Crafting Stories to Change the World (3) – Who are you?

What’s Your Story?

Recently, I led a storytelling workshop for environmental scientists, administrators and activists from around the world. These magnificent leaders were meeting at the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Center to pool knowledge and learn how to change their local ecosystems and social systems.

During one exercise, I asked them to prepare a one minute “elevator speech” about four things:

  1. Who are you (what is your name)?
  2. Where are you from (what country/town/village)?
  3. What is your job (what do you do for a living)?
  4. Why are you here?

The group were meeting with a pack of environmental journalists that evening, and the idea was to give them the ability to quickly insert snippets of their “story” into the reporters’ heads.

Of course the first time you do something like this, one minute is rarely enough, but they persisted.

The most fascinating component was the sputtering and stuttering that many of them did around their jobs. I was overhearing answers like, “I try to get local fisherman to listen because the environment that they are living in is changing and if they don’t modify…”


During the commentary period, I made a suggestion. When someone asks, “What do you do?” or “What is your job?” simply tell them your job title.

One participant was the “Head of Coastal Disaster Mitigation Division for the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia.”

Another was “Supervising Aquaculturist at the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.”

A third was the “Deputy Director of Spatial Planning and Conservation for the Tanzania Coastal Management Partnership.”

Such amazing and descriptive titles! So fascinating to Americans and journalists in particular.

There is power in the words that you use to describe your job. Speak those proudly and assert that this is who you are. Your authority will be asserted and the questions will follow.