HOW TO UNCOVER THE POWER OF STORYTELLING

I learned of The Academy of Tomorrow’s workshop, The Power of Storytelling, through my friend Zack Embree who was the photographer at the event. Walking into the Home (that’s how they refer to the school, fittingly so), I didn’t know what to expect. The space first struck me as extremely futuristic; brightly lit, open-concept, a divider separating the long table from the workshop space, a cozy nook with a bookshelf that doubled as a secret door, couches along the windows and a wall stacked with neon orange foldable chairs. It was immediately impressive and impactful! 

There was a group of us attendees- high school students ranging from Grade 10-12 from all over the Lower Mainland- New Westminster, North Van, East Van, and a few international students from Switzerland, Mexico, Vietnam and a French community in East Africa. We had some time to meet each other and eat snacks before Alex Trisoglio, our workshop facilitator, began.

Alex started by introducing himself in a standard, ‘resumé’ structure that included his name, university degrees and career. Then, he paused and began again with his introduction, but this time it was different. This time, he began with a story about his childhood, recounting an incident when he followed his intuition that led him to where he is today. 

When he asked us what we noticed about his 1st and 2nd introduction, I couldn’t even remember what he had said in his first introduction! I realized it was because I have heard thousands of those introductions- credible, not entirely engaging, resumé-structured, flash biographies. His second introduction was personable, a story that we could all relate to and remember! 

Comparing Alex’s first and second introduction really set the tone for the afternoon. The rest of the afternoon was spent storytelling. Alex guided us through group activities involving sharing stories with each other and taking feedback from our group members. It quickly became clear to me how important listening is when it comes to storytelling; poor attention can inhibit the storyteller greatly and alternatively when we are attentive and engaged, the story is more natural and often richer as a result. 

We talked about bringing stories to life by adding ‘Lots of Lots’ the language of the five senses to our stories. . At the end of the workshop, we each had an opportunity to stand in front of everyone and share our stories, integrating everything we’d learned throughout the workshop. I took this opportunity to share a story I’ve shared countless times before; the symbolism of my scoliosis spinal fusion in my journey of self-love. 

It was incredible to see how my listeners reacted this time, compared to the many other times I’ve shared this story. This time, I felt as though my listeners were feeling what I had felt undergoing the operation, waking up in the ICU, spending days in the hospital and the months of recovery physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was so foreign to feel people really connecting with my story and being able to connect with my new friends’ stories…a heartwarming kind of foreign. 

After only four hours of knowing each other, the group had already developed a close bond. We opened ourselves up to each other by sharing stories of our lives, re-living these memories with each other. We connected with each other’s struggles and victories. Most importantly, we all left feeling listened to. Our storytelling was not passive.. We had broken the barriers of what storytelling can be: living again through words. 

We also realized that the ability to connect with and understand each other is imperative in team-building and leadership. It fosters an environment where people can laugh with each other, empathize with each other, and celebrate the small and the big victories. Most of all, we felt the power of storytelling in bringing us together as one team, one seriously kick-ass team.