We are often asked for practical hints and tips on how to tell a story well so here goes…
Sharon’s tops storytelling tips for beginners…
- NEVER give into the temptation to share the ‘real meaning’ of a story. Your listeners may interpret your tale in many different ways. They may latch onto something in it that you consider to be trivial but that resonates with them for personal reasons.
2. As soon as you hear a tale you like WRITE IT DOWN. No matter how taken you are by it the first time you hear it, it’s very likely that you will eventually forget it.
3. Keep hard copies of your stories and create some sort of index for them so that you can find appropriate stories quickly without having to read through all of them…your stash of tellable tales can soon run into hundreds!
4. Once you have it written down tell it out loud THREE TIMES to get used to the feel of the words and make the tale your own.
5. Do practice but unless you are a trained actor nobody expects a Laurence Olivier standard performance. Yes, you do need to be fluent and confident in your delivery so that people aren’t distracted from the story itself by concerns about your performance, but remember that being too polished can be off-putting and appear insincere rather than natural.
6. Don’t just practice in your head. You need to hear what you really sound like (we are all totally fluent and charismatic in our heads!) so find a quiet room, get on your feet and go for it!…….Three times!!!
7. Wherever possible, record yourself…you’ll be surprised what you really sound like and you can spot (and rectify) a lot of little bad habits immediately before anyone else gets to hear them. Often, though, you’ll be surprised at how natural and engaging you sound and those little niggles can soon be dealt with. So, record it again and notice the difference.
8. Avoid starting sentences with the word ‘And’. This is not just one for beginners…we have seen even some very experienced tellers fall into this trap which basically turns a story into one long sentence. The first one or two times you do it in any one tale aren’t that noticeable but after a few minutes, if you keep on doing it, the audience is more likely to start counting the number of times you do it rather than focusing on what you are actually saying. Easy to rectify if you do number 7 above.
9. Keep a note of how long each story takes (I know it will vary slightly each time but it will only be slightly). Having the timings of each story makes it much easier later on when you are putting together a selection of tales in situations where you have a set time limit.
10. Do try to acknowledge your source whenever you can (sometimes you may not know it but you can at least say where you read or heard it).
11. Don’t assume that stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Leaving a story hanging in mid-air allows the listeners to imagine the outcome for themselves rather than forcing a prescribed ending on them.
12. Try introducing dialogue to make the story more ‘immediate’.
13. Always have a spare (but equally well-rehearsed) story up your sleeve whenever you are telling.This is for two reasons:
A) There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling when you hear someone else tell the tale you were planning to tell.
B) There is nothing better than that euphoric feeling when you tell a tale so well that they ask you to do another one!
14. And finally…the most important rule… …Enjoy yourself!