#SeriouslySocial The Podcast
with Simone Douglas and special guest Dr Matt Yoxall
Our guest this episode is professional storyteller Dr. Matt Yoxall, from Naractiv. He and Simone chat about storytelling in life and business, dealing with the all too common fear of public speaking, and much more.
We apologize that our audio quality is a bit lower than usual, but I think you’ll agree the content of this fascinating discussion makes it worth your time.
Connect with Dr Matt here:
Dr Matt Yoxall | LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-matt-yoxall-0a14292a/
His corporate theatre-based communications training website for brand Actin, under the banner of Lister Stephens: www.lister-stephens.com
His new Canberra based company website, Naractiv: www.naractiv.com
His personal website: www.dryoxall.com
Hosted by Simone Douglas
Videography by Marie Carbone
Audio by Chris Irving
Music used in this episode is “Alte Herren” by KieLoKaz, used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence
This production is protected by a creative commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.
Chris Irving 0:00
Welcome to the seriously social podcast with your host, Simone Douglas. Our guest this episode is professional storyteller Dr. Matt yoxall. From neuroactive. He and Simone chat about storytelling in life and business, dealing with the all too common fear of public speaking, and much more. We apologize that our audio quality is a bit lower than usual. But I think you’ll agree the content of this fascinating discussion makes it worth your time.
Simone Douglas 0:28
So today, I’m seriously social the podcast, I’m joined by Dr. Matt. Yup. So from naractiv Thanks, Matt, for joining me.
Matt Yoxall 0:36
Lovely to Be here.
Simone Douglas 0:37
Yeah, no, it’s great to have you. So now just for the audience, more than anything else, we’re about sea based, because you’re not sitting on the chairs in my office today. So
Matt Yoxall 0:46
no, that’s why I’m not too far away. I’m in Canberra. Right now, obviously, I’m originally from the UK, you can hear that. But yeah, right now in Canberra in the ACT.
Simone Douglas 0:57
Yeah, Nice one. Some of my favorite bars are in Canberra haven’t been over there for a while, but you have some..
Matt Yoxall 1:02
send a list over then.
Simone Douglas 1:03
Yeah, we’ll do that.
So maybe just for the audience to give them a bit of a backstory, I can use the Cliff’s notes version as to how you got here today and what you’re all about.
Matt Yoxall 1:16
Well, I am a professional storyteller. That’s my job. And I trained in theater in the UK. And I left that about almost 20 years ago. And I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been able to sort of travel with my work. So I’ve been all around the world telling stories and working with people to tell their own. And on a visit to Australia, I met my husband who lives here in Canberra, which is why I’m here today. But I’m here with you because my very good old special friend actually went to the school prom with her. But that’s another story. Harry is based in Adelaide, and she’s a writer, too. So although we separated from our lives in in the village, when we were about 16, or 17, we’ve always stayed in touch. But we’ve both had these kind of careers in in writing, and storytelling and narrative. So this is a great way to sort of come to be me today.
Simone Douglas 2:14
Yeah, no, fantastic, Harry is one of my all time favorite human being. I’m very fond of her. So maybe let’s start with storytelling when it comes to life and business. So it’s, you know, it’s one of those instinctive, basic things that have been around for eons or since the dawn of mankind probably, you know, how do we acquire or develop this skill to tell a good story in a way that holds an audience’s attention?
Matt Yoxall 2:47
That’s very good question. You know, I think we’re actually hardwired to do it, it’s in us, it’s in us to play as well to roleplay which is also to sort of act how, depending on where you come from in the world, I think that, you know, often within the kind of Western context of professionalization, you kind of get knocked out of us. It’s either kind of perceived as childish, or, or not appropriate for the workplace, or we just kind of lost touch generally, I think with storytelling in the community sense. So part of what I’ve been doing is reintroducing that, I’ve been working, I worked for many, many years, with NGOs, actually an in development work. And after a PhD, where I wrote about that it’s a very good friend of mine, he’s an actor in the UK. And she said, you should be doing this in the corporate space, too. So I think in the last 10 years has been a really strong focus on storytelling and narrative in business, how you have an impact, how you have influence and how kind of things like pathos, how empathy is important in getting people to understand your position, but also to get them on side. So I’ve been working for a company in the UK, as well as having set up a boutique training company in Singapore called ActIn and we that’s what we do we bring storytelling and other theatre based skills to business.
Simone Douglas 4:14
Yeah, well, and there’s such critical skills that we don’t naturally get taught unless we go out and look for someone like yourself who can probably unpack all of the barriers we’ve put in the way of feeling being comfortable in our own skin and trusting that whatever we say doesn’t mean the sky is gonna fall in on our head. So what would you say to someone who is perhaps terrified of their own shadow which I used to be a long time ago before I found BNI and things like that. And the idea of standing in front of anyone and telling this story just makes me feel slightly violently ill?
Matt Yoxall 4:54
Well, I would say that, you know, fair, I also had those struggles shy, nervous anxious kids love stories, but showing up in front of other people really tough. And so theater just helped me do that. I think one of the sort of ways of thinking about it is that don’t be afraid to make a mistake. And the word that we use for that in theater is rehearsal, practice, play, try things out, do opposite a friend, get an audience, you want somebody you trust, and just say, hey, I want to just try this out, I want to share this experience, or I want people to understand this aspect about me, or I want to make this kind of pitch, can you just sit with me while I do it while I try it out. So those are so there are lots of simple things that we can do around how we use our body and our voice, I do a lot of coaching on communication, I would say that you can learn it, it’s natural. And for a lot of people, they Simone, sometimes they do come in very nervous, and a little scared. But if you have a safe space to work with someone on that, it’s amazing how quickly you can release your unleash your inner storyteller, but you just sometimes need a bit of help to do that. And I love doing that with people and I love hearing other people’s stories. So you know, it’s a nice job really
Simone Douglas 6:18
Well, it’s such an amazing gift to be able to give to someone to empower them to tell their stories. So I think, you know, not just women, but particularly in the current environments where we have a lot of, you know, quite strong female leaders that seem to be stepping to the forefront, who are clearly very unapologetically themselves. And I think great storytellers hold that kind of a space, where they really just look comfortable in their own skin, and comfortable saying what they think and how they think it, which is, you know, an amazing thing to be able to do.
Matt Yoxall 6:59
It’s not just because I’ve moved to this side of the world, that I have the image of just things that are done in my head. But she’s also she’s very good at being vulnerable to about being honest about what she knows, and what she doesn’t know. You know, and some of that, that communicates that translates in a way that’s honest. And people trust. So I mean, I do I think this the focus on women and women in leadership is so important, right now, certainly in how everybody argues that we kind of equalize the pay gap and things like that, for example, we know that women work as hard as any man does in the job, and often harder, sometimes to be heard, because of some of the more traditional or conventional systems of communication that sort of exist. But there are lots of examples of women who brilliantly just sort of cut through that. So working in, in, in corporate I, some of the programs that I’ve worked on, are for women’s leadership programs, I get to show up as the nasty boss, which is a lot of fun. But it’s also for me, it’s women, mostly women have been my biggest teachers, particularly in terms of theater and storytelling. My colleagues have mentored and, and coached me with the work I do now in corporate. My business partner in Singapore is, you know, brilliant actress, director and playwright, Stephanie Street. So yeah, I think we but we need to still hold space for different voices. And if you because if you don’t have diversity, what we know is you don’t get creativity.
Simone Douglas 8:38
Yeah, very true.
Matt Yoxall 8:39
Right. And so that diversity, inclusion work is becoming more and more important, I think for me, too.
Simone Douglas 8:46
Yeah, I think, yeah, I think too, it’s evolving. So a couple of weeks ago, maybe a month ago, I was presenting at a International Women’s Day event, and you know, we were having the conversation about I personally think that the narrative has to change. And we have to change the language that we use, particularly as parents around our children to be less about, you know, a good man or a good woman does this or a strong man or a strong woman does this to a good human being does this, that and the other because I have sons and so I always, you know, have the conversation with them or around you know, what’s the kindest thing you did today? Because cultivating kindness instead of cultivating What did you achieve, you know, whose head Did you step on, you know, those kinds of things. And it creates a very different space around people just being able to be people but how do you empower or change that dialogue in corporate I think because in corporate because we’re so gender diversity, cultural diversity inclusivity Often we get pigeonholed into all of these boxes instead of actually really being in
Matt Yoxall 10:04
Yeah. This is you’re really asking all the best, I think, and most useful questions around this. So my, my company is called Naractiv. And about narrate narrative is a very powerful element to everyday life, right? It’s what shapes the language we use. And like you said, narratives are gendered massively in different ways. And as we kind of start to think more about diversity and inclusion, there is a risk as well there that they become, there’s a certain kind of entrenched narrative that’s associated with those individual streams of identity, rather than looking at shared language, which is inclusive, like he said, or, you know, in borrowing from architecture. There’s this focus on universal design, right? How space is kind of adapted, and it’s inclusive for everybody. I worked on a program recently where I was developing a kind of an approach to supporting people on the autism spectrum, to get into employment. And so for their their sensory kind of world, I kind of started to learn how much like universal design is really, really important. So space and language, there is this kind of, and theater is all about that there’s this kind of relationship between space and language. But I think in terms of the storytelling, like when we learn to tell our stories together, so in corporate, if you’re, if you’re looking at how do we tell our story, we start to develop maybe a shared language. And probably if I was being a bit academic about it, I called it a collective competency. We talk a lot about skilling up all the time, right? you settle these building blocks, that really kind of masculine that there’s the builder, right? And that the action is all there is about increases and progress and improvement and individual competencies. But if we think in a more circular way, which is more inclusive, and we have a collective competency, then maybe we can work together to find a shared language where we just kind of know how to talk to one another based on who’s there in front of us, because probably we’re being more ourself. But we kind of have to do have to, I think you’re right, we have to strip away and we have to tug out some of the threads of the past that still conventionally they kind of hold. They can hold us back and they can certainly minorities, they can hold us back. But I don’t you know, I also don’t want to get bogged down in that either. knows, yeah, you know, where you’re here. I’m here. We’re already in this space together. doing our thing. Yeah. Except I was a woman as a gay man. I mean, it’s like, you know, where we found a way to, you know, brings, communications for work?
Simone Douglas 12:55
Well, definitely, you know, I was, we’ve got bizz week over here in Adelaide this week. So I was at a panel this morning. And we were talking about how, you know, when I work with businesses in a narrative marketing sense. It’s about what’s your six word story, which is actually something Harry taught me so Oh. So I’m like, what’s it you know, and for me, when I’m teaching them about is that your six word story has to sum up the emotional and the felt sense that you cultivate in your customers when they deal with you or the people when they engage with you. So I have a pub over here in Adelaide as well. And so our six word story is the outside world doesn’t matter here. And so all of this staff, everyone understands that they have one job, which is to make that all melt away. So you know, we have a really diverse, eclectic, kind of odd venue. We’re deaf friendly, because all of my front of house guys know conversational oslon. We’ve got a veteran friendly, because the guy’s been taught in PTSD triggers and assistance, dog etiquette, and things like that. But it’s all because it contributes to the story. So we started with story. And that’s the anchor now to everything that we do, because it can’t detract from it, it can add to it, but it can’t detract from it. And I think if you can find that shared language, like you were saying that everyone implicitly can feel first, almost then then business becomes really easy, because you can feel it, you’ve got an anchor, and you know what you’re doing.
Matt Yoxall 14:29
Yeah, I think that’s right, you, you start with a story. And that starts to shape the way the space is around you. And that’s like then how we act or the culture of where we are. And you know, my husband is in business, and he was talking about the market, and we kind of we joke, we fight a little bit about it, because I’m like, I don’t really go to market or sell my work or myself. I like to meet people. I like to decide, do you want to work with me? Because I would really like to work with you. And when we have that kind of sense of one another that there’s relationship? Yeah, then you can collaborate. So I think this is the kind of the way forward. And I think that it’s an it’s a slightly kind of thinking about like corporate social responsibility was a good starting point with some of that process. Moving on to diversity and inclusion is another step. But I’m also now getting to the point Simone, where I want to go into corporate and all spaces, but corporate particularly, and I want to talk about participation. Yeah, because that’s at the heart of collaboration. And that’s not just a sort of a political position or something that I picked up doing sort of NGO and development work in Southeast Asia for 20 years, because that’s what I did. And that’s why but bringing that to really sort of challenging environments for on women’s protection programs on gender based violence programs and children’s protection programs, too. And just, but I learned a lot there from from people I worked with about how to keep a sense of humor, but also how to sort of stay open to a new idea under difficult circumstances and duress. So I don’t think it’s, you know, I don’t think it’s impossible for like a corporate space to kind of change the way people relate to one another. You just got to, you’ve just got to have a bit of time together. Yeah, to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t have to be, you know, it doesn’t have to be a wrench.
Simone Douglas 16:22
Matt Yoxall 16:23
it doesn’t have to be therapy either. You know, I mean, because as I said, you know, about how making sure everyone’s okay all the time. And it’s like, well, we can there’s a risk that you’re so stop just being able to have difficult conversations with people or be honest and open. So yeah, I think this is, you know, it’s again, something I want with the company I want to be able to cultivate, but yeah, kind of obviously, I think our ideas about that line up quite nicely. Yeah,
Simone Douglas 16:52
they really do. Yeah, I think it’s a good spot to kind of wrap up on which is, you know, I’m of the opinion that there is a new was not new, but it’s an emerging way of doing business that is becoming far more popular, which is, you know, that human first, emotional connection, first relationship, first way of doing business, which cultivates that, you know, good outcome for everybody. Where there’s still space for people to have difficult days and bad days and hard conversations. But because the heat is the human first and the relationship first, you can navigate all of those things.
Matt Yoxall 17:35
Yeah,we understand that. That’s ordinary. Yeah, right. This doesn’t have to be a hard, hard work this journey. And I think you know, that waiting for going through that lens of story, it’s also fun. Yeah, and it’s fast, it doesn’t have to take a very, very long time. So we just, you know, we need to not be afraid of the idea of change, because normally it’s actually doing it doesn’t necessarily mean to be
Simone Douglas 18:02
Yeah. And I think to story, your right story speeds things up, because story enables everybody to understand on multiple levels, right? Straight away. So if they pick something up in an emotional context, they will, you know, subconsciously invest in that because their emotional body will lead them to that, then their brain will connect the dots for them, and they will take the story that they’ve been told, or share it with, and then they’ll take it to the next level, because that’s what human beings do.
Matt Yoxall 18:34
I absolutely spot on mangling that well, I like to borrow that. Okay, back to this recording. But I think that’s a it’s all in us. Yeah, just got to reconnect with it and trust. And we do that through connecting with one another. When we get when we establish relationship based on that common understanding that shared narrative. What is this? nothing we can’t do. We can go wherever we want with this.
Simone Douglas 18:57
Very true. I think that’s a lovely spot to end. Matt, thanks so much for joining me.
Matt Yoxall 19:02
it was lovely to see you, thanks Simone.
Simone Douglas 19:03
Yeah, you too. if you want to connect with Matt, you’ll find all of his social media links in the comments when we post this all over the interwebs. He’s definitely someone that’s worth having a virtual cup of coffee with to see if you would enjoy working with him. And I certainly enjoyed the chat so you have a great day.
Matt Yoxall 19:22
Yeah, I’ll see you soon. Thanks very much. Bye.
Chris Irving 19:28
We hope you enjoyed this episode of seriously social. Check our website for the latest news show notes. And for details of Simone’s latest book, confident networker. Explore the about tab at social media, a ok.com.au