Ultimately, 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 .