Let’s Apply Some CPR to Our Storytelling

This is always a good time of year in which to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going. It is also the perfect opportunity to plan ways to infuse our storytelling with extra “life.” So, let’s give it some CPR. C stands for Content; P stands for Performance; and R stands for Relationship. What do I mean? Read this column article to find out.

C stands for Content and it is time to look for ways to add life to our storytelling repertoire — our content. When was the last time you added some new stories to your storytelling repertoire? When we are busy telling stories on a regular basis, we can easily become comfortable with the stories we know well and those stories that are well received by our audiences. I am not suggesting that you change your entire program, but I am suggesting that to add life and enthusiasm to your storytelling, that you set a goal to add at least one new story every month. That doesn’t sound like too lofty a goal, but finding and/or creating a new story takes quite a bit of time and effort. First we must do a great deal of searching to find the right story for us — remember, never tell a story that you don’t love. Then we need to tweak and practice that story until it is “ours.” In addition, I always wonder how my audience will react to a story that I haven’t told to a group before. You have the advantage of your first-time enthusiasm for a new story, but the disadvantage of that many-time familiarity and smoothness of stories you have been telling for some time.

To add content pick a theme for your storytelling program. When we pick a theme, or are asked to tell stories that adhere to a special theme, we are forced to work on some new content. For example, I was just hired to do a program next March for a park system. Because they like to list the programs in an event brochure, they wanted me to pick a theme for my performance. Because that is just before April 1st, I chose “Trickster Tales … and More.” I already have a few trickster tales in my repertoire and am also aware of the abundance of many more. Plus we added the word “More” in case I want to stray a bit. I have time to start searching and even to write one of my own. What fun!

P stands for Performance and it is time to work on ways to add power, polish and pizzazz to our storytelling performance skills. What can you do to improve the way you tell your stories? We are often unaware of bad and good habits we may have acquired over the years. One way to discover these — and it can be a bit painful — is to ask a friend or family member to video tape your performance. With the devices available today, this can be done easily and inconspicuously. Then, in the quiet of your home, watch the tape. Don’t be brutal with your criticism, but do make note of what is working and what may be distracting and not working. I am not suggesting that you tell stories in a way that isn’t comfortable for you. For example, if you are a laid-back, down-to-earth type of person, you will do better as a straight-talking, easy-going teller. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Just take a look and ask yourself how you can be yourself better. What can you add to your performance skills to give you more Presence (another P)?

R stands for Relationship and is included here to remind us that the relationship with our audience is the most important factor in giving “life” to our storytelling. I know that this has been addressed many times already in my previous columns, but is such an important consideration that we need to keep it at the forefront. The relationship between us as tellers and our listeners is what makes storytelling special and unique. It is what makes each telling different from every other telling. Questions to ask yourself are: Do I focus first and foremost on the audience and how they are reacting and interacting with me and the story? or Am I more concerned about how I am doing and what they think of me? When we first start as storytellers, we do tend to have more concern about remembering the stories and how we are coming across. As we grow as professionals, however, we need to make sure that it is the relationship with us and the story that we want to be memorable. What can you do as a teller to build a strong relationship with your listeners? How about your relationship with other tellers? And how about your relationship with the people who hire you and whom you want to hire you? All are important and need additional “life.

So, remember, it is time to apply some CPR to your storytelling, so that 2002 will be the best year of telling you have ever had. And the best year of listening to stories for your audiences!

Full Name: Chris King
Email: chris@creativekeys.net Home Page: http://www.creativekeys.net/
Interests: Arts & Humanity, Business, Computer/Internet, Fitness, Health, Movies, Reading/Writing, Shopping, Small Business

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