This weekend my classmate Nitin Rao pointed out that a story slam was taking place in my neighborhood. Today I stopped by to pay a visit. I recounted a story about what transpired when I took a girl on a date to the gun range.
This evening I attended a super helpful workshop in Boston, hosted by seasoned storytellers Norah Dooley and Karen Chace. In our workshop I, along with eight others, practiced storytelling technique and then performed, on stage and with a mic. Brilliant.
A few key lessons that I learned:
– Shed my ego: To be a great storyteller I should realize that it’s not about me; I’m merely a conduit for the story itself. Once I realize this, and my ego subsides, I will connect with my story more deeply and so will my audience.
– Don’t memorize: I need to see the imagery in my story in order for the audience to see it. This is easier to do when I’m making up the story as I go along, as opposed to reciting a memorized transcript.
– Project confidence: If I appear nervous on stage, the audience will feel an urge to take care of me and will lose focus on the story itself.
– Slow it down: There is a lag between when I speak a word and when it is processed by my audience. Allow my audience to process one image before moving on to the next one.
– Kill my darlings: Superfluous narrative needs to go. No matter how beautiful it is, if it’s not the meat of the story, my words will lose my audience. We practiced this until 30 seconds felt longer than 60 seconds.
– Recover gracefully (clever): If I accidentally omit a part of the story that is critical to understanding the ending, rather than saying, “I forgot to tell you something,” instead say: “but what you don’t know…” or, “what I haven’t told you yet…”
– Take a moment: At the beginning and end of my performance, take a moment to connect with my audience. Starting too soon or leaving the stage too quickly will undermine the power of my story and might also slight my audience.
Among us was also a 10 year old girl. I was amazed at the ease with which she spun stories, and it reminded me that storytelling is less about learning a new craft and more about rediscovering an old one.