Sunday, October 24, 2010

What is Storytelling: Thinking About What I Do

A friend of mine recently posted a small Facebook update about his work in pursuing his PhD. He is at the stage now where it is no longer just a dream but is actually close enough to be seen just over the metaphorical horizon. In his post, he posted the a long description of his PhD work and then tongue-in-cheek asked "And what are *you* doing?"

"What am I doing?"
That is not a hard question for me as a professional Storyteller. As well, to give credit, Limor's Storytelling Agora posting really pushed this post to the front for me.

What I am doing is
teaching all these folks with a "D" in their titles how to speak about their complex ideas so that the rest of the world can understand them. My clients come with all kinds of doctorates: JD, MD, PhD, PharmD, DMin and so forth.

I do not just train
the "D's" in storytelling technqiques. Some of my clients have "M's" and "B's" in their titles. Many have no titles at all. Some are still in elementary, high school or college.

What do I do as a storyteller?
Only a small percentage of my time as a working teller is actually involved in telling stories. Mostly, lately, I am training my clients how to speak their truths and content in a way that their audience can grasp and understand. As these others get the basics, the stories get deeper and more complex. Not everyone is a "D" nor should they be.

Complex ideas need to be expressed
in Story. Business to classroom to stage to home, I teach people to do just that.

This "how" is done through Story.
While I prefer storytelling, there are many ways to express Story. The new buzzword is "transmedia storytelling" As a storyteller and an artist first, I am open to the many ways to express Story, but only storytelling is storytelling. If you cannot see your audience and interact with them, allowing them to be cocreators in that singular moment of the Story, then you are not storytelling. You might be doing another equally important and useful art form. However, you will not be storytelling.

Let me clarify what I mean.
All dance is dance. But Tap dance is not Ballet. All Story is Story. Reading a book aloud is not Storytelling. These expressions of art are equal, different and needed.

Some of my expression of Story has been in writing.
My "DaddyTeller" book and workshops are a way to reach dads (moms, too) to urge them to fully engage with their children with by using storytelling. My "Storytelling 101" workbook is a bedrock "how to" of Storytelling essentials. My free Ecourse teaches folks some more tips for storytelling one piece at a time. I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts. I have two more books in different stages of development. I am the director of where we were talking about storytelling online even before Google existed.

Back in 2008, I did a project
where I posted a near-daily update and picture of my work as a storyteller. It's at . That is a singular snapshot of one year. Every year is different. Every year has new clients. Every year is another unfolding of Story and storytelling for me.

I have been doing this since 1986.
I have paid my dues enough to be able to put forth theories, understandings and definitions. I am also enough of an artist to know that life is rather fluid and tomorrow is another chance to see what I have not seen before. You can agree or disagree with the ideas I have. It is okay

This post is not ego.
It is clarification for some future posts and projects. Storytelling has burned in my bones for 25 years and it has lit more than its share of fires.

I wonder
if this is an "Artist Statement?"

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Storytelling Tips: 9 Things to Know For Better Storytelling Anytime

Knowing a few good storytelling tips can make your presentations better. If you want an effective ways to share a story, you will find that storytelling is one of the best ways to make an impact with story. I've listed nine basic storytelling tips below for you to think about whenever you want to create a storytelling experience.

1. Select a story you like.

Choose a story you like wherever you are telling: for kids at the library, for a sacred setting or to leaders of business or nonprofit groups. There are so many stories in the world. Take advantage of that variety. Use the ones you like.

2. Work to understand your story.

You need to know how to tell a story. You need to hear or read the story multiple times. Think about your story as parts and not a whole when you are learning. A video camera and a friend who can be gentle yet honest with you will help as you practice.

3. Take out the parts of the story that slow down the action.

Beginning storytellers will hear or read a story and then try to retell every nuance of the story. With each audience, you will remove the parts of the story that do not fit for that audience. Think, "Is this piece required this time? Is it critical?"

4. Speak clearly.

You have chosen a good story and prepared well. You will be confident. Speak with clarity and confidence. Remember you basic speaking skills of enunciation and projection.

5. Use good pacing.

When you are confident, you will not be in a hurry. You want to speak slow enough so that the story is easily absorbed by the audience but do not speak so slowly that their minds check out of the room.

6. A microphone is required.

Use the microphone. Respect the group enough to let them hear you speak. That is why they came to your talk. If you have much experiences as a public-speaker, you probably need a mic when you have more than twenty-five listeners. Beginners, use the mic unless you are speaking to a few folks at a luncheon round-table event.

7. Keep good eye contact.

Look into the eyes of the audience. Some members of your audience will think you are speaking just for them when they know you look at them as a person, not part of the crowd.

8. Use natural gestures.

"You looked so confident up there. I never know what to do with my hands." When people say this to me, I am thankful that I took the time to prepare which gestures I would use and when I would use them. Make gestures that come naturally to you, but plan and prepare them ahead of time.

9. You can skip the here-is-what-to-learn conclusion.

Stories teach. Storytelling is a most effective way to teach with story. Your story gets diluted when you attempt to tell people how to feel and think about that story. If you can't resist telling the moral, at least let the audience speak first. Their answers might teach you.

I've shared 9 storytelling tips to help you create a story with good storytelling. Newbie or veteran speaker- take these nine easy steps into your next speech prep.

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

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Future of Storytelling is In Its Past (Part One)

I have been intrigued by some online conversations lately about the past and future of corporate storytelling. I will be writing a few more posts about this subject. Here's my first post.

The future of storytelling for business and nonprofit work is in its past. The foundation of storytelling has not changed. The need for storytelling has not changed. There is a reason that "how to tell a story" is a major Google search term.

Let's define some terms. "Story" exists in many forms. Beginning, middle and end all create a narrative "thing" that can be expressed through a variety of mediums such as dance, written word, digital audio and video and then, yes, storytelling.

"Storytelling" is another term we keep tossing about these days. To tell a story you need at least two people together at the same time: the teller and a listener. Without the storyteller in the room with the audience, you do not have storytelling. You have another expression of story. Without an audience in the same place as the storyteller, you may also have another expression of story, but it's not storytelling.

How you express story is your choice. As a storyteller, I have also used story in video, podcasts, on the page and in audio recordings. Those are not storytelling. Only when I can be with my audience, when I can see and hear them breathing, laughing and responding am I storytelling. Storytelling techniques are not digital techniques.

So, the past of storytelling was/is in the hearts and souls of millions of listeners. These millions of listeners heard the story proclaimed, saw the storyteller as real and human and participated in the creation of the storytelling event.

In that past, storytelling took one more leap into the next breath of the future. 2000 years ago, 200 years ago, 20 minutes ago, story moved forward in storytelling.

So now, we're abuzz with the buzz of "storytelling" for business and nonprofit use. After 25 years of doing this, I have seen the groundswell rise until we have a cacophony of experts, guides, coaches, conferences and strategists all ready to speak about story. Business owners are desperate to know what is the newest and latest technique to bring storytelling to their clients.

Look to the past. Storytelling is a relationship and conversation. It is an agreement between at least two parties to delve deep into the way "what if" became "what was" leading to "what will be." To business and nonprofit leaders, I ask you: what is your face-to-face relationship with your clients and customers? Are you still "we" to their "them?" Can any of your customers put a name to the storyteller they've met in your company?

Are you filling the conversation with noise? Is there a chance for your clients to meet a real person or are they forced to run only through your gauntlet of the social media cocktail-party and look-at-me loud videos?Are they lost in your forest of customer service? Where in your plan is the person-to-person live interaction? The future of storytelling is its past: converse with your customers. Tell and be heard. Hear and be informed.

In the past, storytelling taught the values of the community. Storytelling gathered the tribe to hear and feel the history of the group. Storytelling laid the groundwork for new innovation not because of the sophistication of the story but rather the listeners' ability (need?) to touch and interact with the mind of another live, in-the-moment storyteller. A story is an expression of "this was." Storytelling opens the door to "this could be."

If you want to move forward with storytelling for your business, you need to embrace this basic human need: "I need to talk with someone." The future of storytelling for your organization lies in its past: human interaction trumps noise. Stop being noisy and move to interaction.

I think we need to keep at the many ways to express story as I listed up at the top of this article. But don't call them storytelling. Rather, teach every member of your company the stories of your group. Teach them how to bring forth the stories of your collective past and to catch the stories as they continue to happen. Teach them to speak those stories to each other and clients.

The future of business storytelling is in its past and foundation:
people to people,
voice to voice,
face to face.

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