Success Story
Photos by Getty Images (US), Inc.

Be a Success Storyteller 

Many people are uncomfortable talking about their own accomplishments, but they shouldn’t be. It’s important to share your successes, and you can do it in a way that resonates with others.

By Allison Torres Burtka

No one wants to be that person who can’t stop talking about himself. But that doesn’t mean we should shy away from sharing our accomplishments and successes, says certified executive coach Carol Vernon, principal of Communication Matters. And there is a way to do it without sounding like you’re tooting your own horn.

“Lots of smart people believe they shouldn’t have to say how good they are. People should just get it; their results should speak for themselves,” Vernon says. “Many of these same folks can’t stand the idea of touting their accomplishments. It seems like bragging to them, completely self-serving and unnecessary.”

But they should be communicating their successes, she says. “Remember from PR 101: If you don’t tell people what you’ve done, others will simply create their own story about you?”

Her solution: You need to tell your own stories—and do so in ways that are meaningful and relevant to your listeners.

Bring up your stories when you’d normally resort to small talk, such as when you’re waiting for people to arrive at a meeting, getting coffee, or on the elevator.

To get started, think about the value you bring to your organization. What matters most to you and to others at your association? What accomplishments and projects are you excited about?

In telling these stories, use language that helps people connect with what you’re saying.

“For instance, it sounds very different when someone talks about how proud she is to be on a team that has accomplished XYZ versus simply saying she did XYZ,” Vernon explains. “Or how honored she is to be invited to serve on the CEO Task Force versus simply saying she’s on the CEO Task Force. People are attracted and connect to words that generate energy, excitement, and emotion.”

Vernon recommends bringing up these stories when you’d normally resort to small talk, such as when you’re waiting for people to arrive at a meeting, getting coffee, or on the elevator. This way, small talk becomes more “business-relevant talk,” an opportunity for you to share something you’re excited to be working on.

Stories should be short and simple, and they should have emotional appeal to avoid boring the listener, Vernon says. She recommends including details about overcoming challenges and celebrating accomplishments, which people care about.

If you keep it simple, you should be able to tell your success story in no more than four minutes. Sometimes this requires you to “keep peeling the story back until you’ve cut away all the jargon and gotten it down to its most basic form,” Vernon says. Then, once you’ve formed your story, practice telling it.

For more information on how to talk about your successes, Vernon recommends Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, By Peggy Klaus.

Allison Torres Burtka is a longtime association journalist and freelance writer in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Email: [email protected]

Career Development