What Makes The Ultimate Storytelling Success?

an extreme closeup of an eye looking upUltimately, who is responsible for the “success” of a storytelling experience? If you value the story-process, then three entities carry the weight of storytelling success and effectiveness. By the way, I am not sure I know exactly what success looks like in all cases. It seems to be a bit fleeting, no? You can decide what success means for you, but I find that the following three items remain true.

1. The Audience
Are the audience members prepared? Are they interested? Are they distracted? Are they ready or not for the story experience? How many of us have sat in a boardroom or classroom where the audience is simply unwilling to listen, to do their part, to be attentive. Sometimes you can’t get past the audience, no matter how hard you try.

2. The Teller
Is the teller prepared? Is the story crafted and ready for an audience or is it just “off the cuff?” That spontaneity is a cardinal sin in business storytelling, by the way, and disrespects the audience. Did the teller find several sources for the world tale they are about to tell or talk to more than one person about the personal tale they have chosen? Has the teller planned pacing, tone and inflection in a manner ready for each particular audience? You wouldn’t go on a long road trip without preparing the automobile. That would be foolish. In the same way, don’t go out and speak to an audience without proper preparation.

3. The Story
At the core, a story is neither good nor bad. It simply is. But, a poorly chosen story can really crush the effectiveness of a storytelling moment. Tellers can fall in love with a story and use that story in every situation, regardless of the appropriateness of the story for a given environment. Be open to all stories that come across your mind and research. Choose the right pieces for the right audience.

In coaching many clients, I strive to help each understand the dance, the movement, the synergy of audience, teller and story. All the parts need to be in place to make the experience work. Awareness is key to being a great storyteller.

Sean Buvala has been storytelling professionally since 1986. It’s his life and livelihood. Tweet him at http://twitter.com/storyteller .

9 Tips for Storytelling in Any Situation

sean buvala tells stories on an outdoor stageHaving a good sense of storytelling techniques is important for people involved in any form of communication. Unlike other ways to express a story, storytelling takes place in the moment, cocreated between the storyteller and listener. Each act of storytelling is a unique experience. Here are nine storytelling tips to use when you want to make the most of the story you have chosen.

1. Choose stories you like.
No matter if you are telling stories to children, illustrating a point in a business presentation or telling a sacred story in church or temple, use stories that you like. There are thousands upon thousands of stories in the world. Use the ones you like.

2. Practice your story.
Take the time to learn how to tell a story. Do not look at or hear a story just once and try to repeat it. Break the story into parts and remember the action piece by piece. Practice with a recording device and a gentle-yet-truthful friend who can hear your first attempts.

3. Take out the parts of the story that slow down the action.

Beginning storytellers will hear or read a story and then try to retell every nuance of the story. Storytelling occurs in the moment so not every detail has to be included each time. Ask yourself, “Do I need to tell this piece of the story this time? Is it critical to the story?”

4. Speak clearly.
If you have chosen a story you like, thought about the parts that fit and then practiced telling that story, you will be confident to deliver it to the audience. Smile if the story requires it and then speak with that confidence. Enunciate and project your voice towards the listeners.

5. Keep an appropriate pace.

Again, with confidence in your own story and preparation, you will not be in a hurry to spill out the words of your story. Speak slowly enough to be understood but not so slowly that the minds of the audience go wandering.

sean buvala adjusts a stand microphone while standing on on outdoor stage6. Use a microphone.
You need to use a microphone to be heard. This shows respect to your audience. For experienced speakers, you will want a microphone if your group is 25 or more people. For those new to public-speaking, use the mic with any group larger than a few gathered around a table.

7. Keep good eye contact.
Look at your audience, linger with one person and move on to the next. It always amazes me how one fleeting moment of eye contact can make an audience member come to me and say, “I felt like you were talking to me personally.”

8. Use natural gestures.
“You looked so confident up there. I never know what to do with my hands.” When people say this to me, I am thankful that I took the time to prepare which gestures I would use and when I would use them. Make gestures that come naturally to you, but plan and prepare them ahead of time.

9. Avoid the “moral of the story” finishes.
Stories are often powerful pieces of Truth and storytelling is one of the most effective ways to convey them. You dilute the power of the story when you are the first to tell an audience what your story means. If you must do the “moral” of a story, ask your audience first to tell you what they think. It will surprise you.

Storytelling techniques like these nine can help you communicate better when you have a story to tell. If you are just starting out, choose one or two of these storytelling tips that you will pay extra attention to in your next presentation.

Sean Buvala has 30+ years of expertise in the field or oral storytelling and narrative development. See his Twitter at http://twitter.com/storyteller

a list of the nine tips in a graphic storytelling tips by sean buvala

How To Tell A Story

How to Tell a Story?

One of the most searched-for communication skills on the Internet is “how to tell a story.” I would like to give you a quick step-by-step guide to this process of story telling, drawn from my 30+ years of being a professional storyteller. This is the fast and quick method to learn a new story.

1. Decide on a story. Sounds elementary, but at some point, you need to find a story that you love. If you are having problems, search the Internet for some simple Aesop fables or find some good stories at a site like Storyteller.net .

2. Break the story down into an outline of events so that you can remember the episodes of each story.

You have two choices for step three. Do one or both if you would like.

3A. Write out or draw out the parts of the story. Using longhand, that means pencil and paper, write out the episodes of the story in your own words. Do not copy the story. Rewrite it in your own words. Doing this process by hand allows your brain to overcome any resistance you might have to the story. Knowing you can do this process with your story is also a way for your brain to overcome some fear of public speaking that might hinder you from telling this story.

3B. The other way to break down a story is via “storyboarding,” a technique that many storytellers use. Take a letter-sized piece of paper. Fold it in half along the length. You now have an eleven inch piece of pager that looks like a taco. Then, fold the right side up against the left and then fold the same way again. When you unfold the paper you will have a piece of paper divided into 8 segments.

Starting at the top segment, draw out each step of the story. This is only for you to learn so stick figures and bad drawings are just fine. This visual method may help you grasp the story better than writing alone.

4. Begin to tell yourself the story, aloud, using your own words while looking at one of the #3 tools above. Repeat this process several times.

5. Think about the story you are telling. Are there parts of the story that do not really need to be there? Do they drag down the story? Cross them off the list or the storyboard and tell yourself the story one more time with those parts of the story removed. Again, at each of these times, you are speaking your story aloud. Let your face get a feel for the story.

6. Put your notes down and tell yourself the story a few more times. This is a great exercise to do while you are driving your car or cleaning your house. Just keep talking to yourself.

7. Call up a friend or find an associate and tell them your story. Use no notes or storyboard. When you finish telling the story to your associate, ask them if it makes sense to them. Did they think you left out any parts? This is not the time to see if they “get it” or understand the deep meanings. You just want to know if the essential delivery of the story makes sense.

8. As your confidence in the story grows, you will want to start thinking about the emotions represented by different words in the story. You may find that you wish to emphasize one part or character over another. These things come with time. If you feel better about saying “once upon a time” at the beginning or “the end” as one of your story endings, then do so. As you grow to understand storytelling even more, you will learn so many other ways to start or end a story.

9. When it is time for your story’s debut, be confident. Look at your audience. Speak clearly. Slow down and enjoy the story experience. As a professional storyteller, I can tell you that it takes a dozen or more tellings of a story to find the your true rhythm and delivery for each story.

There you have it, how to tell a great story! This is a quick, get-it-now guide to storytelling. There is so much more you can learn about how to tell a story. Remember- get started today telling stories. Like a painter who must paint often to get better at painting, you, too, must speak stories often and to many groups in order to improve.

Some resources:
For hundreds of articles and stories, please visit www.storyteller.net. To order the EWorkbook on storytelling that includes live coaching and audio files, please visit www.storytelling101.com

Based in Arizona, Sean Buvala is a full-time professional storyteller and storytelling consultant who works throughout North America teaching storytelling for business. Along with storytelling techniques for corporate communication, Sean is also sought after for teaching storytelling for teachers of middle school and high-school students. For more information about Sean’s work as a storytelling coach, please see his site at www.seantells.com