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Telling Your Story

By Aaron Shepard

(Tell a Story! ~ Part 3)

Part of the booklet Tell a Story! first published by Simple Productions, Arcata, California, 1990

For more resources, visit Aaron Shepard’s Storytelling Page at www.aaronshep.com.

Copyright © 1990, 1996 by Aaron Shepard. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose as long as no text is altered or omitted.

Don’t think you have to be perfect the first time you tell your story. It’s not likely! But, if you love your story and have prepared it reasonably well, you will surely give pleasure to your listeners and yourself. And, each time you tell the story, you and your story will improve.

If possible, tell your story first to friends in a small group. As you gain confidence, perform for larger, less intimate groups. Before long, you’ll think nothing of telling to a large room full of strangers.

Storytellers have their own styles, differing widely. If a suggestion here doesn’t fit your idea of how you want to tell stories, ignore it. Don’t be afraid to try something different, if it feels right.

A good storytelling space is comfortable, intimate, and free of distractions. Check the space ahead of time, so you can spot problems and arrange any special needs—a stool, a glass of water. You may also want time alone just beforehand, to collect yourself, or to “warm up” your voice and body.

Give your listeners the full force of you. Aim your voice at the back row. Make your words ring. Avoid verbal trash like “um” or “y’know.” Sit or stand, but face your audience squarely, and with a straight back. No fidgeting, hands in pockets, or shifting from foot to foot.

Storytelling is magic in part because it’s personal—so make a personal contact with your listeners. Talk to them—not at them—and don’t be afraid to talk with them.

Look them in the eyes. If there are too many of them, or you can’t see them all, look mostly at the ones in front. If some aren’t paying attention, focus on those who are.

As you tell your story, take your time, and give time to your listeners—time to “see” the story, time to laugh, time to feel, time to reflect, time to hang on the edge of their seats for what comes next. It’s easy to go too fast, hard to go too slow. If you’re losing their attention, you may need to slow down! After the story, be sure to leave time for the audience to appreciate you.

Storytelling is interactive. As your listeners respond to your story, let your story respond to your listeners. Make your voice and gestures “bigger” or “smaller.” Stretch or shrink parts of the story. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, so next time you can change, add, or subtract.

Above all, trust yourself, your audience, and your story. Remember, anyone who comes to hear a storyteller is already on your side. Just being a storyteller is magic—even before you say a word.

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