One thing is certain: We look like fools when we don't ask.
There are the normal questions that storytellers ask of sponsors such as the expected composition of the audience, the theme, or the number of people likely to attend. Sometimes the conversation between artist and sponsor seems like a blur and time is not given to these questions found below.
If you are not an artist or a sponsor, then apply to your field of industry.
1. How did you learn about me?
This is usually the first question I ask when receiving telephone calls or emails with requests. I appreciate the person currently on the line, but I also appreciate whoever might have referred me. This way I can give a personal call and thank the person who recommended me. Sometimes my thanks is in the form of giving a reduced rate for the next time I am booked. Do you know what happens as a result? I receive even more referrals.
2. How would you rate your sound system?
We have all performed at schools, libraries, or other venues that have had sound systems at least two decades old. . .or perhaps from the Jurassic period. Sometimes the feedback from the system screeches, as you would expect from a pterodactyl or a T-Rex. Unless you want to incorporate these sounds into the storytelling session such as, "There was a scream from upstairs", then be prepared to find another solution. The storyteller may have a higher quality sound system and can be notified by the sponsor to bring it. Otherwise, the sponsor may want to rent a better sound system for the day.
3. Who will be my emcee? What kind of information would they like from me?
Notice it is not "Will I have an emcee?" because I find it strange to introduce myself. I may be a storyteller who people expect to talk, but having an emcee gives the feeling that I was wanted or welcomed at this event. The sponsors who say "Go ahead. Start on your own" are usually the same ones who do not attend the event. This makes it difficult for the sponsors to reflect on the overall quality of the performance. By having an emcee, I assume that this emcee will stay the entire time and be the liaison between the audience and the venue.
The emcee determines the energy level of the session. For the shy emcee, I am willing to give an introduction card that can be read. There are also the emcees that enjoy creating their own introductions. The emcee needs to be happy. If the emcee is excited, then it will spread to the audience and on through to the storyteller.
4. What kind of picture--posed or action--would you like for your advertising literature?
Whatever picture(s) you send, you will want it to be at least 300 dpi quality. Anything less than that and it would have been better not to have a picture at all. A scanned picture is now a thing of the past with the presence of digital cameras. It is also easier than ever before to send pictures by email or to have downloadable pictures on your website as part of the online press kit.
5. What is the word count for the biography on your advertising literature?
Nowadays "advertising literature" could vary from fliers and posters to emails to websites and on to the programs. I understand if there is not room--or the proper permissions--to have pages and pages of information on the storyteller. However, nothing says respect as to when my name and website are on all advertising literature.
I am satisfied if I have five words: Professional Storyteller Rachel Hedman (www.rachelhedman.com). Most sponsors can allow five words. Ideally the sponsor's website would link to my website so potential audience members can learn more information, if desired.
Some sponsors have told me to send them "a paragraph". Then I scratch my head and wonder. . .Ernest Hemingway paragraph or J.R.R. Tolkien paragraph? I have seen paragraphs that are single-spaced and cover a page or more. Then there is the two-sentence paragraph. Word count is the easiest way to define what is meant.
6. May I have a place to have a booth to provide information? Do I need to bring my own table?
It is awkward if the permission is granted to have a booth, but you arrive and there was nothing to place the items on. One time I went to an outdoor amphitheater with permission to have a booth. The only tables in sight were picnic tables chained and bolted to cement slabs in the ground. There were tables. . .only not close to where a booth should be. Luckily, I happened to have a box and a solid-green blanket to act as table and tablecloth. It was not my most radiant booth, but it sufficed.
Some must-haves for a booth: email sign-up list, business cards, fliers, and attractive set-up. To be more popular, add a bowl of candy.
7. Could I sell my items at your event? May I have a volunteer to handle sales for me?
A storyteller can be so thrilled to officially be booked to perform that their line of merchandise is forgotten. Most sponsors expect artists to have materials in the form of books, CDs, DVDs, or wear-able items like T-shirts and caps.
School performances during the day probably will not have opportunities to sell items. The same can be said of most libraries. Yet, evening school performances when parents are around are appropriate places. Museums often have gift shops, so why not bring your own "gift shop" to your newly formed fans after hearing your stories? Having someone handle the sales as part of the contract is wonderful and allows the storyteller to chat with audience members afterward without feeling rushed.
8. Who else do you know would benefit from my storytelling services?
This question relates to question number one. Most people are willing to give referrals. When no one asks, then nothing happens. I could take this moment to say, "Hello, blog reader! Who else do you know who would benefit and enjoy reading this blog? Feel free to invite them to follow it."
Now. . .was that so hard? I know you can do the same.
9. Did I say there are 8 tricks we play on ourselves?
Then I better not say anymore, though there are so many tricks we play on ourselves. What other "tricks" do you know? Please share.
Remember that this is Part 1. Part 2 is around the corner.
Until we tell again,
Former Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
Tel: (801) 870-5799
How-To Blog: http://storytellingadventures.blogspot.comPerformance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller