Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Once Upon a Time

You'd think telling a story would be easy. That it would be a natural part of life. Something happens; you talk about it. A story is born.

Apparently telling a story isn't that simple or that natural. Sean Buvala (professional, national storyteller) emails a newsletter with tips and tricks about how to tell a story and how to tell it well. In the most recent newsletter he explains that teen backtalk isn't really back talk; it means they are listening.

Below are highlights of three points to keep in mind when speaking with the teen/tween audience (check out the full article):

Tell Your Face
When you enter a classroom of teens, do you look like you are going to have a good time? Do you plan on enjoying the next hour or so? Does your face know it? Save the "professional" face for the staid adult events when you have to pretend to impress someone with your history. When "telling" to teens, smile and enjoy yourself. Mingle with them as they arrive in the classroom. Respond to even the most casual comments made to you before the event.

Build Your History
With an adult audience, I could partially rely on my list of accomplishments, travels and years of speaking experience to get their attention. Or at least get them to quietly applaud. With teens, these histories mean nothing. Your PhD, your 100 years of experience are not something their 13 years of life experience can process. You have to earn the right to be heard. Speak with energy and genuine enthusiasm and be transparent about your purpose. Kids base their evaluation of you based on their (or their immediate peers') direct experience of you.

Encourage Response
Especially in the area of storytelling, I want my audience to build the presentation with me. When teens enjoy you and your work, they will respond to what you are saying and doing. Often this begins with a silly comment or random shout-out designed to call attention to themselves. When you respect and use this initial comment and incorporate it into the story or presentation, you will begin to get comments from the audience that are relevant to what you are saying, not just self-referential remarks from your young audience. Think of these shout-outs as logs to toss on the fire you are building. And remember--working with teens can be rewarding.

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