Over the last year, I learned a valuable lesson that explained why the best idea doesn't always win. I used to think it was office politics, or I just wasn't as bright as I thought. Those might be part of the problem, but more often than not, I've found that the problem is bad storytelling.
I spent more time than I care to admit banging my head against the wall trying to understand why my boss, co-worker, or friend wasn't motivated to try the ideas I proposed. I found myself saying the same words repeatedly, thinking that if I said it the right way, they would be on board without hesitation. I served as a textbook example of someone going insane, doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome. After self-reflection and accepting that I can only control myself, a few insights started to surface.
I realized that by the time I talked to someone else about an idea, I had already invested hours, days, sometimes weeks in it, but the person I was telling was hearing it for the first time. Also that I pitched ideas based on what I thought was important, not how they would benefit from it. A few times, I even caught myself getting so excited that my thoughts were coming out scattered, hard to follow, and insignificant. It's no wonder my ideas were dying on the vine.
So what needed to change? Me! I needed to change my approach. The first thing I did was join Toastmasters. My goal was to learn better techniques for structuring and delivering a message. The second thing I did was practice pitching in front of the mirror and even video recording myself and then watching it back to see how I would come across to others. It's interesting the things you do that will annoy you about yourself. For me, it's rolling my eyes. I do it ALL THE TIME without realizing I'm doing it. I also talk with my hands way too much, to the point that it becomes distracting.
It is embarrassing to watch yourself back on video, and public speaking is scary, but doing these things has worked for me. More and more of my ideas get implemented, I'm building trust and gaining influence. I'm not planning to run for office or lead a campaign, so you might wonder whether or not public speaking or storytelling are essential skills to master. My answer is yes, they are. We are built for community, wired for connection, and thrive off our relationships with others. Learning to tell a good story will only enhance those experiences.