Thursday, February 3, 2011

the most important story you tell is your own

Last night, a couple hundred social content enthusiasts, defying the wrath of winter, gathered at Columbus Circle to attend a Future of Storytelling meetup organized by Jeff Pulver, creator of 140 Character conferences. Much talk was on the future of narrative, but co-host Michael Margolis demonstrated its present-day importance by citing the role of storytelling in crafting a bio. He observed that many of us skilled in communicating the stories of others fall down on the job when promoting ourselves. Particularly true if we're in the throes of reinvention. And, these days, who isn’t?.

Because social media is the new meet and greet, everyone needs a short bio these days. And bio-writing is about making choices, he said. A bio isn’t a laundry list. All of us have countless stories we COULD tell, but which narratives will most help us achieve what we’re after?

5 rules of engagement:
1. Think about the “character” you want to portray. What is your origin? Who were your parents? What have you studied and what forces shaped you?
2. Define your work, so people know what it is.
3. Give a glimpse of past experiences that led you to want to do this work.
4. Provide external validators. These days, character trumps credentials but outside validators are still essential, especially if you’re pursuing work that hasn’t been done before.
5. Make yourself sound human. What are your passions, your peeves, what do you geek out on?
And—make it short. An attendee who licenses TedX conferences complained of too-long missives from prospective candidates. She said she dismissed pages-long emails, assuming that if people can’t present themselves concisely in writing, they won’t be able to do it onstage.

Examples of bios that stand out by following the 5 rules? Margolis cited (irrefutably) that of local-wine-monger-turned-global-marketing-guru Gary Vaynerchuck:

Gary Vaynerchuk is a New York Times bestselling author and American businessman who was born in Belarus and immigrated to the United States as a young child. Gary’s entrepreneurial instincts took over at a young age, when he owned a franchise of neighborhood lemonade stands and made $1,000 a weekend selling baseball cards. Much to his dismay, his father Sasha pulled Gary into the family business, a local liquor store called Shopper’s Discount Liquors. Before long, Gary recognized that consumers collected rare wines just like people collected baseball cards, and he was off to the races.

Now, off to rewrite.

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