Thursday, April 23, 2009

Performing Artists' Open Conference, August 2009 in Arizona


We are happy to tell you that we will be hosting the First Performing Artists' Open Conference this year in the Phoenix, AZ area.

The Performing Artists' Open Conference (PAOC): The Convention We Create Together.

2009 THEME: "We Create Together"

What is an Open Conference?
Although there are many definitions, an open conference is created by the participants. There are no stars or featured speakers. Rather, our open conference, much like the unconference idea, has workshops, performances and activities planned by the participants. If you wish, you can "throw your hat into the ring" and submit a proposal. Unlike most conferences, this PAOC does not have a committee to decide which proposals get accepted and which do not. Instead, all participants, on the first night, vote on which workshops they would like to participate in. From this vote, the rest of the conference is laid out and you'll be free to attend the workshops you would like when they are available during the weekend.

YOU could be a presenter. You will need to bring your creativity, your freshest ideas, your "best game" to this event and use your best presentation skills. Your workshop proposal might or might not be accepted by the group, who knows? Regardless, you are sure to hear other workshops that inform you of new ideas and topics in regards to the performing arts. To see the workshop guidelines, please click this link now.

There are only a few organized, large group events at the PAOC. Of course, there's the voting process on Friday. Lunch is provided each day. There is a concert of performing artists on the second night, with slots filled by names drawn by lottery from the participants who want to perform. Finally, on the last day, we will hold a large group "what did you learn and hear" process to share insights and challenges.

The PAOC is not for everybody. If you want to hear ideas that might not be getting "play" at the large conferences, then this event is for you. If you enjoy spontaneous creation and discussion of the arts with others, then come to the PAOC. If you need high levels of control and no surprises, then the PAOC will not be a good choice for you. If you can laugh and enjoy the company of other artists regardless of who is chosen to present, then we would love to have you. If you can enjoy the creative use of the conference space and are flexible, then you are going to enjoy your time at the PAOC. Without the long "juried workshops" process of other conferences, you might hear some brilliant speakers and presenters or you might not.

ANYONE can submit a proposal for a workshop. You must register for the workshop to submit a form. And if your workshop/performance/event is not selected, there is no refund of fees. Come with a thick skin, a sense of humor and just stay and enjoy your time with the other presentations and new friends you are going to meet.

Most of the workshops will be recorded in some format and these recordings will be made available at no charge on our website. You are also encouraged to "blog" and Twitter the conference as we go along.

The Performing Artists' Open Conference
Friday 5PM through Sunday 430PM
August 21-23, 2009

Comfort Suites Hotel and Conference Center
Goodyear, AZ (Phoenix AZ)
The conference location is easy to access from the greater Phoenix area and is about 25 miles away from the PHX airport. It's easy and convenient to get to this location. In addition, there are a number of dining and shopping options within easy walking distance.

SPECIAL: The Comfort Suites is extending a special discounted room
rate of $79 per night (plus taxes) for all participants. You must call
the hotel directly and tell them the code "storytellers" to get this discount rate.

Performing artists of all disciplines, those who love the performing arts, administrators and staff of arts programs, those who want to or do pursue the arts professionally, arts hobbyists, journalists who cover the arts, teachers, librarians and other folks we haven't listed yet. Beginners or veterans. Those who want to present and perform are welcome as are those who just want to participate as audience and workshop members. Come on out to the desert and forge some new understandings.

Your registration includes workshops, two meals, concert,
chance to submit proposal (optional) and a few other surprises.
Registration numbers are capped.

$209 Early Bird Registration by May 30.
$244 Registrations after June 1
$274 Registrations after August 1

Special discounts if registered by May 30:
If you are a member of any of our MasterMind groups or an alumni of any of our previous conferences, please contact Sean at for your costs and deadlines.

Workshop proposals must be received by August 7 to be included in the voting. Register now to avoid missing this deadline. A workshop submission form will be included in your registration packet.

Children and Non-Participants:
This workshop is intended for adults. Young persons between the
ages of 13 and 18 may register as a participant with an attending adult.
There is no registration option for non-participants.

This workshop is presented in part by funding from

You may use the Paypal button here to register for the $209 early-bird price. PayPal account is not required. Use your credit card.

You may contact us at our office at 623.298.4548 or . More information will appear on this website soon.

To register by mail, please make your check payable to "Creation Company" and send to
PO Box 392 Tolleson, AZ 85353.

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

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Non Profit Leaders: Do Your Volunteers Know Your Story?

Non Profit Leaders: Do your volunteers know your story?

Yesterday, on my way into the grocery store, a woman sitting at "animal rescue" table asked me if I would like to donate to their rescue shelter. As I made my way into the store, I had both the time and the inclination to listen to her ask for a donation as my family has been connected to the work of rescue shelters for more than six years. (You can see the website at As well, we have three "rescued" shelter dogs in our life. So, I am open to the idea that these volunteers were promoting. I also know that these impromptu tables are an important non profit funding source.

I asked her, "What does your shelter do?" The volunteer was not ready to answer my question. She did not know the story of the shelter she was representing. Her only answer was, "We do the adoptions at the (name of pet store)." Outside of that, she did not know what to say.

So, unlike most people passing her table, I stopped long enough to actually talk to her. I was a prime-candidate to donate money to her cause. However, she had not been trained in how to talk to potential donors. Either she did not know the story of her group or she had not been trained to speak about her organization.

This, of course, is not her fault. Her lack of preparedness was the fault of the director of her non-profit organization. It is possible that she had been trained on where to find the table that she needed, what to do with the money she collected and where to turn in the forms at the end of her shift. She was not trained in talking about the mission of her organization.

How about your volunteers and employees? Have they been trained to tell both their story of why they volunteer as well as the story of your organization? I am not talking about elevator speeches here. These elevator speeches, also know as unique selling points, are static anecdotes used to snare others. Rather, knowing the multiple stories of your organizations and how to adapt them to both casual and formal situations is a key skill for your staff, both volunteer and paid.

Here are three steps you need to follow to prepare your staff to use the power of story in your non-profit organization.

1. Collect the stories of your group.
There are a variety of techniques available to aid any organization in the collection of their stories. However, the best method is the oldest method: listen. Train your staff to think about stories. Ask them to think: what is happening/has happened that others need to know about? Find a way to share these stories at regular gatherings. Never make story sharing mandatory in any setting. Although many trainers advocate this, the pressure of "I must have a story" results in poor stories shared when your staff is under pressure to come up with anything. Stories should always be gathered in an organic or grass-roots process.

2. Train staff in the essential skills (the how-to) of storytelling.
The best investment you can make in your organization's future is to enlist the help of an experienced storytelling coach to teach your staff and volunteers to tell stories. You want your team to be able to know and tell your core or essential stories in a variety of time formats. For example, the volunteer I encountered outside the grocery store might have known the 20-minute story of their organization but had not been trained to tell it to me in a two-minute setting. She would need to know both the long and short versions. You also want your team to be able to use stories as frames for presentations that require quantities of data and shared information. Teach storytelling techniques first and save the high-level theories of storytelling for advanced classes once your staff has had success with storytelling.

3. All non-profit leadership must use stories at every gathering.
In every public speaking setting, from formal board meetings to casual walk-arounds, the leadership of the organization must fully immerse themselves in the use of story. Despite the glut of storytelling-for-business consultants available, the idea of storytelling for adults in a business setting remains challenging for many. Your leadership team, from the top on down, must clearly demonstrate the importance of story in all settings.

In even good economic times, a non-profit organization must have a strong command of their past, present and future stories. Your potential donors are interested in what their money can do in your organization, assuming your mission aligns with their values. Are your volunteers ready to speak your mission statement, not in overused mission "statement-eese," but rather in the geniune stories of your group's daily experiences?

Expressing your organization's story should be a skill for all of your staff. It is a requirement for business communication today. Consider everyone in your organization to be public speakers. Your experiences, expressed in story, are the unique features of your group. Be sure your donors can understand them.

I did explain to the volunteer outside the grocery store about my family's history with rescued animals and thanked her for the good work she was promoting in defense of abandoned animals. Her work was important and I hope she had some success in collecting funds for their rescue project. However, I knew that she was unprepared for real conversations about the work and mission of her group. I hope that the leadership of her group soon gets a chance to teach their staff to tell the real stories of the challenges and successes of their charity.

Good stories, willing listeners and a staff trained in public speaking skills are tangible assets that every non-profit group must have.

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

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Storytelling for Business: Three Quick Fixes

Three Quick Fixes to Your Storytelling for Business.

Having done executive coaching and corporate storytelling training over the last 23 years, I have seen many common mistakes from folks wishing to use storytelling for business presentations. Here are three of my quick fixes for public speaking issues.

Fix Number One: Take your story seriously.
World stories, myths and legends have endured for many centuries because of their ability to carry powerful messages in the small space of well-selected words. Use this power carefully. When I work with clients, they will often have spent many hours on their appearance, their eye contact and the slides they will project. However, they only spend minutes on story selection and presentation. This is a big mistake. There is no such thing as a simple story. Stories are powerful tools and, used incorrectly, they will explode back at you. Stories selected with care, crafted with good storytelling techniques and told with an intentional purpose will create a long-lasting impact on your audience. Your listeners will remember your stories long after the memory of your nice tie, fancy dress or overhead slides quickly fades away.

Fix Number Two: Plan the gestures you will use.
Your hands do not always need to be in motion nor held clasped in front of you as if you were carrying a bouquet of flowers. Avoid making choppy hand movements with eve-ry syl-la-ble you speak. Plan your gestures to match your story and move effortlessly and smoothly from one gesture to another. Let you hands rest naturally at your sides in between gestures. Try to avoid the finger pyramids or hand clasping between gestures.

Fix Number Three: Speak in your natural voice.
One of the best time investments you can make as a public speaker is to watch a professional storyteller speak to your target demographic of adults. You will see and hear the differences between how one tells stories to adults and how one practices storytelling for children. You must avoid the "sing song" voice of the unpracticed storyteller, who, like revered hosts of children's television programming, makes a lilting vocal pattern that sends adult audiences screaming out of the room.

Also, be aware that when you speak personal or "real" stories about your company you do not imitate or mimic the voices of others. Speak in your own voice. In most cases, do not change your voice to reflect your perceptions of the gender, race, regional origin or social status of those of which you are speaking. Mimicking another can quickly backfire on you, causing you to lose goodwill and trust with your audience.

Applying these quick fixes for public speaking will help your audience to be fully immersed in your presentation. Your storytelling, well prepared and well coached, can lower your public speaking anxiety and make you one of the best business speakers your audience has ever heard.

Sean Buvala ( Twitter him @storyteller) is an award-winning storyteller, experienced business speaker and executive speaking coach who helps businesses grow their bottom line and create employee satisfaction through the power of storytelling. His website is He offers private training and coaching.

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