My first public speaking storytelling experience!

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    I've been sick, which is why I have been quiet the past week, but I am back, not as sick. Silly cold that is trying to kill me! Anyway....

    I was approached last week to join a Story Party taking place in Leeds (where I am based), and I accepted! It's my first time actively trying to tell a story where the audience is there to listen, not participate! It is going to be a different experience than my normal tabletop games where I am either a player trying to accomplish something, or a storyteller trying to make the players suffer. Muahaha.

    Have any of you ever done a stand up storytelling? Do you have any advice, or suggestions? Heck, what type of story would you want to hear?

    I'll be one of 6 - 8 people telling a ten minute story. I'm excited, and nervous. :D

  • Aw :( Glad you're getting better! It seems like fun to move out of your comfort zone and try a different type of storytelling.

    Tbh, I've never heard about stand up storytelling until today (but looking it up I feel like it's something I've known existed, I just didn't know the name?) but I do know how to offer story suggestions.

    I think for the audience, they're ready to listen to anything. Thus, you should pick a story that interests you and you're comfortable in telling. What interests you will probably not be the same as everyone in the room, but if they can see that you're passionate and you care about the topic at hand, then they'll be more inclined to listen. It's sort of like in a class. If the material is boring and/or difficult and the teacher is boring and/or terrible at explaining things, then the students will be less likely to listen and more likely to space out or scroll through Facebook. On the other hand, if the material is boring and/or difficult but the teacher is energetic and able to give simple explanations for difficult concepts, the students will be more likely to pay attention and be taking notes.

    Which rolls back around to what type of story I would want to hear. As an audience member, I have no idea what I'm getting for those 6-8 people (unless there's a theme that you are supposed to be using? but even then...). Maybe Person 1 will tell a love story, P2 will tell a story of healing, P3 will tell a comedy, P4 and P5 will know each other and be in a competition to tell a better horror story... So basically, if you want to tell it, I want to hear it. If I were you, I would tell a story I was familiar with. It might be good to go with something from your past and then you can adapt it to look fictitious, but not everyone has 10-minute-length story-worthy life events, so you could also try an old short story that you enjoy, or base something off of major events that you're familiar with. Also, I would try for something that's not terribly complicated. If you have to stop to explain events or little details and they aren't self-explanatory, you probably want to go with something else, because otherwise you'll lose the audience (which is another reason you should practice in front of people (see below), because they'll be able to tell you what's confusing/what's not, like beta readers). :)

    Do you have any ideas yet for the story you'll be telling?

    If so, I would brainstorm them all and see what you like best/least and which one you feel has the best story behind it. Ultimately, people can prefer one story idea to another, but it's the execution that makes it feel original and exciting, not the idea. (Though brainstorming with friends is probably still a good idea, lol.)

    Because it's public speaking, PRACTICE. If there is one thing I picked up from my public speaking class last semester, it is to PRACTICE. In fact, make your friends sit around taking notes and critiquing you while you tell your story. You'll be stressed out and learn a few important things: Do you talk faster or slower when you're anxious? What unconscious movements do you make? How do you talk? How do you express yourself nonverbally (i.e., facial expressions, movements, gestures)? Etc. Take their notes and use them to think about where to focus when you're practicing. For example, let's say you talk slowly when you're anxious. When you're just practicing, your story will be 10 minutes, easy. When you're in front of an audience, it stretches to 12-15 because you're stressed. (Or, in my case, my final speech was supposed to be a minimum of 4:30 minutes, maximum of 7:30 minutes. Practicing, I couldn't get it below 7:30 minutes. I got up there to give it and forgot all the things I wanted to say and it was 4 minutes 30 seconds exactly.)

    When you are practicing, try to do it in a full-length mirror and out loud. Then you can watch your movements and see if you're doing anything annoying or if you're looking a bit monotone. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll be in telling the story, and the easier it'll be for you to remember where you're going if you have a mind blank.

    Or, if you're a really good public speaker already, then just show up and ad-lib the whole story! The audience will never expect what comes next because you won't even know yourself! XD

    In short: You'll do great! That's so exciting!! ^_^

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @typical_demigod Thank you for all that awesome feedback and comments.

    I think the fact that I'm basically giving a different version of a TedTalk ... 10 minutes to tell my thoughts ... helps. I also helps that we have a very specific theme. Our theme ... "The thing I've never told anyone before..." makes it even more intriguing. The story we tell has to be true. So this is nonfiction! Something I just learned a lot about from Claire Cock-Starkey.

    I've narrowed down my talk and it has a title!! It's "I have my mother's artistic hands and it scares me." I was going to call it "Why I have only one mirror in my house..." but we don't talk about the people who live in our mirrors right? shudder ;)

    The woman who is hosting the event gave me two rather interesting suggestions. The first is to know my opening line and to make it more action based. I'm thinking of something along the lines of "I was ten when I sat on the hospital bed, holding my mother's hand as the doctor's told us she had 24 hours to live due to blood poisoning." Or something like ... "Growing up, I believed my mother was indestructible--now I'm wondering if she's immortal."

    The second piece of advice was to know my final line. This line should give a morale, or a reason why the audience should care. In my case, it's something alone the lines of how we're all exactly who we need to be in this moment- flaws and all. And that's okay.

    What I was thinking of doing was brainstorming a huge list of events-some funny, some sad- and just pull them out based on the audience's reaction. I do get to visually look at the individuals present. :)

  • @Josey Any time!

    Makes me think immediately of the New York Times column Modern Love. These are (as you will see) much shorter and I doubt it would take up 10 minutes to read one of them (at least of the ones that I've sampled), but it captures the idea of what you're doing. Sharing a true, nonfiction moment and making it captivating and unfolding something that you didn't expect. Maybe it ends happy or maybe sad or maybe some sort of combination, but it has a meaning and it's short and to the point.

    I like the idea of knowing the first line and the final line. That's an interesting way to start working on something.

    "I was ten when I sat on the hospital bed, holding my mother's hand as the doctor's told us she had 24 hours to live due to blood poisoning."

    I feel like this one jumps immediately into the action, and I feel like

    "Growing up, I believed my mother was indestructible--now I'm wondering if she's immortal."

    might be good as an ending line, tbh.

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @typical_demigod I could totally agree that the immortality comment could be the last line. Though in this case I'm asked to reiterated as my last line what I hope people learn from it. Them knowing my mom is immortal is not exactly what they were thinking, :) lol Gah! One week and I still have to do outlines and get thoughts down. Can I just say I love that type of stress?

  • @Josey XD Stress can be good for kickstarting the muse, definitely. I can see how that might be an issue. Maybe it's how you start your conclusion? I know this isn't necessarily an essay, but it would be a good way to start winding down your piece.

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    That's actually a really good idea @typical_demigod :D I'll do that. Start at the end they say.

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    So my public storytelling happens tonight! I'll have to give you all an update after I get home. So excited, but also nervous. I've changed my talk structure like a million and a half times. As you do. ;)

  • @Josey Best of luck! I'm sure it'll go great! ^_^

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    Well, talk about interesting!! I did end up going first and as tends to happen, I remember very little of it. Though they did get a rather comical shot of me with both my middle fingers up as I explained my mother's reaction to something. I think I am still in shock that I did it, lol.

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