Monday, March 2, 2015

Getting to the Essence of Storytelling

(Click for larger image)
Getting to the Essence of Storytelling was the title of a 45-minute workshop I facilitated at a meeting of the Story Circle of the Capital District. The topic was precipitated by our recently established Speakers Bureau, the purpose of which is to provide brief, educational presentations about storytelling at the meetings of professional, business, and civic organizations.

I wrote three prompts on a flip chart, posted on the wall:
  • Getting to the essence of storytelling
  • How to explain what storytelling is and how it is valuable in various settings
  • What content is essential to include in a 30-minute presentation on storytelling
I asked our storytellers to think individually about these prompts and then offer their ideas, one at a time, to the group. As each idea was offered, I asked that person to write it down on a large Post-It Note and stick it up on the wall. After about 15 or 20 minutes we had an impressive collection of ideas. We reviewed and clarified them, answering any questions about what they meant.
Each idea on a large Post-It Note, stuck on the wall.
(Click for larger image)

Next, everyone came up to the wall and reorganized the Post-It Notes, moving similar and related ideas near each other. Lastly, we conducted a "sticky-dot poll." Each person got a strip of six sticky dots and was asked to place them on the ideas they felt were most important. Afterwards, I did some additional editing and reorganizing of my own, resulting in the following map of ideas:

Idea Map: Getting to the Essence of Storytelling
(Click for larger image)
The Getting to the Essence of Storytelling Idea Map is available in PDF format here and is also appended below in outline form.

Of course, a 45-minute workshop is hardly sufficient to tackle such an large topic. Nonetheless, it was a good start and  we produced some interesting and useful results. And what's missing from the above account is all of the wonderful interaction and enlightening discussion.

To the story!

Getting to the Essence of Storytelling
  1. Generative
    1. Emotional experience
    2. Generate new ideas & feeling in the listener's heart
    3. Expand consciousness
    4. Truth vs. truth
    5. Generative/ triggers memories
  2. Teach & Entertain
    1. Need for intellectual reflection
    2. Stories are to inform
    3. Teach/ learn/ moral
    4. Lessons in stories
  3. Organization/ Structure
    1. Opening, middle, closing
    2. Tease, tell, told
      1. Tell them what you're going to tell them
      2. Tell them
      3. Tell them what you told them
    3. Engage, focus, review
    4. Story vs. other narrative/ spoken word forms
  4. Connection & Community
    1. Preserving culture
    2. Cultural exchange
    3. Human touch
  5. Values
    1. Is it positive? uplifting?
    2. Does it help society?
    3. What is its purpose?
    4. What is the value to the audience
    5. Personal perspectives
  6. Ingredients
    1. Character development
    2. Attention:
      1. Getters
      2. Keepers
      3. Remembers
    3. Setting
    4. Precious or critical moments
  7. Other
    1. Anyone can tell a story and get better at it
    2. How women are depicted in story
    3. Words into meaning
    4. Hero's journey
    5. Ethics of story
    6. When (not) to tell a story
    7. Oral tradition
    8. Instruct (explain) with a story; story as example
      1. Tell a story; give an example

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