How comfortable are you telling your STEM story? During startup pitches, meeting presentations, conference gatherings? Even telling your Grandmother “what you do” when you are home from university for the holidays?
The STEM acronym describes individuals engaged in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics pursuits. Are you a STEM professional? Do you work with, or sell to, STEM professionals? Then, read on.
First, telling your STEM story becomes uncomfortable when the person you are speaking to does not understand the story you are telling them.
Perhaps you use discipline-specific acronyms as short cuts. Doesn’t everyone know what these acronyms represent? Well, the short answer is No. And the longer answer is that the same acronyms can represent different meanings, depending on one’s professional context.
Then, telling your STEM story makes you impatient, because you must go into further detail to explain what you are saying.
Clarifying the context of our stories to non-STEM colleagues (and our Grandmother) is frustrating. Because any time you have to use non-STEM terminology to communicate with other people means they are not smart enough to understand you. Don’t worry. Your non-STEM colleagues already get your message, loud and clear.
Also, telling your STEM story often is heavy on technical detail, but skimpy on emotional appeal.
When people do not understand the words you use to tell your story, they lose interest in your story. Why? Because they are not experientially invested in what you can do for them, as well as with them.
If targeting emotion and experience in storytelling does not seem relevant or valuable to you, as a STEM professional, consider having an AI interface tell your stories for you. See what I mean? That’s how your listeners feel about the appeal of the STEM stories you currently tell.
Somehow, stories just are not compelling stories when humans are left out of the STEM story equation.
Recently, I was part of a mentorship panel for technical startups. We rehearsed a number of startup pitches, and offered feedback. Each startup CEO was brilliant and innovative. However, when it came to storytelling their pitches, their STEM story became a deal-breaker.
Without fail, after seeing and hearing about 5 tons of technical details crammed into a 10 minute TED-style presentation, we asked two questions: “So What?” and “What do you want me to do with this information?”
Then, we waited to see how they reacted. And these STEM professionals did not disappoint us.
First, they became offended that we did not grasp the profundity of their startup concepts. Next, their physical appearance changed. Instead of smiling at us and leaning forward, they became defensive and leaned away. Why? Because we challenged their presentation style. Also, some startup CEOs rolled their eyes at us (oh yes they did!), clearly communicating their only story. Our feedback and request for clarification was an inconvenience to them.
Furthermore, asking them to tell their STEM story with greater experiential value made the startup CEOs incredibly uncomfortable. So, they decided to make their listeners, our panel, equally uncomfortable, through their behavior in response to our request. Sound familiar?
When professional behavior results in professional exclusivity, the value of what everyone brings to the table is not fully realized. Consider the investor and client experience, as well as the team and employee experience, of perpetuating this professional behavior.
The upshot of the pre-pitch review panel was that some startup CEOs completely recrafted the STEM story they told. Or, alternatively, not make their presentation to potential investors.
Compelling storytelling connects your STEM culture – and story – to the non-STEM culture of colleagues, employers, investors, clients. And, isn’t innovation about becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable? Why not drive innovation through more compelling STEM storytelling?
Time to recalibrate your STEM story? Then take the next steps.
- Planning your next team, corporate or association meeting? Engage me to present one of my Storytelling for STEM Professionals and Left Brain Thinkers speaking programs, workshops or moderated facilitation services. Contact me here.
- Download my new checklist and worksheet: Six Professional Development Targets to Hit each Month.
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Babette Ten Haken’s One Millimeter Mindset® Storytelling for STEM Professionals and Left Brain Thinkers Speaking Programs target purpose-driven professional success. Become more visible, relevant and valuable to your organization.
Find out more about Babette’s professional story here. Babette is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association. Her playbook of communication hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com. Babette’s speaker profile is on the espeakers platform. Contact Babette here.
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