Melissa Reaves is a Seattle-based Executive Storytelling Mentor and the Founder and CEO of Story Fruition. Reaves has decades of experience in the marketing and sales of start-up companies. She has helped countless C-Suite executives and business professionals learn to become storytellers in their presentations, Town Halls, media podcasts and signature talks.
You’ve just added the title of author to your list of accomplishments in life with your new book, The Storyteller’s Mind Movie. Did you learn anything new during the writing process of this book?
Writing this book was pure joy because I let it write itself at times. My clients are taught to open their “Creative Flow” by allowing a story to come out freely, not hindered by overthinking. And I did the same thing when writing the book. The outline of the book was really what we teach in our Mind Movie Workshops, and more. There are elements that just flowed out that I found entertaining, like the Life Chapters section that is packed with story prompts. The improviser in me really had fun playing on the keyboard.
Being a major contributor to so many various work industries, do you ever find it difficult to remain so motivated?
When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. I find such joy in the projects that come forth and now that Story Fruition is growing coaches, it feels even more invigorating to watch them revel in the stories of our clients and pull out the art to balance the data and science. But, if I have a day that feels “slower” –I give myself grace. I’ll go work out, or even take a cat nap to recharge my battery. That’s the fun of being an entrepreneur—you call your own shots.
You have a wealth of knowledge in the sales, marketing, acting and writing worlds. How did this knowledge shape you to want to create Story Fruition?
My combined skills are exactly what Story Fruition represents. I finally figured out how to utilize and monetize my acting skills—because I didn’t want to go down the traditional “cattle call “road that actors believe they are supposed to do. I tried LA and didn’t feel it was a fit for me. But, I always found ways to use my acting in my sales and tech jobs. My quick humor made meetings fun—and productive—and improv teaches fearlessness. It takes a LOT to shake me in a business meeting because the clients are just going to throw an objection, that I can likely handle. But can they create a Hip H’Opera based on a one-word suggestion from the audience on the fly? This is when acting in a scene, and then randomly a beat boxer starts up—and you must start rapping the rest of the scene with other actors– is invigorating (and a bit unnerving)! But, when you and the cast walk off the stage having entertained a couple hundred people, it is absolutely confidence building. I recommend every business professional study improv at some point in their careers.
Sales is a coachable skill. Marketing is a learned skill. Acting is also coachable. This is what Story Fruition brings to executives—because every presentation they deliver is sales and marketing and requires a little bit of acting to deliver it beautifully.
What are some challenges someone learning about storytelling might encounter and how might they overcome them to be successful storytellers themselves?
First, they need to believe that their stories matter. At the beginning, many clients doubt they are going to share anything interesting and feel wilted—which could not be further from the truth. Storytelling is innate, but most of us were not taught how to TELL a story in school, unless you were in the theater department. But, once they start to see how fun it is to create vivid Mind Movies using my method—they begin to blossom. And some might say, “I’m not an actor, there’s no way I can do that!” But I’ve seen transformation from some nervous and resistant executives. When they start to play in dialogue, for example, and hear for themselves how much more entertaining that makes their story—the light bulb goes on. It’s a delight to witness.
Do you have any hobbies outside of the work world that you enjoy in your spare time?
I love to exercise. I go on hilly walks in my neighborhood with 10 lb weights in both hands and basically get both my much-needed steps in and a ½ hour non-stop upper body workout at the same time! Exercise and weightlifting have been a part of my life since I was 16. I also love to cook and maneuver the kitchen well. My mother loved to cook and so do I. I also love to cook with my kids and friends. Food gathering is a rich human experience and I just love it.
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