Storytellers and Spoken Word artists are not simply public speakers!
Storytellers and Spoken Word artists are as much performing artists as any musician, actor or dancer. The challenge of the craft is to tell a story in an EMBODIED WAY, meaning the tellers’ physical presentation and delivery must support, compliment and enhance the words being spoken. Pacing, movement, vocal expression, hand gestures and facial expressions all come into play for a story to have maximum impact. While storytelling emphasizes the narrative, spoken word artists count on rhythm and more figurative themes. In both cases, the performance depends on the interaction between the actual story and the delivery, especially if you are performing in a competitive “slam” or “Telebration”. And yes, competitive storytelling is alive and well and builds on the oral tradition that our ancestors have relied on to make meaning of their lives. Today, it is a popular and seriously competitive activity that challenges performers to do their very best.
If you look at some of the better TED talks available on the web, you will notice that they are all telling a story in an engaging, interesting and appealing way. No matter how esoteric the topic, the most effective talks offer the listener a narrative line that keeps them engaged and curious about what comes next. Storytellers and spoken word artists must be able to repeatedly shift from telling the story to acting the story out from the point of view of one or more of the characters. This is the interface between telling and acting and part of the performance challenge.
As with any performance challenge, doing it well can trigger performance anxiety. After all, presenting in front of an audience can trigger all of the typical threats: Will they like me? Will they like and “get” my story? Will they applaud at the end or will they negatively compare my story to the one before?
Reducing performance anxiety is essential before storytellers can employ peak performance techniques that will take their performance to the next level. Like any skill, managing your anxiety can be learned. Don’t let anxiety hold back your creative potential!