Let's Connect

Sharing Your Story in Small Doses or Large

February 7th, 2017 Vern Oakley

Video’s power to forge a personal connection with viewers can’t be overstated. The medium offers huge potential to break down the barriers between you and your tribe, especially if you’re in the top rungs of a large organization. When you can’t sit down to lunch with everyone and learn their name, you need to show them your human side in some other way. Storytelling through video can help make the connection.

But how can you accomplish so much in so little time? Here are some ways to approach storytelling in your videos, whether you have mere seconds or the chance to tell a complete personal story.

Briefly mention your passion, or even your quirks. As a director I make a point of asking leaders about their passions so we can include a brief mention in their video. Just a few words can go a long way. For example, if you’re opening a new office in Maine you could say something as simple as, “I’ve always loved Maine because I used to visit my grandparents there when I was a young girl.” If you’re talking about competition in your industry, you could say something like, “It’s tough competing in this space, but I have to say I’m a very competitive guy. I won the chili cook-off in my town three years in a row.” It’s these small touch points that humanize us.

You can share something about yourself so quickly that you never even go off topic. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shows us how painless and relatable storytelling can be in a video interview with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt . In just a few seconds, Musk tells us that Star Wars had a big impact on him because it was the first movie he’d ever seen. As he shares that he named SpaceX’s Falcon rocket after the Millennium Falcon, we instantly see him as a daydreaming child. He’s someone to whom we can all relate.

Show how you live your company’s culture. In a video series with Makers.com, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki reveals that she always makes sure she’s home for dinner with her family. She explains, “I tell people I’m not available between 6 and 9. If you have something important, we can do it at 9. A lot of times people are happy because they get to go home and be with their families, too. It’s important to be able to have that balance in your life.” This brief detail about Wojcicki’s day uncovers a side of YouTube’s corporate culture that no credo could ever communicate.

Think about the culture you’re working to uphold in your organization. Chances are that it reflects the personal beliefs that drive your own work. What detail can you share about your life that mirrors these values?

Show how a vulnerable moment helped you grow. If you have time in your video, consider sharing an experience that shaped who you are today. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi did this when she shared the backstory of her first U.S. job interview on Makers.com. She recounts that when she’d just arrived from India to study at Yale, the only clothes she owned were saris and jeans. Neither would work for a job interview. So she took all the money she had—$50—and bought an interview outfit at her local Kmart. The one problem: she ran out of money for shoes. She paired her bright blue polyester pantsuit with orange snow boots and walked proudly into the interview. She could feel the other students laughing at her. No matter. She held her head up high and conducted the interview. And she got the job. Nooyi balances this story with a glimpse into her work ethic during her rise up the corporate ladder. “I’ve always focused on doing a damn good job, and just hoping the rest takes care of itself,” she said. By sharing this truth, she transforms herself from an untouchable CEO to a flawed, vulnerable (but still powerful) human.

Some videos offer very little room for storytelling, but don’t worry. A good director knows your viewers want to see beyond the C-suite façade. He or she will help you find an organic way to take off the mask. You’ll do well if you simply go into filming with an open heart and a willingness to share who you are.