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Storytelling Ignites Experience

Storytelling is a powerful tool. It is not just entertainment, but an instrument of great value. It is the oldest form of communication. It has no geographic boundaries. It is a way we understand and a natural way to motivate learning.

Story can be the basis of good interpretation. While people rarely remember facts, they often remember story! Story lets visitors experience other times, places, people, and events, and is an effective and fun method for communicating facts and relating information.

To begin your storytelling training, tap into the inner passion you feel — a passion that should be shared and experienced by the visitors you contact. Do not be afraid to share fervor, for it is contagious in the best sense of the word. Remember, interpretation without passion is only half a presentation.

Listening to a story is not just an audio experience, but an imaginative one as well. Storytellers count on an audience’s involvement and reaction to make telling successful. Watch a group of people, whatever their age, listen to an exciting ghost story and you will see fear and anticipation. Likewise, laughter, tears, and nodding of heads reveal participation as well as listening.

Storytelling is sometimes defined as “helping listeners make pictures in their minds,” which is another way of saying “visualizing.” Visualization in interpretive programs helps visitors make images in their minds. And, as any effective storyteller knows, without visualization, the story does not come to life.

A key to successful storytelling is being creative and using your creativity to help an audience change their perspective. Remember that questions beginning with the word “what” usually evoke factual answers, but questions beginning with the word “why” evoke more subjective and passionate answers. Effective storytellers always think about their story in the “why” manner and allow their creativity to take a path of no limits.

Many people believe they are not creative, when in reality we are aU born with this gift. Unfortunately, as we grow up, many forces (society and school among them) tend to squelch our creativity. No wonder that, as adults, we find it difficult to spew forth creative ideas on a moment’s notice. Learn how to recapture your creativity, find that time of day when your thoughts seem to flow and write down your ideas. Yes, do write your thoughts down! Like remembering dreams, we tend to forget fleeting thoughts, but by writing down an impression, an idea, or a notion you will fix and validate your own creative thinking.

Think about your presentation in different ways. Shift the context and discover new methods or ideas for sharing. Just as there is often more than one right answer to a question, there’s also more than one way to tell something. A good example is found in the storytelling world using the very popular tale Cinderella. There are over one hundred thirty versions of this story, each with value, but each created in its own unique fashion.

When you tell stories, remember that people learn in different ways and at different speeds. Plan your program accordingly with thought given to the visual, auditory, and kinetic learners. Watch other storytellers during their performances and you will witness lots of gesturing, body language, eye contact, voice differentiation, movement, etc. This engages all three types of learners. Too often, we witness presentations directed to the auditory learner, but that won’t keep the interest long for those who use other methods of learning.

It is interesting to acknowledge that the words we speak are only seven percent of the message. The tone of voice accounts for thirty-eight percent and the remaining whopping fifty-five percent is nonverbal. (This is based on a Kodak study.) Work on your body language, inflection, and expressiveness.

Let your sense of “play” further open your creativity. Play is the basis of learning and motivation. Each time a new story begging to be told comes into a storyteller’s life, he or she wUl play with that story many, many times before feeling that it can be successfully shared with others. Change is a constant to good programming, and play encourages change.

Bev Twillmann is a storyteller/story-educator/keynote speaker who works all over the country giving workshops, performances, and training sessions. Ms. Twillmann contributed an article previously to The Docent Educator entitled “Storytelling, A Hands-on-the-Mind Teaching Technique, ” which appeared in the Winter 1998-99 issue (Vol. 8, No.2). Ms. Twillmann can be contacted at 9508 George Williams Road, Knoxville, TN 37922, or by e-mail at:

Twillmann, Bev. “Storytelling Ignites Experience,” The Docent Educator9.4 (Summer 2000): 9.


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