We are custodians of hundreds of stories. It is in awakening, exploring and uncovering them, then learning to tell them that we embed our purpose and principles.

These Changing Stories have the capacity to forge connections, build relationships and our business, and create community that together contribute to the changes we most wish to see for others and our planet.

Changing stories from despair to hope and action

Changing stories

The changing stories this new year

Since the start of 2020, there’s been a literal pall on the refreshed energy one usually associates with New Year.

I’ve never been much one for New Year goal setting — many years in which the ebb and flow of business has taken over sometime by late January, leaving the shiny new goals to wither in its wake.

This year, it seemed a particularly trivial pursuit as the stories have been so bad — of unimaginable destruction Australia-wide from ferocious, unprecedented firestorms, dust and hail, of wanting leadership; as people everywhere in Australia face so much devastation, hardship and loss.

Still, it serves no one any good if we don’t continue to work toward flourishing.  It’s almost as if those of us currently spared the peril of the fires are honour-bound to put our backs to the wheel.

With a difference.  There is no business as usual in the face of this conflagration.

We need to change the stories.  We need good news stories.  Stories of ongoing crisis bring with them despair, fear and hopelessness, and foster powerlessness and inaction.

And despite the horror, sandwiched in between were the good news stories, of courage, community, and love.

Good news stories

A flotilla of trucks from southern Victoria bearing life-giving fodder for cattle in Gippsland where all their feed was burned.

A woman running into the embers to save a koala; firefighters from LA;  an initiative of a business community DENT, to which I’m fortunate to belong, raising the money and ferrying food to 60 starving firefighters in an embattled high country village.

Changing stories alone cannot change that narrative, but they’re a powerful antidote to negativity, and an inspiration toward positive energy.

And action is what we need. We need to believe we can make a difference.

A band of firefighters know they cannot tackle the whole fire front, but without taking action as they can, where would we be?

So what if we were each to consider how we reframe ‘why we do what we do and for whom?   It might be just a twist of the dial that’ll see us changing stories, and so our work reaches further toward doing good for others, animals, and the planet.

In my case, a shift in storytelling training from how to communicate better, to Changing Stories—how to change the narrative from despair to action. 

Christmas and seasons stories

Stories for the Season

Christmas and seasons stories


Christmas and festive season stories

Stories for the season embody the spirit of Christmas, the festive season and New Year for the individual and collectively. What are your stories?

As a child living in Africa, we were mostly exposed to Christmas images from a glittery, snowy winter.  Even though, as in Australia, it was hot it didn’t detract one bit for me from the magic of Christmas.

We had our own stories to enrich those that came from our distant northern hemisphere neighbours.

The tattered hand-typed Christmas carols books we sang from every year; the same box of musty smelling dress-ups, the often somewhat inebriated, older uncles would don to play charades on Christmas night; the silver threepenny pieces in the Christmas pudding.

This year, I watched my grand-daughter sing Jingle Bells, replacing Santa’s sleigh and reindeer with a rusty ute and kelpie.  She will doubtless take this version with her into her stories of the season.

This is story at work.  Conjuring up history, shoring up beliefs, adding colour to perception to cement our picture of who we and ours are.

Stories don’t always work to capture our truth. It is our choice to reckon with that.

But when they do, they are powerful allies, bench-marking who we are, where we sit, what we care about, what we do for others, what we can and wont do, why we do or don’t, and for whom.

What stories do these seasonal words conjure up for you?

Whatever they are, I hope they bring you peace and goodwill.  And may the New Year shine a light on you and be all things that are good for you, yours, and our planet.

Keep collecting your stories, Sandy

PS. What’s on for the New Year in storytelling?

Call to Clarity one hour session

In the four decades I’ve been guiding entrepreneurs, business owners, professionals and academics, I’ve lost count of the people who just want to resolve an issue. They want clarity. Urgently

Sometimes there is a much bigger problem lying behind the immediate need. What they don’t need is a big coaching program, or presentation training.

In one short hour, what can I do to resolve these or similar issues?

After 43 years in the business, working across multiple communication streams, from marketing communication to online community building and web building; storytelling, speaking, and presentation training; and clarity coaching, I can work through issues pretty fast to get to the clear and logical next steps.

If you would like to invest in an hour of clarity, you can book an available time here. 

Story at Work

In 2020, I will introduce my new format one day training program, Story at Work.  

Story at Work will help you to communicate more compellingly to encourage your people to listen, remember, and act.

Together with pre-work, Story at Work is an intimate and interactive group workshop that’ll help you become a compelling writer and storyteller to enrich your communication and presentation skills.

REGISTER: Story at Work
Thursday 5 March 2020

8.30am – 4.30 pm
Only 12 places available.


Straightening the straitened

Straightening the straitened

Straightening the straitened

Opportunities to straighten the straitened present themselves in the most unlikely places.

Reviewing the barricades to the grandchildren’s cubby house in our garden including a ‘paddock’ of stinging nettles, the scale of the problem felt overwhelming.

The nettles covered a magnitude of other garden sins —a topsy-turvy mixture of covered brick pathways, dumped soil, fallen tree branches and tangled vines.  As a gardener, I felt stricken for having so neglected it.  This was no easy solution for it, certainly not one we could prioritise.

For weeks, it sat like a dead weight in my mind.  Then one dawn, without any real deliberation, I donned my gloves, picked up a saw and cut off the fallen branch that would give clearer access to the mess.

Early every morning for months, I pulled out the nettles and weeds and raked the ground flat as I went.

Metre by metre, I straightened what had been straitened.  Repurposing timber and bricks, the subsequent landscaping—turf, veggie garden, and paving is, well shall we say, rustic rather than professional.

But it’s given back something of far more depth than the result.

It’s brought together a profound desire to do more work on straightening what is straitened in our business and personal lives, while contributing to doing the same for our compromised planet.

This is a far greater task than it sounds.

Do you think that Straightening the Straitened would be a good title for a book?

It would tell the stories of how people achieve the unachievable, beat the odds, take the harder decisions, develop grit, tenacity, and purpose; and as a result end up leading a fuller life, giving back more to others, while contributing toward solving the problems of our ailing planet.

If you have a story about what you’ve have worked hard on, with persistence, consistency and grit to put right in your lives, or for others, or the environment, would you consider sharing it with me?  Contact me here.
building business relationship

Business relationships

building business relationship

Building business relationships

You’ve entered a courtship with someone in business.  How you communicate in these early business relationships quickly informs its development or failure.

Bombard your would be partner with sales patter and it will falter as rapidly as  if you’ve made an inappropriate demand on a first date.

Business love

As in any relationship, we want to know first — how quickly will you understand and get my value?  Do you have what it takes to support me?  How can I trust you?  We need to seek these answers long before we’re asked to leap into business relationships with a price tag?

Even in business, we want a bit of seduction, to feel special in someone else’s world.  We’re seduced by confident expertise that doesn’t over-reach or grandstand.

Then when you serve so well you eliminate pain, you’ll be loved for it.  When we love, we respond enthusiastically to help, advice and new knowledge and we talk about it.

Serving, not selling, is key to building business relationships.

And of course, story

And, we never tire of a good story, especially one that puts us in the picture — when we can say:

‘That’s me!; that’s where I’m at; that’s what matters to me; so that’s why that happened; that’s what I need to do.’

Science shows how such stories release oxytocin in our brains, making us feel trust and a willingness to co-operate.

Are you telling the right stories to build your business relationships? Or are you just speaking your expertise? —my world; my process; my knowledge? There’s nothing quite like an endless list of features and benefits to dampen the ardour.

Try telling purpose-driven contextualised stories, and watch how quickly the romance blooms.

If you would like to craft a little romance into your business relationships by telling stories, give me a call, I’d love to help.  You can contact me here.
Personal storytelling

Becoming a personal storyteller

Why would you become a personal storyteller? What would be in it for you to do so?  Because personal stories can pack powerful messages and if you listen they can create your life’s purpose. Surprising events often unrelated, can open your eyes to why you should be doing what you do.  They don’t always slap […]

great stories evoke compassion

Great storytelling evokes compassion

great stories evoke compassionHow not to present

A while back I heard about a seminar for pregnant women on how an unborn foetus might be affected by a women’s mental wellness. I was keen to learn about this to help a pregnant friend going through a tough time.

The expectation in the room suggested a high level of interest in this emerging and valuable topic. We seem more aware, but not necessarily more knowledgeable, of how much can affect growing babies from conception to birth.

Two keynote speakers took the stage; one an eminent professor of paediatrics from a leading maternity hospital, the other credentialed too, but as we were to discover, driven more by passion than academic rigour.

Death by PowerPoint

The professor who spoke first, put up her PowerPoint display. It came up in tiny type, with her whole address, page, after page, after page.

For most of her presentation she stood with her back to the audience and read it. Delivered from that position, her speech was mostly incoherent for her audience.

We were a room of amateurs, not aspiring pediatricians, so we couldn’t understand the jargon, acronyms, and other slide-borne presentation mysteries.

She had misread her audience.  It was a missed opportunity, as she did not elicit any emotional response in her audience, either for the unborn or its mother.

Stories build trust and empathy

The second speaker took the stage. For 40 minutes he held us captivated. He enrolled us in story after story about pregnancy, unborns, mothers, depression, and anxiety, which evoked in his audience concern for the foetus and compassion for its mothers.

He demonstrated the science behind his stories, tying everything back to the central topic of the mother’s mental wellness during pregnancy. This was good communication and it was riveting.  

In today’s fast and information-overloaded spaces, purpose driven storytelling is a vital skill, we’d all benefit from, both as presenter and audience.

Here are some simple keys to turn a sleep-inducing, dull, and possibly, insulting presentation (you can read blog or proposal here) into one that leaves your audience leaning in, wanting to know more.

5 simple keys to powerful communication

Know your purpose, your audience and your intention. What is your purpose? How is your presentation delivering on it?  Who is in the room. Your words are much more likely to land if your message is addressed to their problems, issues, or interests. What do you want them to think act or do as a result of your presentation?

One topic, three key messages. You have a wealth of information and value to impart.  To often, presenters make the mistake of including everything, cramming it all in, at speed, or in minute type on a slide presentation. Your audiences will catch nothing, not even the one vital point you are so qualified to make.

Become a story teller. Stories that are emotionally charged and character-driven engage and reduce the gap between you and your audience, creating intimacy and trust. We are all designed to learn from them. The science proves that key messages will fall on receptive ears when carried by a tale.

Think about cadence.The rhythm of language and its delivery can move people to think entirely differently about what they’ve heard. It’s no surprise that Shakespeare continues to influence people with his poetic prose centuries after it was written.

Become a critic.You’ll enhance your communications if you learn to listen carefully to others. What moves you, what doesn’t? Why does one speaker engage you and another not? Why do you remember a lot about one presentation and recall little or nothing from another? When do people tell stories and how does it work for you?

Becoming a great storyteller so a better communicator, whose words matter to make a difference requires clarity of purpose and intention, self-awareness, empathy, and a desire to serve others rather than to grandstand, sell or promote. You’ll never regret the shift, or the work to do it.

How to tell stories professionally

Should I tell stories professionally?

How to tell stories professionally


Lizards are usually meek creatures. They use bluff and deception to persuade adversaries they’re bigger and fiercer than they really are to scare them off.  Our Lizard brain reacts just the same way, when it’s uncertain or nervous and especially when you want to tell stories professionally.

I can instantly spot the Lizard at work.  It’s there the moment someone says: ‘I couldn’t tell this as a story’, having just described something they’ve done that has changed someone else’s world.

The second they claim, ‘I really don’t have any stories to tell.’ And I point out they’ve been active in their field for decades and are sitting on a mountain of value.

The instant they wonder: ‘I’m not sure people would take me seriously if I were to share something personal.

And I ask: ‘Why is it okay for so called successful people to tell their stories and have their listeners lean in wanting to hear more, but it’s not okay for you?’

This is the work of the Lizard protecting your safety and putting up just as formidable a response as it would to a predator!

It’s the process of an exploration of purpose, principles and your value that persuades it you know what you’re talking about, and that it is not only safe, but productive to tell your stories.

To put your Lizard in its box and tell stories professionally contact me to find out the details of the next intimate Why Your Stories Matter workshop at sandy@sandymcdonald.com

Become a better communicator is a good new year's resolution

Become a better communicator – milk that resolution for all it’s worth

Become a better communicator is a good new year's resolution

Anyone else fascinated by this dichotomy? — although it maybe relative only to those whose long summer break falls over the holiday season.

It determines by a few short weeks that just before Christmas day we’re exhausted, fresh out of ideas, and in need of a rest.

While not long after New Year’s Day, recovered from the indulgencies of the festivities, we’re bounding with energy and stack full of glittery-bauble resolutions about all quarters of our lives.

By about now, most have been already withered at the same rate as the tinder-dry Christmas tree.  Which is no bad thing—we’ve enough on our plates as it is.

Become a better communicator

There is one resolution that merits milking for all it’s worth. Becoming a better communicator.

Poor communication is at the heart of all conflict, relationship breakdown and heartache. Good communication builds trust, sound relationships and persuades people to listen, recall and act.

Especially when it includes purposeful, contextualized story.

If you’re interested in becoming a better communicator and finding out how story can improve professional pitch and presentation communication please contact me at sandy@sandymcdonald.com to book a ‘Let’s Talk’ session.

Contextualized storytelling builds trust

Have you met someone previously unknown to you that you instinctively understand is in touch with themselves and their story?  Within a short time talking with them, have you felt as if you’re already friends? It is remarkable how quickly you can feel a sense of connection and trust. The connection comes from their depth […]