"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I'm on "Professional Storyteller" site--Now What???

Thanks to Jason Alba, author of “I’m on LinkedIn—Now What???” and co-author of “I’m on Facebook—Now What???”, for giving permission to adapt his marketing principles to the “Professional Storyteller” site. Picture was taken at Utah First Fridays event on March 7, 2008.

You learned about the social networking site “Professional Storyteller” and signed up, especially because it was free. Or someone—like me—urged you to check it out. If you simply treated the site like a directory listing, then I invite you to discover the profitable level of proactive marketing.

Before arriving on “Professional Storyteller”, perhaps you explored sites from MySpace to Facebook to LinkedIn. You connected with these places only to wonder why. You are not alone. Millions of people create a profile on these popular places and let them gather cyber dust. “Professional Storyteller” will never reach millions of people in members though will most likely reach in the hundreds or thousands instead. You have the choice and the opportunity to challenge the mainstream sign-up attitudes.

Jason Alba, author and CEO of JibberJobber.com, mentioned that none of these networking sites replace each other as they focus on different demographic groups that overlap to one’s advantage. For anywhere online you can be found such as a directories, social networking sites, websites, blogs, etc., then be sure to have a link to drive traffic to each one so you create an online circle.

He considered a social networking site (SNS) as “a place to find and be found”. As a storyteller, it is nice to “be found” and so the “Professional Storyteller” site may make that goal easier to accomplish.

Benefit more from “Professional Storyteller” and social networking sites:

1. Create a compelling summary/biography

2. Make and welcome “friends”

3. Read other bios of members of the site and/or go to their websites

4. Submit questions and/or answers at least once a week

5. Share audio and video samples and invite feedback from “friends”

6. Announce your storytelling events

7. Recommend other people

Create a compelling summary/biography
Some people may post two words to describe themselves while others write several paragraphs in the “About Me” section. Somewhere within your script, Alba urged that the writing be compelling, searchable and readable.

To judge the compelling factor, you could turn to friends and family and even strangers to see if they are inspired to read beyond the first word.

Regardless of how exciting you write the script, some people are scanners so that keywords grab their interest. Be aware of the terms and phrases that someone wanting to hire you would type into an Internet search. Every industry has its lingo so Alba encouraged using “whatever language someone would search for you”.

Being readable involves grammar, spelling and flow of the piece. Your biography reflects how you see yourself as a professional.

Part of the “About Me” section is the photo ID. Upload a picture that reflects your storytelling style rather than risking your reputation.

Make and welcome “friends”
There will always be the types of people who welcome anyone new to the site and then requests to be your friend. You do not have to wait for people to write comments on your page to network.

An online “friend” is either someone you know or someone you would like to know. As storyteller Tim Ereneta shared on the “Professional Storyteller” forum, this is not a person you need to help in the middle of the night or recognize face with name while at a storytelling event.

If you were to draw a line with the left side labeled “known and trusted friends only” and with the right side labeled “anyone who breathes”, Alba revealed that most people probably would mark around the middle of the line for their networking comfort level. He stated the site LinkedIn had special lingo for an extreme people connector with the acronym LION (Linked In Open Networker).

I value the thoughts and ideas of people from various backgrounds and so I tend to be more of a LION. Most of the people I know are storytellers, yet I love to meet people from other industries and see how we could build win-win relationships.

Rather than wait for people to find the site and then extend friendship, I delight in letting other people I already know about the place. All social networking sites have some sort of tab or button to click for automatic invites to be sent. Mass invites are possible by listing one email after another.

Alba warned that the lowest response comes from using the automatic invite option built into the site. The stronger way is to talk to the intended person by phone or at an event and say something like, “By the way, have your heard about this site. . .I will email a link to you.”

Sometimes I have asked people on the phone, “Are you by a computer? Do you have Internet access? Here is how you get there.” I guide the person through the sign-up process.

Read other bios of members of the site and/or go to their websites
I stall in requesting to be an online friend until I write at least one comment on their page. As I read their “About Me” section, I search for what we may have in common. The nice part about “Professional Storyteller” is that everyone already loves stories.

If I come upon a biography that is a couple words long or too general for me to make a specific response, then their website reveals more of the person’s character. Of course, someone may have a fascinating script so that I must check out the person’s site anyway.

If you did go to their website, then mention what you found interesting on it. Most likely that person will then be curious about you and drive more traffic to your website, blog or any other links under your “About Me” section.

Submit questions and/or answers at least once a week
You need to remind people that you exist.

Posting a response takes as little as two minutes, yet the time spent could be enough to build your reputation as an expert. Even questions could give people that impression.

Create a title or short description of your question/response that would intrigue people to click on it. Alba advised to “phrase the question or post so it doesn’t seem like spam”.

You do not have to write an article-long response. One sentence or a couple paragraphs would suffice. If you post through the blog option found on your page, then under the section “Professional Storyteller Blog” on the main page you will find the 20 most recent titles from members. Simultaneously, your post would be one of eight “Latest Activity” on the main page. As people respond to the blog or make a comment on your page, then your photo ID would show as one of eight on the main page. This could be enough to inspire new traffic to your page.

Share audio and video samples and invite feedback from “friends”
Storytelling is the kind of art that is best expressed in the live format. We may not be able to project hologram performances, yet the Internet still provides audio and visual tools to aid the teller.

The left side of your page has “Add Music” to upload stories. As for video, there is a tab on every page on “Professional Storyteller” so that you can add anything of that nature. If you already have things on YouTube, then you could add another place to show them.

Once your audio and video are on display, let others know and invite your online “friends” to give feedback.

Announce your storytelling events
People on the site will be from all over the world. At this point, most are from the United States.

If you give enough notice, people may fit your event in their schedule. If a person has difficulty attending due to distance or timing, then seeing your types of venues could lead to referrals or hiring opportunities.

Recommend other people
Upon hearing wonderful performances or workshops, feel free to let these people know and everyone else on “Professional Storyteller” by publicly saying so on their profile page/wall. Share more than, “You were wonderful”. Alba recommended sharing specifics.

Be sincere in your comments and you may receive recommendations and referrals from others. When you give first, then people are more likely to give to you.

So you can treat “Professional Storyteller” as a directory service or you could make it into something more.

For the “Professional Storyteller” site to truly be powerful, we need to spread the word. After Alba’s presentation, I mentioned that the site had 118 members. He thought that our membership needed to be at least ten times as big to grab attention from art forms and groups outside the traditional storytelling community.

I invite you to make this dream a reality.

For many more ideas, turn to the books by Jason Alba.

Until we tell again,

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

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Emcee Excellence: Intro Stars with A+ Results

Dedication goes to national storyteller Willy Claflin who inspired me on this topic and shared some comments. Many thanks to Devin, the teenager also known as “the Cat in the Hat”, and his parents for giving permission to post photo and reference his A+ emceeing.

A golden star given to every exceptional emcee may give the idea that the emcee has as much of an impact on a successful show as the storyteller.

The emcee is usually the first person the audience sees to grace the stage. The lights may have been darkened and the sound checks may have been done, but when that emcee reaches for the microphone, the audience is in anticipation.

Some venues recognize the emcee’s important role and hold auditions for emcees as is done for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Before the auditions are held, two storytellers teach a workshop purely on emceeing.

Other venues have high officials or community leaders as emcees, assuming that their time within the public offices would give them enough experience to make introductions. Often, these leaders resent such roles and can reflect that mind-set in the voice. Their presence at the event is always an honor so having them participate is a natural choice.

Another idea is to acknowledge them as honored attendees because unless the officials have heard the storytellers before or are truly excited about the experience, then it is usually better to ask someone else to be emcee. . .perhaps someone like Devin, a teenager also known as “the Cat in the Hat”.

To be an A+ emcee, each step starts with an “A”:
1. Arrive early and talk with the storyteller
2. Announce with enthusiasm
3. Ask people to turn off cell phones and other electronic devices
4. Avoid reading the introduction
5. Add a one-liner personal message, if applicable
6. Applaud at the end of the introduction
7. Attend to any situations that may distract from performance

Arrive early and talk with the storyteller
As a storyteller, I already arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour before a performance so I have at least ten minutes before the concert to mingle with the audience and to spend some time with the emcee.

If the emcee does not arrive until one or two minutes before the start of the show, then I, as the performer, am nervous as I have no idea what the emcee will say. It is possible that this is the first time the emcee ever heard of me let alone meeting a professional storyteller.

The emcee might have been given some sort of program with your information, but usually this is the same information that the audience has themselves. The emcee can ease the performer’s nerves by arriving at least ten minutes before the show so as to gather a couple facts not already revealed in the program.

Willy Claflin, national storyteller, encourages emcees to search each teller's website as most professional storytellers have one. If the emcee has never heard the teller perform, some sites actually have audio or video clips.

Though pronunciation of a teller's name can rarely be found on websites, the emcee could check with the teller on the day of the performance. Claflin admitted, "As someone whose name is mispronounced a good third of the time, I know this problem well." He loved how the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN provides a pronunciation guide to all emcees. "Would that all festivals did the same!" added Claflin.

Before people entered the storytelling room, Devin asked me what I would like said about me. He chose a calm time to ask these questions for as soon as we opened the doors to let the audience find their seats, the room was too bustling for us to concentrate.

Announce with enthusiasm
I have heard emcees who seemed to be falling asleep as they spoke. Unless the audience is about to hear bedtime stories—though even then this would not help—this only makes the audience wonder if they made the right decision choosing to come to this event versus something else.

Though it is likely that the emcee does not mean any disrespect, even if the emcee is tired, he must make every effort to seem filled with energy so the audience can also feel energized.

As many storytelling events happen in the evening, it is understandable that after a long hard day that we sometimes get zonked emcees. Perhaps the emcee could carry some candy for a quick sugar high or do some jumping jacks to increase the blood flow. Maybe the emcee has a chance between work and the show to get a 20-minute power nap. Regardless of the method, be awake.

Sometimes an emcee sounds sleepy only because he is a monotone. If the sponsor already knows someone is a monotone, then either someone else could be asked to emcee or perhaps there could be a partner emcee with at least one person being more varied in speech.

Devin had a certain “smile” sound to his voice and he made great eye contact so that the audience could also see the excitement in his eyes.

Ask people to turn off cell phones and other electronic devices
One of the greatest disruptions to a show is a cell phone going off.

Devin was quick to make the announcement and it was music to my ears as people took their cell phones and little sounds were made as the devices were turned off. Some people arrived late and missed Devin’s announcement so I did have a couple ringing moments within stories.

I heard an emcee say that any person with a ringing cell phone during the show means that person will give a $1000 donation to the event. For some reason, no phones rang.

Avoid reading the introduction
Someone who reads the introduction probably did not arrive early enough to review the facts and put it into their own words, which emphasizes the importance of an emcee arriving early.

Sometimes reading the information cannot be helped as the person may be nervous to be an emcee in the first place or the same person who is the emcee also has a thousand things to do before the event starts.

I actually give an introduction card with four sentences to the emcee. I want it short so we can jump into the stories faster, as this is the reason the audience came.

I have seen some storytellers give over a page of bio information to an emcee. I have watched as that emcee had a mini heart attack trying to pick out the information to share. Sometimes the emcee gets the wrong impression and reads the entire essay.

As for Devin, he had an interesting situation as my introduction card was shared during the opening exercises before people divided into the various activities. That meant that anyone who joined the storytelling room already knew certain things about me. I quickly jotted two new things for Devin to announce so the audience did not feel like they were going through a re-run.

A storyteller could make an emcee’s job easier if telling on the festival scene where a storyteller has several sessions with different stories and the possibilities of having same audience members. Each session could have the emcee share two different things about the teller. So if a teller had six sessions over the course of an event, then a total of twelve facts would be helpful so two facts could be given for each show.

Fans will follow certain storytellers and hearing new facts makes it refreshing to these people.

Add a one-liner personal message, if applicable
The “one-liner” part of this tip is most important; otherwise it is as if the emcee is taking over the show with his story.

It is taboo for an emcee to share a story as part of an introduction. An exception is if this is part of the format of the event. For example, I shared stories at a Liar’s Competition in California. The emcee introduced each of the eight tellers. Since the audience voted at the end of the night to which person they thought was the biggest liar, there was need to entertain while the tallies were counted. The emcee knew in advance to share a story during the tally time, as it would not have been appropriate for one of the finalists to share another story.

Devin kept his personal message short like a professional as he said, “This is Rachel’s second time performing here. I was at last year’s show so I know you will enjoy her stories today.”

Sometimes emcees share stories that do not relate to the teller at all. I have heard anecdotes told that ate so much time that the teller had to rethink what stories to share.

Applaud at the end of the introduction
The louder the emcee claps, then the more encouraged for the audience to clap loud. This excitement passes onto the storyteller, who can do an even better job knowing the audience is ready for the stories.

If this is the first time for an audience to experience storytelling, they may not realize that usually there is clapping after each story versus at the end of the program. Even if this is an experienced audience to storytelling, the people like to reflect the energy level of the emcee.

As Devin was dressed as “the Cat in the Hat”, he had cloth over his hands to soften his claps. That did not stop him. He made the announcement, “Now let us give a round of applause to our Literacy Night storyteller, Rachel Hedman!” Devin’s claps were loud enough for the audience to catch on.

Besides applauding at the end of the introduction, the emcee may also be one of the first to applaud after each story to remind the audience of the appropriate actions.

Attend to any situations that may distract from performance
The unexpected can happen at any moment and usually the storyteller must focus on the show so that it must be cared for by the emcee.

Claflin observed that for any youth tellers, the emcee may need to adjust the microphone stand to the proper height. At the National Youth Storytelling Showcase, the youth are taught microphone etiquette a day before the performance so that the emcee has one less thing to oversee.

Then there are the times when the audience is in a trance by the teller and suddenly the magic is interrupted by the cries of a baby. If the crying persists, then the emcee could approach the family and ask for the baby to be taken out of the room until calmed down. Otherwise, the storyteller may need to make that announcement from the stage.

The emcee may also need to monitor the hall or entrance.

Before my performance, the door was closed to signal the start of the show. Some people arrived late and kept the door open. Devin noticed and silently yet quickly closed the door. I could not walk off the stage and do such a feat so I was grateful to continue telling.

When the show comes to an end, then Claflin commented that it is nice when the emcee announces, "And if you'd like to take these tellers home with you, they all have wonderful CDs for sale out at the resource counter." Sometimes the audiences members do not realize this possibility unless something is said.

For me, I was lucky to have Devin as my emcee. I knew that everything would be fine. He knew the way to get high marks in my book as an outstanding emcee.

Feel free to share these emcee tips with others by linking to this page or printing them off with some line saying where you received them. Then perhaps we will have more emcees that could get A+ results.

Other People to contact about emceeing:
  • Gay Ducey, national storyteller, wrote "The 10 Commandments on Emceeing"
  • Susan Klein, national storyteller, wrote "And Now, Would You Please Welcome. . ."
  • Willy Claflin, national storyteller

Until we tell again,

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