Your aim as a storyteller is to connect with your audience. To hook into their minds and emotions — to communicate. You are telling a story with words, but you are dealing with magic here – triggering and directing the audience’s imagination. You are responsible for their experience.

The way in which stories are passed on is very important. They should not be rushed, but should be simply and carefully told, so the audience can visualise all the action. You and your audience are creating a vision together.

Look into their eyes, watch them closely, read their reactions, respond to their expectations. Your audience’s body language will give you all the clues. Watch for these clues and pace the story to suit them.

Change anything that requires alteration to meet their needs.

Vocal variety is very important, as is intonation. For an audience which has good vision, gestures or visual aids can add substance and interest to a story but, care must be taken to include those people whose vision or hearing may be somewhat challenged.

Once Helen attended a storytelling presentation at which she sat next to a sight-impaired person. Although he couldn’t see any of the action he was enthralled by the teller’s delivery of the story. He missed none of the action and he noticed many little things in the oral part of the presentation that Helen had failed to perceive.

Pauses work for you:
Don’t be afraid of silence. Fear of a long pause ― of standing, saying nothing in front of an audience ― is the mark of an inexperienced performer. Pace your story to keep your audience with you. Pause ― and give people time to absorb your tale and participate in recreating your vision.

Rest them, after a long period of drama and excitement. Play with them ― storytelling should be an enjoyable experience for both audience and teller. When the audience sees you are enjoying yourself, they will relax and join in.

Helen McKay