Telling stories is something we all do – whether it’s that little white lie to avoid going for a second dinner at the in-laws, or an enchanting tale to delight the youngest. So when my friend asked me to do a session on storytelling to her local WI, I wondered how to approach it.
This WI group is different – the average age was younger than me, by quite a few years, and the cakes were mostly shop-bought. Not a jar of jam in sight! (Sorry, trying to bust a stereotype rather than dis cake-making skills here).
I started with using my work as an example. Ask me what I do – and I gave two answers:
I am a data protection specialist and I ask people for money
I help save lives every day, by raising funds to keep the … and then I went into much more detail about the charity I work for. Animatedly! I moved around, I used different voice pitches, I changed tone and volume. All techniques valuable in the oral tradition of storytelling.
Following a discussion of what makes good storytelling (including ‘beginning, middle and end’), I then asked them to pair up and tell a story one to the other in three minutes. When it came to swapping over I gave them 2 minutes 30 seconds. Then I asked them to swap partners and tell their story in one minute (to cries of protest). The point of this was to show that you have to focus on the key messages of a story, and build from there.
They seemed to enjoy the exercise as the room was noisy and excitable – a good sign in my book.
I finished the session by telling a story, and asking for criticism. They did really well, picking up on some of the key points that I had talked about and then omitted from my storytelling. I hope they learned something useful.
From my point of view, I met interesting and intelligent women who I enjoyed entertaining and sharing with, and also improved my own performance thanks to their helpful feedback.
And the cake? It was delicious of course!
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