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#TFA25: 4 Ways to Tell Your Story and Fuel Your Cause

A panel at our 25th Anniversary Summit tackles the perennial question of how to communicate your story in way that builds consensus.
Friday, February 5, 2016

How do you tell your story in an ever-cluttered world of voices? How do you respond to skeptics in a way that encourages conversation, not conflict? “Everyday Advocates: Talking About Education Inequity, Our Kids, and TFA,” a panel at our 25th Anniversary Summit offers four tips to get you started.

Panelists included Elisa Villanueva Beard, Chief Executive Officer, Teach For America (Phoenix 98); Sekou Biddle, VP Advocacy United Negro College Fund (New York 93); Joe Herrera, Manager of Government Affairs, Families for Excellent Schools; Colin Seale, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, thinkLaw (DC 04).

Here are the guiding principles of effectively communicating your story and cause:

  1. Be listener-centric: Effective storytellers recognize that they’re not the center of the story. The listener is. Consider what information and motivation your audience brings to the conversation.
  2. Have a story-driven mindset: Personal stories drive action in a way that statistics never will. Data can be used to support inspiring, illuminating, stories—but data should not be the center of your story.
  3. Encourage diversity: You come to your passions and opinions from your own experience but also from the stories you’ve heard and witnessed. This circles back to listening close to others. Then try to incorporate the range of perspectives you’re privy to.
  4. Focus on truth and hope: While you should speak frankly about challenges and provide context about the problem, projecting a sense of hope and optimism will inspire your audience to believe things can change for the better.

Bonus tips for tough conversations. When you are tackling a difficult question or speaking with someone who may be critical of the story you’re telling, the following principles apply: lead with empathy, express curiosity, and build consensus. If you’re in this to convince the other party you’re right, you’re in a vicious cycle. The goal is for each party to walk away with a clearer sense of where the other is coming from. If you do that right, there’s always room for a second conversation. 

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