My past beckoned.
To the beach I returned.
From wet, windy, and cold Galveston Island, I said, “Reporting live from Virginia Beach.”
A longtime client had called. Their upcoming oil spill drill needed our team of roleplayers and camera crews.
The money was right. I was available. The road summoned.
A year ago, I left what I’d practiced for 30 years: providing crisis communications expertise to companies in trouble. We trained clients in all 50 U.S. states and 18 foreign countries.
Sometimes they had a big, immediate problem. Others worried about one occurring. Smart companies called proactively. Stubborn bosses crossed their fingers. I bit my tongue.
Our clients included people mostly trying to do the right thing. They failed sometimes because humans are good at that. Companies mix up their priorities, forget who they work for, and leave the lasting damage for others to clean up.
At the beach, I learned nothing has changed. Storytelling in the business world remains the same: risk exists, problems occur. The only crisis is who’s in trouble today.
An opposite sort of storytelling shows up on stage during Houston’s recent “Moth” night.
Simple rules: share a true story from your life. No notes. No props.
Easy for an experienced crisis communicator. What’s a story but a tale seeded in crisis?
The night’s theme, “Love Hurts,” revives a Wyoming road trip — Trooper stops DH for speeding. I get the ticket.
Twenty-two storytellers sign up; ten names will be drawn.
Then I hear my name and remember the emcee’s earlier crow, “500-plus of you came out tonight! We’re SRO!”
I walk to the stage.
Remember lines. Remember gestures. Remember emphasis points. Remember eye contact.
I begin. Sea of stranger eyes looking up, a long, wide, deep rectangle of black chairs. Primal Texas twang replaces broadcast voice. Knees wiggle, legs twitch.
Hands move, on their own, in all the right places. Eyes find friendly faces. Applause erupts in unexpected places.
I finish. Every line remembered.
I can do this.
The emcee walks over, applauding; whispers, confirming: “YOU are a storyteller.”
Future and past merge onto a stage I never imagined.
Note to Reader: The words ‘shooter’ and ‘talent’ in the TV news business refer to 1) the camera person recording the story and 2) the reporter delivering it. Imprecise terms, one of which is less used nowadays. For obvious reasons.