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.
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
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance