Curtain Up

The Kennedy Center in Washington DC periodically sponsors a reception for its patrons called Curtain Up. Seated in the Opera House, the audience first hears from members of the creative staff sitting on the edge of the stage -- how the programs are chosen for the season, and how the individuals came to perform at the KC. It's both their individual and their collective stories.

Then the dramatic happens, the curtain goes up revealing the bare stage -- no scenery, no backdrop -- and the patrons are invited up to explore backstage and witness this marvelous theatre from an entirely different perspective than the one in which they are entertained.

Standing on this stage and talking to the people who work there was fascinating. When the curtain went up, first reaction is: "it looks like a warehouse" even though your intellect says, "of course it's bare, it's designed for each performance and each performance is different”. Then you get to hear first hand from set designers, stage hands, and performers what goes on behind the scenes.

Shakespeare said that the world's a stage and that we all play a part. I'd offer that each of us plays many different parts in many different performances throughout life. We all have many, and varied stories to tell.

Practice writing and telling your story. A good story helps us to sell ourselves to others -- in a job interview, on a sales call, as a member of a team or as a leader. A story ties together those fragments of information on a bio or resume. Stories build credibility. They convey who you are and why you are unique.

How do you construct a good story? Develop a story board by dividing a blank piece of paper into three sections

· Where you've come from, your "once upon a time" or a “long time ago in a galaxy far, far away"

· Where you are now

· Where you are heading, your ending. In constructing your story, you should figure out where you want to be first.

As you develop your story, keep the following in mind:

· Make sure the audience wants to hear your story. If you're writing the story to tell on a job interview, what does the person interviewing you need to hear? Which of your strengths are you highlighting?

· Use context. Plot, setting, sounds, and the feel of the place, all of the things particular to the set, help to explain how you've gotten to where you are now.

· Tell how your character differs from others. The positive side of your story should be the major theme.

· Humor brightens your story and a touch of emotion adds some spice -- but don't over do it! Know your audience.

· Understand the essence of your story -- the most economical way of telling it. This is your trailer, your summary.

· Be able to shorten or lengthen your story to fit the situation.

· Finally, make sure your story is relevant, clear, distinct, consistent and focused.

When that curtain goes up for you, it's not an empty stage your audience will face. It's a set that you've designed, a production you've created, a unique performance about a unique you who is prepared and ready to share your story.


1. Michelle Overton wrote:
Great article! Reminds me of the "elevator speech". Wonderful tips to keep us in a "ready state" to sell our skills and accomplishments anywhere. Having performed at the Kennedy Center, I love the comparison to the creative process!

March 12, 2013 @ 7:34 PM

2. Estela DeOliveira McClean wrote:
Excellent!.... Continue with your good stories that enlighten more junior and inexperienced folks and assists more senior folks to be better coaches especially these days where having a competitive edge (being able to tell their story keeping in mind the audience) will hopefully enable job seekers to present themselves in a better way and hopefully cinch that job!

March 12, 2013 @ 9:02 PM

3. Debbie Siday wrote:
Loved the blog! It is always helpful to look at things from a different perspective. I think that there are valuable insights here for all of us, no matter what stage in our career. Aren't we always "selling ourselves" in a business environment? Knowing our story and being able to tell what we bring to the table at a moment's notice is a valuable tool to have. Thanks and keep the great blogs coming.

March 13, 2013 @ 8:36 AM

4. Adele wrote:
Good job making it aeppar easy.

June 18, 2013 @ 2:05 AM


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