Despite all the stories I tell, I sometimes find it difficult to speak to people!
There…that’s the biggest confession of the year! But please don’t judge me…yet! You see, the truth is that I have spent so much time behind the lens that I rather ask, than say. I enjoy listening than speaking! And so in that way my voracious appetite for stories remains intact.
So would I then describe myself as a compulsive storyteller? I mean having an appetite for stories is quite different from a being compulsive teller, right?
The road to good storytelling begins with being a good listener and observer. You have to have the knack for patient listening, one that is not disruptive in any way. Sometimes you may be bursting with a comment or a story of your own, but if you want to really be a teller who has many stories to tell, and by that I mean, not just your own, then you have to listen!
It was quite apt that the SHEROES event in Delhi ended with Natasha Badhwar sharing her entrepreneurial story. Anu Singh Chowdhury, the lovely host of the event described her as a close friend a compulsive storyteller. Storyteller, yes…compulsive…yes yes!
Natasha’s story as we all heard it is a story of reinvention, of how she went from being a media person, to trainer and then a creative entrepreneur. Natasha’s story is here for everyone to see.
Natasha, as she told us had goosebumps before her talk. Why me? She asked herself. Sairee said, why not? Go and tell your story! Everyone has a story to tell and like I said in my earlier piece, the first step in storytelling is to believe that your story can inspire someone. So as she spoke to all of us, she gave out some very genteel lessons in storytelling that every entrepreneur must follow.
Know Your Audience
In a summit for working women, women at work and entrepreneurs, emotions, passions, aspirations and dreams are rife. As a highly successful working woman who has reinvented her career several times to turn a creative entrepreneur, Natasha carefully picked the moments and emotions that would touch her audience. She spoke of her very successful career in television, motherhood, a difficult pregnancy, her foray into training and consulting and the very interesting tussle over her heart’s desire to turn entrepreneur and her mind’s censure of what the world would think of her! We didn’t have a Q&A session post her talk, but if I were to ask the audience how many of her stories found resonance in the audience, I am certain several hands up would have flown up!
Find Your Story
Your entrepreneurial story doesn’t begin with your company. It begins with you! If you want to tell your story, then bring in all the colour, the experiences, the moments, the emotions and people who made you. Natasha began from the top; right from the beginning of her career in NDTV. The audience wanted to hear about Ochre Sky, so why bother about how she went from being India’s first female videojournalist and a star in the camera team at NDTV, to a video editor who was crying in the corner of an editing suite? Does the past hold a cue to someone’s present? It always does and it certainly did in Natasha’s case. Natasha wasn’t presenting a business plan, but she was still telling her business story, and that began with her story.
Speak from the Heart
Natasha was speaking to a room-full of people, mostly unknown. Her parents sat in the back row watching with pride. But then they knew her story already. To connect to the remaining 50 or so, she had to show them a Natasha that her parents were so proud of. If you are telling your story, speak from the heart. Speak with honesty. Speak with all earnestness. “Everyone was feeling sorry for me, and so was I,” she says and with that one statement she bared her life open.
Acceptance of the Highs and Lows
A story is never unidirectional. It has its highs and low, the bows and troughs, the crest and fall. So every time you decide to tell your story, look for the highs and the lows. At another point Natasha says, “Happiness and sadness will always go together. Boundaries are not water tight.” If you are looking for good stories to tell, tell all kinds, the good and the bad. Show your audience how good you felt in one moment and totally lost in another. Also tell them how you pulled yourself together. Chances are that there is someone in the audience who is looking for a pull up herself!
Reveal Your Fears
I loved Natasha’s analogy of fear, of where she compares it with street dog that threatens but doesn’t go away. (I will certainly use Natasha’s story in a future presentation somewhere!) If you are telling a story and want to be complete honest with your audience, reveal your fears. Show your weakness and the discoveries you make about yourself. As she was toying with entrepreneurship she battled with questions over being labeled and judged. “Mere activist dost kya kahenge? Yeh to capitalist ban gayi!” The fear of being judged is never an easy one to battle and for anyone who has had to deal with stereotypes and expectations, this one story never fails to inspire.
Rewind, Introspect, Reinvent
The journey of every personal story begins with memory. It is always about how much of our lives we choose to rewind, how we introspect and how we learn from our own experiences. Natasha in her telling did just that. As she took her audience through the highs and lows of her own career, she displayed how she had always reinvented her career. So why was she allowing her fear to take over now?
“I had no problem carrying a camera but I had a problem with being seen with a measuring tape!” she says. I can’t help but weave in the role Sairee and the rest of the people in SHEROES had in helping her step up her journey. Wasn’t it Sairee who told Natasha, “People don’t buy clothes, people buy stories!”
Natasha and the story of Ochre Sky aren’t different. “Ochre Sky garments are all about details, colour, threads, hints, whispers, elegance and inner beauty. We love small details. The poetry in things. We are here to make really honest clothes,” says the website.
Stories never hurt. They always heal, encourage, motivate and inspire. A compulsive storyteller has many stories in her bag, just like Natasha did. She knew how and where to use them.
So tell your story…you never know who needs it!
This post was originally written for SHEROES