The Power of Telling Your Story: Dominic Colenso (Transcript)

Full text of storyteller Dominic Colenso’s talk titled “The Power of Telling Your Story” at TEDxVitoriaGasteiz conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Dominic Colenso – Actor. Director. Storyteller

Once upon a time

For simple and very powerful words, from a really early age, we’re exposed to the magic of storytelling. Since human beings first walked the earth, we’ve been sharing stories, warning each other of mortal danger, teaching right from wrong, inspiring our tribe to action.

The latest science tells us that when we hear a story, our bodies produce the hormone oxytocin, and we instantly start to form a connection with the person that we’re listening to.

Stories bind us together and help us make sense of our experience.

I’m a storyteller. I started my career as an actor, became a theatre director, and I now help business leaders in the digital age reconnect with the power of the spoken word.

I’m here today to encourage you to embrace your own story, and share more of it with the world. The reason that I say more of our story is I believe that most of us are holding back.

In the bite-size world of social media, we tend to share only the selected highlights. Our Instagram feeds, and Facebook walls proclaim to the world all those wonderful things that are happening to us. You know those carefully staged selfies, let’s give this a go.

Now everyone say TEDx… one, two, three, TEDx.

Well those pictures only paint half the story. Like it or not, we become museum curators archiving our achievements in digital form, and yet for many of us, those posts only paint part of the picture. It’s like watching the trailer for a movie but never actually seeing the whole film. You get a sense of the action, but the experience lacks any emotional depth.

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Think about all the things that you’ve achieved in your life so far. That series of events that led you to listening to this talk; those amazing adventures and all the disastrous decisions that make you who you are… how well do you share those stories? Do you share them? Or do you keep them to yourself?

Most of us dismiss our stories as either irrelevant or embarrassing or uninteresting, and yet those stories are vital in helping our audience understand who we are. And when I say audience, I mean anyone that you communicate with: your family, your friends, your team at work, or 300 complete strangers at a TEDx event.

When you share your stories, you create connection. When I started my journey as an actor, when I decided at 16 years of age to go to drama school, I thought it was going to be easy.

You go to drama school, land your first job, work your way to the top. Simple. The reality was very different. The journey was a lot less linear.

I had a huge high… my highest point I was starring in a Hollywood movie, flying around the world signing autographs. At my lowest I was working in a call center trying to convince people that I’d never spoken with before to part with their credit card details; not an easy job.

However, when I started a new chapter of my life as a public speaking coach, I had an instinct to dismiss my past. I felt that if I wanted to be taken seriously in the world of business, I needed to project a more polished corporate image. I stopped telling my story. It was a really flawed strategy.

One rainy November afternoon, I found myself sitting in a dull office in the north of England sipping tea with my business partner, very British. My new business was a couple of months old, and we were struggling to find our identity: we weren’t making any money.

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