"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fans Forever: Five Ways Audiences Feel Loved

One moment is enough to transform an audience member to a storyteller’s fan.

Here are five ways to make that happen for you:

1. Arrive early and leave late

2. Build a large story repertoire

3. Share impromptu stories

4. Thank the audience

5. Show ways to keep in touch

Arrive early and leave late
Though I need time to set up my portable backdrop and do a sound check, having at least ten minutes before the performance is enough for me to mingle with the audience members.

A couple times I have gotten lost while going to a gig and I did not have the chance to chat. The shows still started on time while I attempted to focus to do my best, but I was frustrated that I had missed a chance to know the people before so as to make sure I was telling the right stories for the right time.

After the applause of the show, I stall in putting down my portable backdrop. Often this is the most memorable part of the whole experience. This is the time when shy children stand by their parents for a few minutes, inch towards you, stand in silence for a few more minutes, and finally open their mouths with questions or exclamations like, “I want to be a storyteller, too!” Perhaps you relished in the wide eyes and open mouths while you told. This is satisfying for the storyteller to be sure, but if you rush too quickly to leave, then how else will you know your influence?

Build a large story repertoire
A storyteller’s path starts with one story, though it is the building of more stories that creates a storyteller’s legacy.

When you are starting out as a teller, it is okay to have one, two, or three tales. Yet, there will eventually be the necessity to have so many stories that a 3-inch binder would not be enough room to hold them.

One English storyteller, Taffy Thomas, knows thousands of stories and could be ready at a moment’s notice to tell any one of them. I am not close to that level, though I strive to be so prepared. This would be my way to say to my audience, “I care enough to try to have the best story for you.”

Be comforted that you will always feel like you do not have enough stories in your repertoire. As long as repertoire grows, then you are fine. Taking time to read stories or at least keep a journal every day could be enough to progress in this area.

Share impromptu stories
With all the preparation in building repertoire, some storytellers overlook the power of an impromptu story.

Recently I told stories at IKEA, a Swedish home retailer company, and I asked some of my storytelling friends if they every performed at this company before. Tim Ereneta joked that since much of IKEA’s furniture is assembled together, that my performance could also include an “assembled story”.

For my first session at IKEA I did exactly that. I asked what three things the audience wanted in the story. One boy said, “A monster!” while a girl said, “A fairy!” A second girl shyly asked, “A mermaid?”. With the three things suggested, I was about to start when a boy called, “And a lion!” I smiled and teased that I said only three things but I would see what I could do. In the end, I had the monster as the main character who told his monster family that he wanted to be a fairy and so started the adventure.

On the feedback forms, many chose the last story as their favorite. When the audience is a bigger part of the story, they feel like their ideas matter and are excited to see what us as storytellers will do with those ideas.

Thank the audience
So you had a wonderful time with the audience. Now what? Thank them! One of my last lines to them is some sort of appreciation remark such as “You’ve been a wonderful audience” or “Thank you for being part of the storytelling experience.” It only takes a few seconds to say yet the moment is lasting for everyone.

Show ways to keep in touch
Hopefully this will not be the last time you ever see or hear from that audience again. Giving business cards, sharing email list sign-ups, and selling storytelling items makes it possible for this relationship with the audience to continue.

If you have an account with Facebook or have a site like MySpace, then you may even want to announce this to the audience.

Some storytellers are shy about promoting themselves and may look at pushing sign-up lists as self-centered. Then what must be awakened is the fact that this may have been the first storytelling experience that some or all of the audience members have ever had.

Without a business card, how can they ask you how to be storytellers themselves or perhaps to invite you somewhere else so others can have their first storytelling experiences? Without an email list of knowing upcoming shows or events, how can they pursue this newfound experience? Without storytelling items to buy, how can they share this memory with their family besides the brief moment you had with them?

As you consider audience members as your friends, they will also treat you as a friend. What’s more, you will be a fan of them.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799

Friday, February 01, 2008

Storyteller's Social Networking: Top Three Sites

The Internet has a way of rolling out the red carpet for professional storytellers to network and make the right connections with colleagues or potential sponsors for gigs.

The number of free social networking sites can be overwhelming, though there are three that support storytellers the best:

  1. Professional Storyteller through Ning

  2. LinkedIn

  3. Facebook

Professional Storyteller through Ning
This site was created on January 24, 2008 and already displays much potential in its activity and membership. Dianne de Las Casas, known as a marketing guru in the storytelling world, said that this network “is for professional storytellers, people who make their living in the field of professional storytelling—performance storytellers, workshop leaders, teaching artists, recording artists, and authors.” Of course, if your goal is to become one of these kinds of people, then your participation is welcome.

Once you sign up and create a password, you have a page for your profile. You can give a link to your website as well as write some paragraphs about your background much like online directories found through some storytelling guilds or art councils. Your picture can be uploaded so viewers can put a face to a name.

Under the forum option, you are able to get an almost “Dear Abby” advice column feel from fellow storytellers. If you want to find stories for a certain holiday and are unsure where to look, you can post your request on the forum. If you want to share marketing ideas that work for performing artists, then you can ask for guidance. Anything you want to ask relating to the art, you are invited to share.

Other benefits include downloading video or audio samples of your stories, sharing pictures in a slideshow format for your colleagues and potential sponsors to see, and keeping in touch with tellers around the world.

Beyond connecting with professional storytellers, this site allows you to reach 150 plus industries, as it promotes “your professional relationships are key to your professional success”.

This is a chance for you to “be found” by potential sponsors. Over 17 million professionals already use this site so can you imagine how many would love to meet a professional storyteller?

If you are a storyteller who wants to build your connections in the education field, then you could meet principals, teachers, professors and more through LinkedIn. Performing for company celebrations could be a more common venue for you.

When signing up, you will be encouraged to invite others to join the site as your “connections”. These should be people you know well and could recommend to others if asked about them. Being part of LinkedIn already has the impression that you will open your network to others so that others could help you.

Part of your profile page on LinkedIn includes a recommendation section in which you could praise peers or peers could compliment you for all Internet surfers to see. Testimonials sometimes are easier to ask from others when part of a social network.

As your connections/friends invite others to LinkedIn, then you are able to view whoever your friends know. If you would like to be introduced to someone your friend knows, then you can send an email request. Suddenly a stranger can become an acquaintance and, eventually, could transform into a friend. The likelihood of a storyteller being hired by an acquaintance or a friend is much higher than being hired by a stranger.

You will find more success with this social networking tool if you are willing to share your contacts before you ask to be introduced to others.

Started up by college students in a dorm room, this social network has rocketed in popularity to over 20 million people. Many schools and colleges use it as a way to have an online yearbook since pictures and videos could be posted. As a storyteller, you could use these same features to promote your art. As in the other networking sites of Professional Storyteller and LinkedIn, you invite others to be your friends.

I enjoy the “Events” part of Facebook where I can announce my storytelling concerts and workshops. I can send specific online invitations to these events to my friends on Facebook (with request of RSVPs) or even to the whole Facebook network.

Wherever you live, you can choose a network so that people nearby could see your storytelling events whether a “friend” or not. For example, I am part of the Ogden, Utah network. Any other person who chose the Ogden, Utah network could click on “Events” and see my listings.

If you ever wanted a type of fan club for your storytelling, this is the perfect venue to build one. After a performance for an 18-30-year-old group, you can announce that you have a Facebook account and that you would like to keep in touch if they sign up on your email list.

Several applications are available to download to make your Facebook page a fun place to visit from virtual aquariums to digital growing plants to activities that promote storytelling. My Facebook page has the application “StoryLine”, which allows me to write a couple sentences to kick off a story while another person continues the same story with a few more sentences. This group storytelling experience could go on forever. Meanwhile, you may develop some great story material for performances.

Finally, you can join other groups that spark your interest. I have chosen to join groups connected to storytelling like the following:

Storytellers in the Facebook Universe

The Society for Storytelling

World Storytelling Day

New Voices Storytelling

Storytelling for Children

Fan Club for the Art of Storytelling with Children Podcast

So whether you join one or more social networking sites, the advancement of your art is inevitable. By connecting to one person you connect to the world.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799