your values. Your story is what people join. People join People. People join your story. How do you find your story?
Answer these to start: When was the moment you wanted to join? How has your fraternity/sorority made you a better person? When was a time you needed your brothers/sisters the most?
Your story should speak so loudly about what your organization values that you don’t even need to tell them what you stand for.
For example, I am a Kappa Delta, we believe that confidence in women and girls can change the world. My belief in confidence persists in every story I tell.
Confidence is the main theme in every story of my life. This is not even on purpose! The biggest compliment I have ever received is from Vince Fabra who in passing said to me once, “Well of course you believe in confidence, you are a KD.” I didn’t even realize how loudly I speak about what matters to me.
Speak loudly about what matters to you. I am not saying stand on a soap box and scream at a city about your passion… but I am saying don’t be afraid to wear your story on your sleeve. Be bold enough to tell the real story. Be vulnerable enough to put your heart in a story. Your story is powerful, and when you are confident enough to talk about how your organization has shaped your life… people will sign up en mass to get them some of that. They will join for the right reasons.
How to tell a good story:
1) Describe Characters: Talk about the people in your story. Talk about what their hair is like, how tall they are, their weird laugh. When you describe your characters you are talking about your brothers & sisters. You help the people feel like they are already best friends with your chapter members.
2) Use details: What was the weather like? Where were you on campus? What time of day was it? When you use details, it helps the person feel like they are there. They picture themselves being right there with you.
3) Use Feelings: Talk about how frustrated you were, how the relief washed over you, the building excitement you felt all day. Talk about the emotions because people have felt happy, sad, upset, angry, and relieved. But they have never walked around in your skin. They can understand the emotion but they cannot understand your fraternity or sorority.
Your story is powerful, amazing and perfect. Don’t be afraid to tell it. Your story has the ability to change the lives of others… but only when you tell it. If you want to matter to this world, you have to be vulnerable enough to talk about what everyone does not see. People don’t see your story, they only see your surface, and your story is deeper than that. Trust me… I have heard some of your stories and they have changed my mind and my life.