Monday, January 12, 2015

The Journeyman Storyteller: Ready for the Next Step?

Journeyman 1: The Oral Storytelling Realities

I've written a post that has a very specific audience: for those that are making some part of their livelihood as a working artist. Since it is more "insider" than other posts on this blog, I have published the entire article over at

Here is an excerpt from the long article. Please come take a look if it is of interest to you. Thanks. 

"There is a space in the arc of the careers of all performing artists where one transitions from wide-eyed beginner to being an effective, talented Master.  In between those two stages is the important step of Journeyman. . .

This article is very specific to the oral-storytelling journeyman. You have passed through those first apprentice-based stages, taken some of the good myths and standards of the art. Now you are stepping up into the day-to-day realities of making some of your income as an artist.

Here are a few of the myths (both implicitly and explicitly taught) that many next-level storytelling artists have found they have to work through:

1. Everyone is a storyteller!

2. Stories choose the storyteller.

3. Your storytelling should always make you feel good about yourself.

4. Do what you love and the money will follow.

5. If only X would happen, then I would be successful!

Finally. . .
As I write about these five very popular myths, I am more aware of one thing. . ."

I've also recorded this post as an audio file. Visit the page linked above to hear it. 

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Ringmaster Not Roustabout: Those Basic Basics in the Storytelling Tent.

 circus clown ringmaster speaks with youWhy, hello there, storytelling newbie. I didn't see you standing there. I've been so busy lately over on other shows that I haven't had near enough time to speak to you.

Nonetheless- do you have a moment? Oh, very good.

Welcome to the show. And what a show it is. Storytelling is the mother of all art forms. An idea forms from the substance around us. That form then becomes narrative. That narrative becomes story. People share those narratives together and the story becomes storytelling. That storytelling inspires artists of all types.

Since you have walked into the Oral-Storytelling tent with the rest of us, let me welcome you inside with a few tips.

1. Use a microphone. If we can't hear you, your story has no value to us. Sitting with friends and entertaining them with your story is one thing but if you are going to stand up and speak to all of us: we need to hear you, no matter how confident or pumped you think you are.

2. Stay focused on the story. Some people will tell you that a storyteller is supposed to just be a vessel for the story, but that's pretty much metaphorical talk that is far away from where you are now in the art form. But here's a problem: that cool thing you do with the broad acrobatics and grunting (or guitaring or balancing plates on your head…whatever) isn't helping with the story. If at the end of an experience of oral storytelling we're talking more about your antics than the story you told, then something went wrong with your storytelling.

Let me clarify that I am not in the be-still-all-times storytelling camp. Your intentional movements that keep the story clear are just fine. Keep first in your mind your story and the connection it creates to and with your audience. Be ringmaster not roustabout.

3. Learn your story in parts. I see new storytellers try to recite stories they have memorized. They get lost and confused. So, do storytelling instead. See the story. Break it into parts. Tell us the parts you see rather than the words you have stored. Cool phrases and "crafting" (you are going to hear that word a lot) of the story will come later as you internalize the story. For now, go unplugged-style and just tell us the story you are seeing.

4. Get coached. If you are going to be serious in any art form, you need to take some classes and get some input. Tell me, how many sports stars are self-taught? None of course. You can be sure that every other artist in this tent (regardless of their skill level) has voices they seek out for guidance.  If you are telling jokes in the bar (not storytelling anyway), then you can go it alone. If you want to communicate, you need training and coaching.

So, I am glad you are here. We need new voices and new understandings of our very specific art form. Come grow with us who have been at this for a while. I love it when I get to say, "I learned something from this new voice today." That is so cool.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Getting the New Year in Focus

Heads up: this post is a bit more personal than what I normally post here. I'm writing more about the "artist" than the "art."

You might be tired of the New Year's posts, but I just wanted to share a thought that was new to me. It's not an idea that I thought up as I first heard it in a workshop from Trish Gillam at Gangplank Avondale. I've seen a mention or two since then in other places.

I'm not a fan of resolutions, even if I have written about them in the past. I find that people either "do" or "do not do" projects and ideas in their lives. However, I do like the idea of having a "theme word" for a year. As professional performing artists, I know it's easy for all artists to see grand possibilities about the future but forget that such possibilities need a firm foundation.

Now, my  2014 "theme word" is "organized." I let too much of 2013 get past me, for many legitimate reasons. At other times, I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by ideas and goals and then, in that mess of possibilities, I ended up not making anything happen.

This is not to say that 2013 did not have some good projects and surprises. 2013 did indeed have some unexpected-yet-good events. However, in being honest, I found that I lost momentum by not keeping a better reign on the structures of my work and art. In that, this was a rare year for me.

So, in this year as an artist, coach and family man, I will ask myself a question about the projects I choose and the activities I do: "Will this help me be organized?" An organized (not compulsive) working artist can achieve many goals and get projects done. This is not solely about being "neat" or "housekeeping;" rather it's about being together in mind and purpose.

My word for 2014 is "organized." No lofty resolutions in that one word but rather a need to see the top of my desk again, the transcendent side of my work as an artist expanding, books and projects completed, my calendar better filled with bookings, and my family still moving forward. There is no order to that list as I see it as an overall way of being rather than a list of  resolutions.

I hope this makes sense for you as a fellow artist or entrepreneur. If you chose a word that would describe your goals for 2014 what would your word be?

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Story for Solstice: Calling Out a Rising Sun

Altered-Art Solstice by Michelle Buvala
Well, Winter is here in my part of the world. Happy Solstice to You. Here's a story I wrote some time back. It first appeared on my "Calling Out a Rising Sun: Stories for Teenage Guys" CD back in 2006. It was originally written for a multi-mode arts project on "addiction and recovery."

While that project never came to be, some of the stories remained. You can listen to "Calling Out a Rising Sun" now in .mp3 audio when you click on this link here.

Happy Winter to you all. And, Hot Happy Summer to my friends on the other 1/2 of the globe. Peace be upon you.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The "Talking Turkeys" Story.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA friends and family.

For those who don't know, Thanksgiving is a traditional US holiday that focuses on gratitude, family and food. It is much like harvest festivals in other countries. Turkey has been the usual centerpiece dish. is your Turkey Story of the Day, told by me to you.

Click here now to hear "The Talking Turkeys" in an .mp3 audio.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Storytelling Practitioner: How to Use Stories in a Short Presentation

On Friday I had a follow-up coaching session with a student from one of our Executive Speaking Training Workshops (EST). In these follow-up sessions, I often work with workshop students directly in creating their presentations. The private session is part of the package of the EST registration.

As part of my recent binge of hard-core storytelling-practitioner blog posts, I thought I might share a white-board illustration with you that I created while my client and I were working. She found it useful. I did not intend to use this drawing as a blog post, so you are getting a raw piece of my mind here. Be gentle with any comments about my scribbling drawing skills.

how to tell a story in a presentation illustration
The scribbles in the middle read "facts."

My student, who works in inventory control in a large international business, was trying to create a 10-15 minute presentation. I showed her a model that I sometimes use in my own public speaking. It uses either two or three stories to "bookend" or support factual content.

As you can see from the drawing, I suggest that stories serve two purposes in a short presentation. They are first high-points that bring the energy of a presentation back up. They also serve as frames (or hooks or nets- however you want to read it) for the presentation of facts during her discussion. There is a typical ebb/flow level of energy in presentations as you can see in this white-board picture.

There can be either 2 or 3 short stories in this presentation model. The first "bookend" flow (as drawn on the board) uses two stories and is seen as:

 Story A - Fact Set 1 - Story B- Fact Set 2 - Story A.

This second appearance of Story A is either the some type of additional illustration from Story A or a reminder from a lesson suggested in Story A. So, in a perfect white-board illustration I might have written A1 and A2.

Another way to do this presentation is to have a Story C at the end of the presentation that ties together the other stories and facts. I have noted that in the picture with some after-the-fact text added to the drawing.

Story A - Fact Set 1 - Story B- Fact Set 2- Story C

Of course, you will add your own introductory and closing comments, but for our meeting we didn't need to write these on the board.

Other thoughts: I assume that you already understand that the stories would be connected to the content presented in the facts, perhaps to illustrate the reward or consequences of paying attention to the facts in the two sets. Also, the stories could be a mix of "real life" stories and a world-tale. It is possible that one story, especially the Story B, might be more of an anecdote and not a full story. It depends on your skill and your situation.

This is a good model for a short 10-15 minutes speech. You would adjust the process based on the time you have to speak. I have written about some other presentation models in the past as well.

I hope this is helpful.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Written right out of our offices at Gangplank Avondale.

Monday, September 16, 2013

How Does Pacing Work in Oral Storytelling?

I am spending some more time in the hard-core storytelling practitioner mode. My next thought: There are two ways to describe the pacing of your story.

First, pacing refers to how fast your story unfolds. Do you spend more time on some parts of the story and less time on other parts?  You may want to spend more time on one episode, piece or interaction in your story than another. Your audience will help you determine this. Although you may be telling the same story, the differences in your audience will help you to know when to focus more on part A or part B.

For example, when I tell my version of the "Fisherman and His Wife" to children, I will spend more time on the "funny" parts of the tale such as the fisherman and the fish speak to each other as well as the characteristics of how the wife reacts to each new change. When I tell the story to adult audiences, I will spend more time with the relationship between the fisherman and his wife. Since my stories are in episodes rather than a script, it is easy for me to change the pace at which each segment is revealed.

There is a second way to describe pacing in storytelling.  How fast you speak while telling the story? Mastering intentional pacing can help you create nuances in your story.

When you speak with a slower pace, you might be conveying the ideas of fear, anger, disbelief, astonishment, or awe.

When you speak very quickly you may also be sharing the emotions of fear, anger, excitement, energy, joy, surprise.

You will notice that I listed the words fear and anger for both slow and quick pacing.  Think about the following questions. What (or WHO) makes the difference in how those emotions are conveyed? Does it make a difference in who is being addressed? Does it make a difference in where the action is taking place?

Overall, most new tellers don't think about the ideas of pacing. They simply tell their story, with their pacing based on whether they are having trouble remembering the episodes (slow pacing) or just trying to get all the words out of their brain (fast pacing).

 Rather than just let your words fall randomly from your mouth, make intentional choices about how fast your characters speak

Sean Buvala is a storytelling coach and practitioner. He's the creator of the Storytelling 101 Elearning kit.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Storytelling: The Original Social Media (Tshirt Edition)

Isn't this the truth? The first true way to gather community was (and is) storytelling. Social interactions, education, training, passing on values and more come from the "social media" of stories and storytelling. We are just having some fun with a few Tshirt designs. Here's the first in the series. You can pick up this version until September 9, 2013. After that, you can sign up for the update list when new shirts in the series get released.
Store link is:

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Introducing Characters in Storytelling

Continuing my blog posts where I become your  hard-core oral-storytelling practitioner, let’s talk about introducing characters in storytelling. I am writing about how to bring a character (person, animal, being) into your oral storytelling.

To consistently illustrate the techniques, I’m using the image of Jack, of “And the Beanstalk” fame, for this article. This process applies for any and every setting where you are telling stories, from business to bassinet. 

1. Go with the literal “story” introduction.
Introducing Characters: Meet Jack
 Go old-school on your audience with the time-worn phrase. You know this one already.

“Once Upon a Time, there was a boy named Jack who lived with his mother in a very small house.”

Here you get right to the point, no need for the audience to catch up with you. Your audience does not need to guess what you are talking about as you lay out the scene. However, the “Once Upon a Time” lead-in will most likely cause your audience of business or teenage folks to mentally leave the room.

2. Use a situational introduction.

Start your story from anywhere but an expected beginning and put Jack in a situation that is from the depths of your story:

“From the middle of the tree-thick, reaching-to-the-heavens beanstalk, young Jack looked down upon his boyhood home that he still shared with his mother.”

Here the audience needs to work a bit harder as you give them something to process.

3. Share your character’s internal monologue.

We all have some type of self-talk. Share Jack’s in a manner like this:

“’What happens if I fall off this crazy plant? It was only a pile of beans yesterday. Mama is right: maybe I do need to think before I act.’ said the teenage Jack to himself, as he climbed the giant beanstalk growing outside the kitchen window of the cottage where he lived with his poor mother.”

Here you let us into the thinking patterns of your character, in most cases sharing with us their struggles. This type of intro is better for older audiences that have good abstract thinking skills.

4. Let another character talk to or about the character.

Let one character speak to another character about what they see, hear and feel.

“’Jack, in your whole 12 years of your life, you have never done something this foolish. When you come down, I am locking you in your room for the rest of your life!’ screamed Jack’s mother as she stood outside of their small cottage. She was concerned, after all, as it was not every day that a boy could climb a beanstalk that reached to the sky.”

5. Compare the character to the audience.

Think about how the audience can relate to some aspect of the character and use that to connect the story to their experiences. For an audience of kids,

“Twelve-year-old Jack, in my story, may be just like you. He wanted to experience fantastic things. When he looked out the window of the cottage he shared with his mother, he saw the bottom of a giant beanstalk, thick as a tree and reaching to the sky. It was time for this poor boy to have an amazing adventure.”

Business Example.

Okay, you have twisted my arm. Here is one business introduction tied to the examples above. Remember, this is a hypothetical situation and I am writing words intended to be spoken aloud, not read.

“My client, Jerry Johnson, was leaning over the intensive-care hospital bed of his 25-year-old wife thinking that this type of illness only happened to ‘old people.’ It was really hard to clear his head of the ambulance siren from two hours ago and the beeping medical devices now.”

Please note: Do Not get caught up in the formulas presented here, especially for business or corporate storytelling. They are guides. There for everyone. Overall, your stories for business don't need to follow some "mythic journey." I will be writing more about that soon.

So, have we been introduced?

This is the official blog of storyteller K. Sean Buvala. Learn more about his two-day workshop at Photo: Public Domain

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Storytelling Practitioner: Eye-Contact Basics Review

I remember seeing the "Helllo, Dolly!" musical in Phoenix presented by a Broadway touring company. Carol Channing, who was so closely associated with the role of Dolly, was the lead of that tour. During the applause at the end of one song, she looked up to my balcony seat and smiled at me. It seemed that she held that glance for several seconds and then moved on. It was such a striking moment for me that even twenty-five years later I can remember this look from Ms. Channing.

Learn to Use Eye Contact in Storytelling.
I know that, because of the lighting in the theater, she could not actually see me, but she knew someone was up there in the front row of the balcony, so she created a moment of eye contact wherein the person in that seat would feel like she was engaging them directly. It worked.

Storytelling is an art form and communication technique that requires the presence of an audience. If you cannot look your audience in the eye while you are speaking, you are not storytelling. You might be doing any of a dozen other good-and-wonderful art forms or communication methods but it isn’t storytelling. Storytelling requires a present audience.

Since your audience is right there with you, you will need to look at them. Here are six things you need to know about eye contact.

1. Remove your sunglasses from your face, hat from your head and hair from your eyes. Unless you have a medical reason for wearing any of those vision-blocking items, be sure your audience can see your face.

2. Meet and greet the group as people arrive for your presentation. However, in modern times and especially as a storyteller, be available to the audience as they arrive. Simple questions such as "How are you?" and "How did you find out about this event?" are good ways to break the ice with folks. Shaking some hands, introducing yourself and asking a simple question is a good way to establish rapport that you will want while you tell stories.

3. As you tell stories, look at your audience. Do not look over the heads of the audience or look at the back of the wall. Look into the eyes of your listeners. Linger a moment at each pair of eyes and then move on. You might want to seek out some of the folks from step two that you established a good rapport with. If an audience member reacts positively to your look, you might want to come back to them. If an audience member looks away or otherwise reacts uncomfortably, just move on. There are many reasons that people will and will not look at you. Do not make it your crusade to force people to look at you.

4. Sometimes holding the gaze of an audience member as you deliver an especially important line in your story can be very effective. As well, a long and non-threatening gaze can help settle an especially rambunctious child or teen.

5. When looking at your audience, try to avoid moving your head and eyes in any particular pattern.

6. If you are a parent telling stories to your children, know that looking them in the eye is a precious gift. This eye contact is probably the most important storytelling technique you will learn in these lessons.

Although my experience in the theater so many years ago was in a large crowd, I can think of other times when a speaker in our small group used the same eye-contact power. To improve your storytelling, looking at your audience members is a powerful tool to creating memorable presentations.

Sean Buvala takes a no-nonsense approach to teaching storytelling and has done so since 1986. He's a big believer in less-theory and more action when it comes to business storytelling. Get his "Learn Storytelling" ebook and coaching kit to learn more. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Look Inside my "Learn Storytelling" Kit and Coaching

I created a "walk through" video to tell people more about my Storytelling 101 Ekit. Just gives folks a better understanding of what we cover in my essential "learn storytelling" kit that I've put together. The kit is at ****** The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wherein Hunky McSharing Learns When to Not Tell a Story

My thought this week: please think carefully before you speak the story in your head. With the current faddish approach to storytelling going on, I sometimes see people trying to “share their story” even if they really should not be sharing “that” story.

As I was watching the morning news on Thanksgiving Day (the U.S. holiday), the three jovial morning hosts had a few moments to kill. With that, the young man sitting at the desk, I think his name was Hunky McSharing, said, “Oh, okay, I guess I have a story.”

Now, right at that moment the problem was revealed. He said, “I guess.” I shuddered. Storytelling is always an intentional process. You plan to tell a story and you plan the story to tell. Anytime you start with “I guess” before telling means you are moving into gossip and not storytelling.

Hunky continues to “tell the story” of a Thanksgiving when he was a boy. He talked about how the family had an unexpected guest for dinner. He then mentioned that his mother was not prepared for guests, but it was the family “policy” to welcome anyone at their table.

Here, for just a moment, I thought, “Oh, Sean, always so crabby about the rules of storytelling. Young Mr. Hunky is telling a story about his mother’s kindness and not just gossiping. Shame on me.”

I thought this until McSharing said the next sentence of his story. He mentioned that the man was “kinda heavyset” and that the chair that the dinner guest sat collapsed beneath him. This chair disaster happened twice. Hilarious stuff, isn’t it? Mr. McSharing was clearly entertained by how the large house guest kept breaking chairs at Thanksgiving. You have so many warm and funny memories, Hunky. Just the type you might share at the Frat house.
The two female anchors sitting with Hunky knew better than to laugh at this story. While Hunky was laughing and giggling, his co-hosts sat stoned-face. One of them said, “I don’t think I can laugh at that.” The other host just stared at McSharing as he realized this story was one that should not have been spoken as hundreds of thousands of viewers now watched him mock fat people. A long-for-television silence took place between all three of them.
I know that you keep hearing, “Storytelling is everywhere.” “Everyone is a storyteller.” While everyone has a story to tell, learn what the professionals know: Not every story is to be shared in every situation. Learn to self-edit. The gossip shared among friends is not the storytelling you share in front of crowds. It is better not to tell a story at all than to speak a story that is offensive and damaging to your integrity or to the lives of others.
Please do not fall into the trap of thinking that communication is all about the story. It’s not enough to have a story. Storytelling requires a balance between story, audience and teller. We need to think before we speak. Gossip is not storytelling. Sometimes, we should stop storytelling before we start.
The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Photo courtesy of

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Old-School Storytelling Is the Change Agent.

I am a big fan of all the stories, all the time. Personal or folktale, they’re all true for somebody.

 Every generation believes that they invent things like life, sex, spirituality, farting, and relationships. Part of the survival of our species, I think, is to say, "Well, our (fill in the blank) is better than what they used to do. We're changing (fill in the blank) for the better."

There is a fascinating print interview over at  “Arts in a Changing America” blog that talks about the development of the Story Slam (all personal tales) model over the last few years. Shannon Turner interviews Randy Osborne, the founder of the Carapace storytelling event. It’s a good article and, while I have something to add, I think it is a good read for anyone who does any type of oral storytelling. Go on, read it. Then come back. I’m waiting……

My thoughts are below. Buckle up, this is a long one.
Back to “every generation invents…” So it is in storytelling. I enjoy personal storytelling events such as Carapace and The Moth. However, the power in storytelling to generate community, to promote change or development, to talk about the tough subjects (how about a knocked-up Rapunzel?) is not new and has always been in the realm of storytelling. Yes, the film studios have cleaned it all up to sell movies and toys, but those of us deep in the roots of oral storytelling know better. My (respectful and kind) advice to Randy is to get out more to some world-tale storytelling in the real world. There are plenty of us taking the old tales out for visceral-and-cringey spins and never setting foot in a children's library or elementary school as we present unvarnished tales to adults. The schools would get mad at me when, in my fairytales unvarnished, the children cut off their fingers or are forced to have sex with their fathers.   
So, a student had a transcendent moment in anatomy class? Good!  Learning from the dead is not new, no matter how much a modern audience wants to believe it. Dig into an Irish folktale such as "Tieg O'Kane and Corpse" (treat a woman like trash, boy, and you'll have hell to pay) to see that folks have been learning (metaphorically) from the dead for hundreds of years, too. There are plenty of others out there.  There is nothing new and everything new about this discovery that the dead can "speak.” See the homework below if you want another story of the dead speaking.
The role of world-tale storytelling is to put context to the present, grounding it on the path of the past and sending it toddling into the future. Your human experiences have already been experienced in some form (take comfort) and you will add your experience to the mix (take challenge). Your experience then is fodder for your children or maybe even the guy sitting next to your at the Story Slam, slamming too many Captain Morgans. “Resistance is futile.” (Yeah, baby, an old pop reference right there.)
Here's the real challenge- a storyteller who is willing to do the work can interweave a traditional story into a personal tale and put both modern experience and generational wisdom together. Like the older woman in the post, I often leave a modern personal storytelling event with, frankly, nothing other than the shell of the experience. We get to be familiar with people we will never know. Yeah, I laughed or maybe felt misty while a personal story was told but then I have nothing. For example, why is it important to know a single storyteller's mother was a terror? Outside of empathy for the teller, their story alone does little for the listener, but if it is put it in context of how the world has viewed horrible parents then the audience has something to hang on to and chew on. Or, put it in the context of your horrible mother and a world-tale where the mother is more nurturing and now the audience can have some confidence that their singular situation may not hold true for everyone...and in that there is hope. And, full of expectation, that the dialogue in the audience member's head becomes real conversation with trusted friends (or therapist) who can help.
Gossip is temporary. Storytelling is catalyst.
Comfort in things unchanging is only for the old? There is a Sacred Success Trilogy in these personal telling events like this. For best success, be sure to mention Sex, Drinking or Bad Relationships...just like the young people of every culture before you. Just because the Grimm Brothers couldn’t, in their culture, say that Rapunzel wanted some “booty calls” does not mean they didn’t use the cultural language for “booty call” in their stories. None of this is new as you find all these things in fairytales and folktales across cultures. None of our generations invented any of these things. I find great comfort in that we generations keep reinventing the same wheel. We are part of a whole that, paradoxically, does not change even when we’re changing it.  Cool.
As a side note, when The Moth was first emerging from the cocoon, they did make contact with us at (Yeah, we're old.) I am sorry to say that at that time the “traditional storytelling” community wasn’t ready to hear what they had to say and the slam community wasn’t ready to hear what was being said to them. We all missed the boat (or at least paddling together) on this whole “new” concept. I find myself now delighted in the success of The Moth and slams like it. These events, fun on their own, are a good way to introduce people to the greater concepts of what story and storytelling can do…just as people have known for centuries before us.  
Oh, and those stories about farting? Dig into the Arabian Nights. It's not about magic carpet rides alone.
P.S. Here's your homework: listen to Hawaiin storyteller Jeff Gere do his adult storytelling thing and take you to school. The dead speak (another story) in track #2. Find it at There's no pretense or formality in his work, only skill and a deep love for the truth of world-tales.

(7/12/2012 update: The author of the original piece (Shannon): "I do want to point out, though, that Carapace is very intentionally not a story slam. Randy speaks to that in the interview, and why Atlanta has chosen not to do our event in story slam-style." So, way cool that Shannon answered and I am happy to add this clarification.)
About the  Author:  Sean Buvala is a professional storyteller and author (and slam judge) who rarely tells cute stories with morals to children. He’s much better in business situations helping people connect their stories to the business or nonprofit organization at hand.  He’s also the creator of StoryRise that brings solid “traditional” storytelling to adult audiences, clearing up the myth that fairytales are all about helpless princesses. His Storytelling 101 manual is a great place to learn the “how” of storytelling if you are done being overloaded with storytelling theory.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sean Buvala, Storyteller with Extra Searchiness.

Yes, here it is, the Sean Buvala, Storyteller, Google search video. Now, I know you have been thinking, "How can I best make a my life just that much easier?' when along comes this silly Google project. Much fun to be had by all, as they say. (giggle)

Now, see don't you feel more pep in your step? Toe-tapping music, no? Okay, back to your regular blog surfing now.
The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

No, I Don't Want You Drunk On Emotion. (Response to Fast Company Article)

Yikes. A "master storyteller" does not want an audience "drunk on emotion."

Over at the "Fast Company" website (major business magazine), there's a poetic but off-base article about business storytelling: "Why Storytelling is the Ultimate Weapon." Take a read of the article if you'd like. Here's my reaction. I posted it on the FC website but the formatting went wonky. Here is a clearer picture, adapted from my comments I posted on the FC site:

To put my response in context: I’ve been thinking about this article from the perspective of a storytelling professional. That’s biz coaching, story performance and authoring books for some 26 years. I’ve been working with online discussions of storytelling since before Google even existed.

It's a good article on the science of storytelling overall. After that, I am not sure what to think. I don't know what this article adds to the "business storytelling" discussion specifically, except more theory. And, as I experience it, there is more than enough business storytelling theory floating around. Let’s be much more practical and put out some serious how-to versus more emotional-focused poetry.

If I am reading this correctly, the article is filed under this site's category of "Industry POV." I don't see an exclusive business POV here. Substitute "education,” “health care” or “babysitting" whenever the word "business" is mentioned and the article still works. Maybe use the words "teachers,” “doctors” or “low-paid teenagers" for the word "professionals," too. This could easily have been about “storytelling in education” in the NEA magazine instead of business in the Fast Company magazine. Maybe it was just poor placement by Fast Company that leaves me so underwhelmed.

I do struggle with the author's well-intentioned closing. Discounting the use of logic/facts in trade for (insert soft music here) narrative really damages the truth of what story can do. The purpose of story (real-life, world tale or fairy tale) is to carry logic and reason, not to replace it. I mentioned this earlier in a response to another poster: my goal as a storyteller (in any situation) is rarely just an emotional response. Oh, sure, I can achieve that when it’s desired. However, what I want is to go beyond the emotional with a longer-lasting (but slower in forming) lesson, meaning or message. Emotional response is more a feature of good theater or acting techniques. However, storytelling is not acting, including when used in business settings.

This takes me back to: "master storyteller" does not want an audience "drunk on emotion." I actually think this is rather comical.

Insisting (as I think I see in the article) that we *must* begin with "once upon a time" for every audience all the time discounts the very nature and work of a storyteller in the boardroom or on stage. As a storyteller, my experience teaches me to know both when to lead with a story and when not to. Being mindful of story placement is a real skill.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, April 30, 2012

New Project "How to Write an About Me"

Here's my posting of a couple of videos for my newest project "How to Write an About Me." I've created a multi-media training kit with a .pdf ebook, four webinar-style videos of about 10 minutes each and the audio-only mp3 files from the videos.

If the kit generates enough interest and sales, I will have transcripts made for the videos as they have an idea or two not listed in the book. When I get talking, ideas pour out. I get requests for "I need to write a bio" rather frequently and thought this story-infused approach would be helpful for my guests and clients. It's rather straight-forward in my No-Nonsense approach.

At the moment of this writing, the kit is a download for just $7.00. That price will change soon. Get yours at this launch price if you are interested. Details at .

Here is a sample clip from one of the videos.

Here is the promotional video we put together to post on Youtube.

I'd enjoy helping you create your next About Me bio for your projects and websites. Come grab your copy of this affordable resource.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The New "No Nonsense Storytelling" Webinar. Freebie.

I'm doing a freebie webinar next week. Isn't it time you shook up your storytelling skills? Visit Allow our video to bring you your pipe and slippers...

****** The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Friday, October 28, 2011

10 Habits of Good Public Speakers

(Note: I wrote this for another website that wanted a quick article with this title. I'm sharing it with you, too. Maybe there is a tidbit or two within it for you?)

Public speakers can motivate, educate, challenge and entertain audiences. The best public speakers can do all four at the same time. A good public speaker is flexible and enjoys the diversity that each audience presents. It is an honor to speak with an audience and the best public speakers never forget that.

Always strive for excellence when you are speaking in public. In no particular order, here are 10 behaviors that public speakers should incorporate into their professional conduct.

A great public speaker. . .

1. . . .meets the audience.
When I speak at an event with other presenters on the schedule, I am always amazed that the speakers congregate backstage and away from the audience. While some prep time is always needed before an event, make it a point to go out and casually mingle with the audience, doing more listening than talking. You will meet some great people and more of the audience will feel like they already know you when it is your turn to speak on stage.

2. . . .knows their subject matter.
Speak about what you know and subjects that capture your energy and focus. You should know your subject well enough that you could spontaneously speak without notes in any situation. Be devoted to the subjects you speak about.

3. . . .uses sound equipment.
While it may seem more casual to ditch the microphone, I am seeing and hearing many speakers in my coaching work that insist they do not need a microphone. Making your audience strain to hear your words is not respectful. Any group gathering that cannot fit around a conference table will require a microphone.

4. . . .dresses comfortably for the audience.
Keep your clothing choices just a step above the casual or formal dress of the group. For example, if you are expecting an audience filled with blue-jeans casual, you might choose a business-casual attire.

5. . .listens to other speakers.
Just as you want to meet an audience before events, it is important that speakers participate in those events. In particular, make it a point to hear the speakers that are before you on the schedule so that you will be able to make good tie-ins with the group's experience.

6. . . .incorporates learning styles.
Not everyone in your audience can learn from a singular presentation stytle. Mix your presentation with audience activities, slides, stories and your direct input.

7. . .uses good speaking mechanics.
Are you using first-rate nonverbal techniques? Vary your pacing, tone, eye contact, gestures and movement as your presentation progresses. Be interesting to watch.

8. . .customizes presentations.
It was popular advice a few years ago that you should be a speaker who developed a single presentation and presented that to every audience. In addition to being arrogant, it is rude to your audience and is a way to guarantee you will not be rehired. Tweak your presentations for each audience.

9. . .uses appropriate humor.
While the days of the "start with a joke" are well behind us, it is still good to use your own natural humor- staying away from traditionally sensitive topics such as religion or politics. Rather than try to be funny, simply share things that are funny to you and let the audience decide what they will laugh at.

10. . .shares good stories.
Good stories, used to illustrate your points, can help an audience remember your presentation. Be on the lookout for good stories from your own life and literature that can be used for future presentations. Learn good storytelling techniques to adjust each story for your audience. In my "Storytelling 101" Eworkbook, you can learn how to develop and present stories in a step-by-step manner. You can learn more at

Use this list as a place to start, but I encourage you to develop your own list of habits that will make you an excellent speaker.

Sean Buvala is a "hard-core how-to-do-storytelling coach" working and teaching internationally since 1986. He has served variety of clients with big names down to the smallest one-person business. An award winning storyteller, he's able to help you develop and fine-tune your business speech. To set up your coaching session with Sean, fill out his contact form on his website at

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Frosted by Storytelling: False Storytelling Sighting

Slightly tongue in cheek, but not much. . .

In a rare moment of casual TV watching, I stumbled upon one of these ubiquitous cooking challenge shows. The contestants were making cakes and trying to prove them to a line of random judges.

As the judges came to one table, the cook chef, said something like, "I have here for you today a chocolate cake that has three kinds of chocolate bits in both the cake and the icing. Enjoy."

The judges tasted. The judges pondered something highbrow to say.

And then, further proof-that-storytelling-is-now-a-fad fell from the judge's lips, "This is delicious and the chocolate pieces really tell a story." Without further comment other than everyone nodding their heads, the judges walked away.

It is a good thing that the TV universal remote controls are just $5 at Walmart. I keep breaking them throwing them at my television as I hear awful uses of the word "storytelling." I have no doubt that the producers of the TV program were in over-the-top joy over as someone placed into the show's dialogue the latest business catchphrase, "storytelling."

Sorry. Storytelling was taking place in the chocolate bits? A story was not even present in the chocolate as expressed during this program. The flavor wasn't storytelling. Here are four reasons why:

1. Storytelling requires words.

Chocolate bits cannot speak. Chocolate bits could represent something in a story, but the bits themselves are not storytelling. Only people, using words, do storytelling.

2. Storytelling is a spoken art form and business communication tool that needs the audience and the storyteller together, live and in person.

Chocolate bits do not speak. If the chef had said, "These rare chocolate bits in the cake are the last remains of hand-made chocolate my immigrant grandfather brought over from Germany. My family insisted that you, worshipful judges, be the last ones to savor them," we might have had the anecdotal start of a story. If I had heard something like this on the cooking show, then I could somehow forgive the judge for his error in the misuse of "storytelling."

3. Stories have arcs.

Taste alone is not the beginning, middle and end of a narrative. I do understand that flavors can remind the taster of a story. However, that is not what the judge said. He grabbed the word-of-the day and stated that these three flavors "really told a story."

A singular moment cannot be a story. The moment needs to be placed within the story arc in order to be called story. "My mother used to make a cake with three kinds of chocolate in it and…" That would be the start of a story.

4. Not every idea is (yet) a story.

Sadly, we no longer pay attention to our words. Every breath, uttered word, idea and fleeting thought is now called "story." There is only one answer to this: the power presence of "story" and "storytelling" has been completely diluted in the modern world. Flavors, utterances, insights, conversations are now all labeled "story" or worse "storytelling."

So, how do we fix these issues?

1. Develop some discipline in how you approach language

Say what you mean. Know that words have meaning. Walking is not Running even if both are ways to move. Eating is not Storytelling even if both, are, well they aren't the same thing. Definition and understanding empowers us to do great things with them.

2. Stop cheating with the story tool.

Storytelling cannot be done on film alone. It cannot be done by paint itself. It cannot be done alone by chocolate. It can only be done with people. If a client says to me, "We want storytelling in our company but can't commit any training time to it," I will tell them then that they can't have storytelling in their business. They will need another way to communicate their story, even if it is not as buzz-worthy as "storytelling." Recapping: People are for storytelling and chocolate is for eating.

3. Spend the time to learn how to tell a story.

In the least, learn how to make a true story from your great ideas. I know, your communications consultant may have told you that storytelling is easy and cost-free. You have been misled. Maybe you are assured that everyone in your organization is a storyteller. They are not, no more than every cook is a chef. I do have some hope for you: it is easier to become a good storyteller than it is to become a good chef. Both becomings take work and focus.

4. People count.

There may have been a great story to go with this chocolate-bitsy cake. To find the storytelling within, I would have to peer over the top of the cake, crumbs trailing on my lips, look into the eyes of the chef and say, "So, how did you become expert enough to make this cake I'm eating? How did you come across these fine chocolate bits?"

In that response, I would probably find the real story behind the chocolate. I might even find a storyteller within the chef.

That (you knew this pun was coming) would be the real icing on the cake.

P.S. The cake in the picture was one my 12-year-old made for the 24th wedding anniversary for my wife and I. It had one type of chocolate. It was delicious.

Sean Buvala has been storytelling for 25 years and is the author of the book, "Measures of Story: How to Create a Story from Floats and Anecdotes." Get your copy at or come by to learn more.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Unboxing StoryPlay Cards

When I am not busy making the business world safe for storytellers everywhere(dramatice pause as I am flipping my cape back and staring deep off into the horizon), I still am the director of In one of our latest fun things, we take a look at storytelling card game for families and kids. Review here. Video below.

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Book! "Measures of Story"

I've released a new book! For the next few days, you can get the book (Ebook or Kindle), a free teleseminar and the audio version of the book for just $6.97. Yes, that's just about giving it away. To get the teleseminar and the audio book, please order by the 11th. Details on the site.

I have a free chapter to read, a free chapter to hear, the table of contents to download all on the new website for the book. No registration is required for the free reads or audio.

Come grab your copy of "Measures of Story: How to Create a Story from Floats and Anecdotes." Features include:

*Explore the differences between stories, anecdotes and floats.

*Replace your archaic “elevator speech.” Understand why real stories make better communication tools.

*Learn the most overused floats that aren't the stories you might think they are.

*See how these anecdotes and floats become stories with examples for the personal and business world.

*Create your new stories with Sean’s “Take Action!” activities.

*Discover more online resources to help you learn to share convincing stories with associates, friends, students or family

Learn more:

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Falling from the Roof on July 4th

One particular July 4th* sticks in my mind. My best guess is that I must have walked too close to the edge of the roof, but I don't remember falling.

But first, the Aesop story:
A young man was in the midst of a long journey and, on the second night, found himself exhausted and fatigued. As night fell, he found a deep freshly-dug well and drank fully from it. He then laid down to sleep right next to the edge of the well…
I think I was 19 years old and for employment, I was managing a restaurant. Somehow or other, I was able to get enough of my work done to take the evening off, leaving the assistant manager to handle the final few hours the store would be open. As any of you who have worked in the food industry know, major holidays are not vacation days for food workers.

It was a July tradition to climb up on the roof to watch the fireworks. This was not the first time I had been up on the roof. All previous adventures up top had been without incident.

What was different on this July 4 was the short amount of time I was on the roof. I remember climbing up the ladder and taking a few steps around. Then, my next memory was that I was painfully on the ground. It seems my falling was not a problem but in the landing I busted my right ankle. This was not much of an injury but enough to leave me wearing one of those plastic and Velcro cast-like contraptions for six weeks.

Aesop Continues…
As the young man slept, the Goddess Fate came to him and shook him to wake up. She said to the young man, "Wake yourself up before you fall into this well. For if you do, other mortals may blame Fate for your troubles rather than seeing that the blame truly lies with you. Move away from the well before your own folly causes you harm."
Some holidays are more memorable than others are. Falling off the roof is really a way to remember the 4th of July. Silly me. It must have been my "Fate" that led me to my fall. Now, I live in two-story home so the viewing of fireworks is done through an upstairs window, where Fate cannot push me off the roof.

Happy 4th to you all.

(*For my international friends: July 4 is the U.S. Independence Day celebration, right in the middle of the Summer season. Food, family and fireworks are traditional parts to the holiday celebration.)

The is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Mythology of Business Storytelling, Part Two

In the last post, I gave some background to these "myth" thoughts. Read the part-one posting before you tackle this post. Consider these two posts as one continuous chat. By the way, I am not suggesting that any "Storytelling expert" who has hopped on the Storytelling bandwagon of late is trying to deceive. I believe there sure is a lack of understanding of story and storytelling.

Myth 4. Storytelling has no rules. Story is whatever you want it to be.
Not every conversation is storytelling. There is a difference between a story and an anecdote. Storytelling is an oral art. Writing a story is not storytelling.

Let me switch gears and be the BEST STORYTELLING CONSULTANT(TM) (giggle) you could ever have: "Hey, why constrain the everybody-make-their-own-reality freedom? Whatever you want is the most important thing here! Go on, storytelling is whatever your company tells me it should be. Thank you for hiring me. That will be $2,500, please."

Would you hire an accounting consultant that thought like that? Would you hire an Internet Security consultant who just wanted to make things easy for you?

Let me share my adaptation of a Hungarian folktale.

Once there was a little bear who loved to sing. However, when she sang the song was awful. She could not carry a tune. While her family loved her, her singing was so bad they had to cover their ears when she would break into song.

One day, the little bear asked her mother a question. "Mother, do you not think that my singing is the best in the world?"

The mother bear gave her daughter a hug and said, "Well, I love you very much, but the truth is that your singing is not very good. It hurts the ears of all who hear it."

The little bear was undisturbed. "Why, then, if you don't like my singing, I shall go out and find others that think my songs are the most beautiful of any." And with that, she walked out the door.

A few blocks down the road she ran across another bear. She looked at him and said, "Do you like to sing?"

He replied, "Yes, of course! Here, let us sing a song together."

The two young bears began to sing a song so off-key and so acoustically jarring that dogs began to howl in pain and even the birds in the tree overhead flew away as quickly as they could.

"Now," the boy bear asked of his newfound friend, "what do you think of my singing?"

She immediately answered, "I think your voice is the most pleasing thing I have ever heard. Tell me, what do you think of my amazing voice?"

"Your voice," he announced, "is satisfying like cool water on a hot day. Come, let us sing for everyone we meet."

And so they did, raising their voices in song to whomever they met. To this day, they continue to sing their outrageous songs, but they find that fewer and fewer of the other animals will listen.

Myth 5. Everyone is a storyteller.
Let me be direct here. Not everyone in your company should tell stories or be required to create stories. "Yeah, but Bob in Shipping tells the funniest jokes in the lunch room." Telling jokes is not storytelling. There is an art and discipline to seeing story as it happens in your company. Yes, train everyone about business storytelling, but do not require that they immediately start to tell. Begin the story biz process slowly in one area of your company and let the enthusiasm spread. If everyone is a storyteller, then no one is a storyteller.

"But, Sean, we have a schedule to keep. We need 100 stories by Tuesday. Everyone must tell their company story." I am sorry, but that will not happen. If you force people to create stories, you are going to get piles of….fake stories.

Myth 6. "Just tell your real story. That'll win 'em over."
I once had a loose-lipped colleague who said his grandmother always chided him, "Don't tell everything you know."

I see this myth often when dealing with small-business or personal coaching consultants. I agree with the ideas of transparency. We should be "real" with our clients and let them know we are human. However, use caution. There is a fine line between sharing with your audience the struggles you have overcome or just dumping (or bragging about) your life on your listener. Sharing personal tales takes (here I go again) discipline and crafting of the story. Ask yourself: Does my self-exposure invite the listeners to move forward with their needs or does it make them like (or feel sorry for) "me" more?

With both Part 1 and 2 of this "myth" series, I have written about some of the problem areas I see with the current corporate storytelling movement. Story and storytelling make up a strong world-mind that we all share as human beings. However, even something as transcendent as sharing our stories can be diluted by hype and noise. As you explore story for business, take a deep look at the understanding you may have about its power. There is so much good to be had if we keep ourselves focused and on track.

The is official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Illustration in this blog post comes from and is used under his Creative Commons license. See Sean's storytelling training workbook at

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Mythology of Business Storytelling, Part One.

The backlash against any business fad begins slowly. Hype buries the good ideas that are contained within a business movement. For example, when people discover that you can't manage people in just one minute or that there really isn't much fun in throwing stuffed toy fish around the office, the genuine value (read that "the work") of a concept gets abandoned with trappings and hype.

Storytelling and other forms of story expression can work well in business and non-profit organizations. I have seen this played out repeatedly since I began this journey of coaching and training back in 1985.

Of late, I am seeing the rumbling of hype-backlash in the discussion, teaching and preaching of business storytelling. Here are the first three types of buildup of which I think we all need to be aware. I will take on more in the next post. I have gathered these myths from personal experience, social media, blog posts and email.

By the way, "a myth" does not mean "a lie." Myth is truth covered in an agenda.

Myth 1: Storytelling is instant corporate relief.
In tough economic times, everyone is looking for that quick fix to make business work or to grow donations to a non-profit group. The challenge with story, and especially delivery via storytelling, is that it actually takes real work to develop. It takes training to do it well. When you look at how storytelling is being discussed today, do you often see a discussion about the amount of focused work it requires?

Is there a return on investment (ROI) when using storytelling? Yes, there is, but it comes slowly and requires a long-term commitment. (I have written before about what storytelling won't do for a business.) A one-off dive into story work is represented via such slogans as "This year, our company training focus is 'Storytelling!'" Short-term investment reduces the authentic stories of your real customers and employees to gimmicks. Gimmicks have no genuine ROI.

Myth 2. "You must believe in your story."
I have seen variations of this on Social Media more than once, with the emphasis on the word "believe" as an otherworldly transcendence into the metaphysical. Your IT and accounting departments are most likely filled with people who are not going to buy this whole "storytelling" thing. Throw in some Matrix-movie-like dream-world discussion and you will lose both departments. You do not have to believe in metaphor or transcendence in order for a corporate story to be effective.

Your corporate stories must be true and sincere, but they do not have to be magical. Storytelling, done well, creates "deep listening." Many people think that deep listening must be magical. The reality is that in our instant-everything and low-imagination world, we have forgotten that people used to listen like that all the time.

By the way, I do understand the attraction. It sounds like fun to tell stories instead of doing marketing or selling! It is fun to talk about the transcendent nature of storytelling and the stories used within storytelling- but do not make acquiescence to those ideals as a requirement for corporate storytelling. I do not understand 25% of what my technology-guru brother is talking about in regards to computers, but I sure know how to use this word-processing program.

Myth 3. "Storytelling in business is a different type of storytelling."
Like all myth, this has truth at its core. The truth is that every time you speak to a different audience, the experience of the story you are telling changes, even if the teller and the story are the same. I can tell the same story to an audience of entrepreneurs and an audience of 12-year-olds and the experience will change.

Where this myth is false is not understanding the "mechanics" of all storytelling. All storytelling uses the same skills, such characterization, pacing, crafting and gestures. For example, while my characterizations in a story for 12-year-olds might be much broader than the same story told for business leaders, characterization still is used. Knowing how and when to use gestures is as important in a presentation to your nonprofit supporters as it is to "Mother Goose Story Time" in the public library.

Finally, all business stories must be properly crafted in order to be impactful on the listener. It is not enough to just want to use story and storytelling- you must spend the time to construct the story. That crafting process is the same for any setting.

Remember, not every conversation you have should be labeled as storytelling. Sometimes small talk is just small talk. Sometimes a call to customer service is just a phone call, not an epic journey.

I am already at what looks to be the world's longest blog post. I will post part two sometime over the weekend.

PS. I have been asked, "Sean, who died and left you in charge of storytelling?" All I am opining on is what I see from my unique vantage point of experience and practiced approach both on and offline. I could be wrong about all this. Do not believe everything you read on the Internet.

Or, I could be right.

(Read Part Two at this link now.)
The is official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Illustration in this blog comes from and is used under the Creative Commons license. See Sean's storytelling training workbook at