Your story belongs to your audience.

Doug Lipman, in his excellent book, ‘Improve your storytelling‘ talks about the storytelling triangle. You, the storyteller, ∇ the audience ∇ and the story ∇, the only relationship you don’t control is the relationship the audience has to the story.

We’re always talking about modifying our stories for the audience, here’s how I do it, and my take on why.

I’ll use a story from when I was a fundraiser at a disability day centre in Scotland, Edinburgh but hopefully the principles apply to lots of other stories, and will hopefully allow me to demonstrate how Doug Limpan understands the rules, of course I don’t control your relationship to Doug Lipman, treasured oracle, or nemesis, or indifferant obliviousness.

The facts; the who, what, where and when remains the same. The angle you lead with changes. The result changes, the achievement changes and what the story gives to the audience changes.

The cover of the book 'Improve your storytelling' by Doug Lipman. Green marbled background with a black banner at the top from American Storytelling

So the facts. Of all the options available to young people who have learning or physical disabilities when they exit the Special School System the Upward Mobility day centre works well for a lot of them. We are positive about achievements, abilities and fun, we use the arts and wellbeing workshops to build meaningful opportunities, this works great for the students – not residents, or inmates, or customers – students, there to learn. We see young people blossom, become confident, achieve things and have lives, the absence of which is a very real possibility for those that do not make it into places like UPMO.

Those are the facts, people come to UPMO, they change, they move on or stay with us. That change takes months or more often is slower, imperceptible except for the people who work with our students.

So, what do we lead with when we tell this story to different audiences? I feel like I could be exposing myself as a calculating mastermind but here goes.

When telling this story to;

Potential Parents (normally the payers):

The student is the hero, we talk about success stories, about other students who have transformed themselves and progressed towards their achievements. It’s a hero’s journey, and the person the parent cares about most is the hero, we are the mentors, the shadows.

Funders:

We talk about the student body as a population, we might zoom in to a story, but we zoom quickly out to talk about a population, who are whatever % of the people they see around them, we talk about the funding picture, we talk about outcomes, we talk about graduates, destinations. 
We are struggling against a tough system, inviting them to be the heroes in the journey of the individuals we paint the picture of. 

Social Workers (referrers):

We talk about the activities, the support staff, how they are different, skilled, creative caring, how we go above and beyond for our students, how we work well with the stakeholders involved, funders, allied health, parents. How our world-class information system focuses on students and helps them do their jobs better and help people. something we have in common.

Same stories, different heroes, different goals. Different endings. Different calls to action. 

Leave a Reply