One Short Story

As I have mentioned before, I worked at an agricultural museum for ten years. We were a small operation – so small, almost every task had to be shared. I’ve set up exhibits, taken down exhibits, repaired exhibits, run the Admissions Desk, worked in the Museum Store, led all of our educational programs, given tours, answered the phone, moved items from the front to the back (or from the back to the front) and even went on the daily lunch run – and that was on a slow day! There was a lot to do and not many of us to do it, so everyone had to help out.

Our museum is usually a self-guided tour, but a group could arrange for a guide to lead them through the exhibits, describing them in depth and giving facts that aren’t highlighted on the signage. One of the things I enjoyed the most was acting as a tour guide, because I got to use my storytelling abilities and interact with an audience.

Some see the tour as one long speech: First you say A, then you follow that with B; talk about C, and then move on to D. All in a straight line, start here, end there, and everything will be all right.

But that rarely worked for me. That technique is  all based on memorization, and the tricky thing about memorization is that once you start, you really can’t stop. If you get off of the prepared script to answer a question, it is difficult to get back on track. And from that moment on, your timing is off and you are much more prone to error. If you ever run into a tour guide who does not like to answer questions or interact with the group, they are probably following a memorized script.

I was taught that a tour is not a long, unbreakable speech, but a series of stories. When we pause at the first exhibit, I tell you one short story – and because it is short, I’m able to interact with the audience and keep the narrative flowing. And then we move on to the second exhibit, where I tell you one short story… and so on and so on. It sounds difficult, but it really isn’t. Instead of thinking of something as one long event, break it down into smaller segments – the smaller, the better.

And that is how you need to approach the task of sharing your story with the world. Telling your entire life history will put an audience to sleep, so you need to hit the highlights. Determine what you consider to be the three or four major events in your life and tell one short story about each one.

People are natural storytellers; anyone can do it. Don’t believe me? Have you ever described a sporting event or a TV show to a friend who didn’t see it? Talked about your workday? You’re telling a story – develop that skill, and use it to raise Congenital Heart Defect awareness in your community.

One short story at a time.

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2 Responses to “One Short Story”

  1. Ellinger Family Says:

    Paul is talking to the media about CHD’s and spoke with Utah Rep Sentator Orin Hatch about CHD’s and the health care reform bill. Here’s the link:

    • Steve Says:

      Excellent! Paul is THE MAN, a great spokesman for Heart Defects. Over here on the East Coast, the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) is doing our best to support the Congenital Heart Futures Act, which was introduced in both houses of Congress but is currently stuck in committee.

      And that’s the frustrating thing – with the big reform bill being considered, everything else is off the table. But we have to keep working at it!

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