The Art of Storytelling
Storytelling dates back thousands of years, and for a long time was our only means of passing history down through the generations. In Africa, where life began the griots were the first storytellers and they shared the stories with all including Anancy (the Spider) who it is said is the “keeper of all stories”.
We use stories to make sense of the world and communicate our experiences and unique perspectives. There have always been those who are naturally gifted at storytelling, but each of us is a storyteller, and with a little practise we can improve our craft.
In my opinion, there are four major steps to becoming a good storyteller. First, you must choose the right story. Some stories are compelling, while others simply fall flat. This may be due to the relevance of the story to the audience, or simply because it isn’t a very interesting story. Good stories appeal to our emotions, so find stories that your audience can relate to not just superficially, but on a deep level.
Second, you have to prepare your story and customize it to your audience. Different groups of people may react to different elements of your story—in fact, some may completely miss certain points that others find to be the critical element. This is because all are different, and we all approach stories with our own unique histories. Know your audience, and prepare your story ahead of time so that it is structured to appeal directly to the people you are addressing.
Third, you have to learn to tell your story authentically. It isn’t enough to recite facts—you have to make your audience feel like they are there with you, and that your story really means something to you. If it has meaning for you, it is intrinsically valuable, and your passion for the story will shine through in its telling. Your audience will sense this, and be drawn in.
Finally, you have to learn to engage your audience while telling your story. It is important to interact with them and make them feel that they too are important just as much as you and your story. And indeed, they are! Without an audience, a storyteller does little more than talks to herself—and there’s nothing compelling about that!
With the advent of new media forms, the old ways of storytelling is slowly being lost, or at the very least replaced by other forms of storytelling such as movies, books, and the Internet. But the oral tradition can and must survive for future generations with a bit of practise and education. Help us keep this tradition alive. Tell your stories!