Mic Drop Stories: How to Tell Stories That Move Audiences to Action

daring member of the month Nov 04, 2022

Each month, we select one of our Impact Tribe members to be our “Daring Member of the Month.” This month, I’m highlighting someone who has been a core member of our community for many years, and who has continued to show up with unwavering support for the rest of the group. We love how she always encourages us to speak our truth.

Today, Johanna and I will be discussing:

  • How to find the stories that will best support your message
  • How to navigate fear and nerves that come up when speaking your stories
  • How to bring to life and make relevant even the driest of subject matter
  • What a good story is and what a good story isn’t (and why the stories you think are great stories might be derailing your message)

Meet Johanna Walker

Johanna is the fear-blasting, storytelling maven for coaches, consultants, leaders and change-makers (also known as a public speaking coach) . As a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, she’s presented for corporations, non-profits, start-ups, community organizations and the TEDx stage, helping audiences develop authentic presence as speakers, find the ideas they want to be known for, and craft those ideas into compelling presentations.

She’s the founder of Craft Your Talk and Speaker’s Playground, unconventional speaker training programs where leaders and entrepreneurs become confident and memorable speakers. She’s also the founder and host of Boulder’s Story Slam, where audience members come to the stage to tell true stories based on a theme for the night. She’s passionate about the power of stories, and believes we all have a story to tell that can change someone’s life.

Q: How did you get started in your business?

Johanna describes herself as a “starving artist” for many years before she started her business, when one of her theater students was invited to give a TedX talk and asked Johanna to help her. From there, she realized how powerful it was to give people the tools they needed to speak confidently, and realized she could make money doing it. So, she hung up her shingle and hired a business coach to help her start her coaching business. 

While she could innately help others speak confidently, she never thought that she herself could actually be that person on the stage claiming thought leadership and authority. But, this is a skill she’s developed over the years, and now fully understands how to build her own business through the power of speaking. There is something about showing up and speaking your message that acts as the fast path to transformation, not only for your audience, but also for yourself. 

Q: Who do you work with, and what’s the biggest challenge you help them overcome? 

Her specialty is mission-driven coaches and consultants who are generally established in their business and feel ready to use speaking to amplify their thought leadership and grow their audience. 

Before working together, Johanna says that her clients’ biggest struggle is finding the path from A to Z. While they have all the sticky notes and main points in their minds and passion in their hearts, they need to learn how to use all of that to create a talk and get it on stage. 

Q: Does your work apply to both online and in person speaking? 

Both! There are many different stages we have on which to speak – and there is no set definition of a stage. Johanna notes the importance of the online stage in the past few years, and how we can now more effectively and easily get in front of people online. She says, any time you are speaking your perspective and trying to get your point across, you’re on stage. From in-person speaking opportunities to networking events, social media, and more, you may be on more stages than you end up realizing. 

Q: How do you choose which of your own stories to share in your own business?

One of the most common places people get stuck is choosing which stories to tell, and why they’re telling them to their audience. Because of all the confusion talking about how to tell stories in your business, people often end up telling the wrong stories, sharing too many details, or not sharing enough of the story. 

Yes, there is the story you tell, but start by thinking of “story” in a broader way – a story is a journey. Think about your talk like a journey you’re taking your audience on – that’s the story. To craft an effective talk or journey for your audience, you have to understand what journey they are already personally on, and how you’re going to plug in to that journey – this makes it so your talk shows up in the right place and time that now they want to continue their journey with you. 

It’s also about building the stakes – figuring out what you want, and what’s keeping you from getting what you want. Think about when you’re watching a movie, on the edge of your seat waiting for the ending to see the hero's journey unfold – it’s that tension, interest, intrigue that keeps you watching. Set up that feeling and intrigue in the stories you tell, inside of stories on topics you know your audience will resonate with. The universal themes in your story are what your audience is going to connect with. 

Q: How do we know which stories will best support our message?

There’s always the first story that comes to mind. But Johanna doesn’t recommend stopping there. Stories beget stories, so when you start generating stories, more and more come alive. Initially get clear on the ideas you want to be known for, then find what connects your stories to those ideas, and understand how the story points directly back to your core ideas. 

Q: What do we do when we get nervous or scared to tell our story? 

First, try to let go of the story. Your head is what’s telling you the things that are making you scared, so – get out of your head and into your body. Let go of the anxiety your head is giving you, and ground yourself in physical sensations like your heart beating faster or feeling butterflies, and just recognize that this is your life force, living inside you. Be present with those sensations, and you will immediately be more present and connected in the room. 

The other thing to realize is that telling your story is not about you. It’s about the person in the audience who needs to hear what you have to say, who you have a responsibility to, who’s going to benefit from your story. This realization helps cut through the nervousness. 

Q: What if we feel like we don’t have any extraordinarily interesting stories to tell? 

Stories are how we figure out how to be human and make our way through the challenges. She brings the conversation back to what she mentioned earlier – build the stakes to make an interesting story. And sometimes, even the most benign stories are the most relatable, even down to the courage of waking up and starting your day. The little ways we are heroes in our lives are important and powerful stories that need to be told. Getting up and being human every day is heroic, and deserves to be told.  

Q: Can you share a story of something you’re currently experiencing? 

Johanna likes to think of stories in terms of the hero's journey – you coming to the stage is bringing home the treasure from that journey. The important factor is that you have perspective, and that the reason you’re telling the story is to share the treasure, share the gift, share the perspective you learned through the story. Remember, the story you’re telling isn’t about you. It’s about the audience – how it’s going to open a door for them, and how it’s going to connect them to their own story. You’re not asking your audience to take care of you, you’re sharing a story that can help your audience achieve transformation. 

Q: How do we know which stories are good to share and which are not, and how can we tell if a story is going to derail our message?

Your audience doesn’t care about you. Johanna sees so many people get hung up on feeling like they have to tell every detail of their story, but that’s not really what’s going to help the audience. What they want to know is how your story is going to help their story, and how your story is going to touch them. 

What’s the message you want to convey? From there, hone in on the pieces of the story that point to the main message.

Q: What does “daring” mean to you?

Daring, for Johanna, is being willing to get outside of your comfort zone. Go before you’re ready. Do the things you aren’t sure you can do. That is daring. As a business owner, especially coaches and consultants who are the face of their businesses, when people can see your humanity and expertise, they’re going to want to follow you. When you’re willing to be uncomfortable and share more of yourself, that’s what’s going to attract your audience closer to you. 

Q: What are you most excited about in your business right now?

Johanna is looking forward to stages opening back up and creating more programs to help her clients thrive both online, and in person! 

You can learn more about her work and programs on her website here.

Johanna has so kindly offered you a spot in her online speaker mixers, a space that can help you network, find speaking opportunities, and practice showing up in front of an audience – if that sounds interesting to you, learn more about it at this link. 

She also has created a free download for you on how to create stories that make a bigger impact. You can access that guide for free at this link. 


If you want to join Johanna and other amazing members in the Impact Tribe, we would love to have you! When you join the Impact Tribe, you get access to a library of biz-booming courses, next-level coaching, and an inspiring, uplifting community of women on a similar path as you. Learn more and join us today at this link. 

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