Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

July 27, 2013 at 10:21am

South Sound Sidekick: How to tell a good story

Elizabeth Lord

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South Sound Sidekick series offers advice from experts living in the, well, South Sound. Today, Elizabeth Lord - a teacher of theater arts and storytelling who lives in Olympia - has advice on how to tell a story.

Elizabeth Lord writes,

Storytelling is something we all do.  It is how we communicate information to those around us.  As a professional storyteller, a professional talker if you will, I tell stories in front of large groups of people all the time and am paid to do so. But most storytelling is not a formal performance affair. It is something that happens at work, at dinner, at a party or any social occasion.  Here are some tips for good storytelling in any situation.

Good storytellers are first and foremost good listeners. They listen to their listeners. They have mastered the art of the "one-way dialogue." It is this skill that leaves audiences not only satisfied but also wanting one more tale.  Pay attention while you tell - are the listeners with you?

No one likes a person afflicted with diarrhea of the mouth:  a person who talks and talks without care or concern for the engagement and interest of those listening.  This is easily avoided.

Tips for good storytelling at any occasion:

1. Listen. Be silent and truly listen. Become aware of your surroundings and those in your company.

2. Wait for an invitation to speak.  An invitation could simply be a question asked, or dramatic lull in conversation (don't mistake a dramatic lull with someone simply taking a breath).  An invitation is equivalent to receiving permission to tell/to talk.  Once permission is given, the storyteller has entered into an agreement with the listener: "I am going to talk and you are going to listen."  Sometimes an invitation never arrives, so be it.  Enjoy listening to those around you, and wait until next time.

3. Have a story to tell. Recall an experience to relate that has a clear beginning, middle and end. Do not just ramble on.

3. Know how your story ends. The ending should be satisfying, and, ideally, surprising to your listeners.

4. Do not reveal the ending of your story until the end of your storytelling.  Too often tellers give away the "good stuff" early on in their telling. Instead, leave your listeners hanging, wanting to know what happened.

Example of bad storytelling:

"I got a job!  I heard there was an opening at company ABC, so I called my friends who work there to see if it was true. It was, so I submitted my application.  A grueling two months pass by and I think well that's it ... I'm not gonna work at ABC.  Then out of nowhere, the HR person at ABC calls me for an interview. I was worried because the person who interviewed me didn't smile the whole time.  She was cold, like ice.  Plus the fact that I had to go to the bathroom in the worst way, so I know I was jumping around in my seat looking like some kind of antsy uninterested fool.  But in the end I got the job."

Or:

Example of good storytelling:

So I've been looking for work.  I heard there was an opening at company ABC, so I called my friends who work there to see if it was true. It was, so I submitted my application. A grueling two months pass by and I think well that's it ... I'm not gonna work at ABC.  Then out of nowhere the HR person at ABC calls me for an interview. I was worried because the person who interviewed me didn't smile the whole time.  She was cold, like ice.  Plus the fact that I had to go to the bathroom in the worst way, so I know I was jumping around in my seat looking like some kind of antsy uninterested fool. Apparently my antsy behavior didn't matter a bit because ... I got the job!"

Please tell your story. Relate your experience. For that is how we learn from one another. But first, listen, get permission, and save the good stuff for the end.

Catch Elizabeth Lord in her upcoming Lord Franzannian's Royal Olympian Spectacular Vaudeville Show Sept. 20-29. To audition for the show, call 360.250.2721.

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