The Art Of Storytelling: Why Should We Learn It?

 

“Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do.”

-Dan Harmon, Author

Storytelling is humanity in words said Jim Blasingame, one of the world’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship. And storytelling has been around since the first human beings roamed the earth. In fact, the earliest cave drawings and carvings are proof of their (and our) storytelling capabilities. These first stories helped archaeologists, anthropologists and scientists learn about the earth’s beginnings and early civilizations.

Why should we learn how to tell a story?

Well, storytelling is a powerful method of communication where the storyteller has an engaging conversation with his/her listeners or audience.

The fact is that we all have stories to tell; we were simply born with this ability. However, there is more to storytelling than just plain, passive reading or narration in reported speech.

Storytelling is an art that uses several creative techniques including voice, expression and actions to successfully get across the story’s emotions in the most impactful way to the story’s audience. As individuals, we can personally use these storytelling techniques to make a point, to persuade, to inspire, to teach, to reflect upon and to facilitate action.

Photo courtesy: lifehacker.com/ Melanie Pinola/ Magenta Rose/

Photo courtesy: lifehacker.com/ Melanie Pinola/ Magenta Rose.

Learning how to tell a story: Many benefits

Storytelling is a great tool for effective, purposeful communication. When used correctly and in the right situations, storytelling has plenty of benefits to offer for everyone – team leaders, teachers, brand managers, corporate trainers, parents, artists, creative designers, writers et al.

For brands and business managers:

Thanks to the explosion of social media, brands today are closer to their target audience like never before. To help their brands stand out from the rest, brand managers need to master business storytelling – promoting brands in a way that engages their audience well, holds their attention and compels them to come back to you for more.

Learning how to tell your brand’s story allows you to master the 3 C’s of business storytelling which is: “Connect with your prospects, Convey your expertise and Create customer memories.”

For teachers:

National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), USA says this about the benefits of storytelling in education – “Story is the best vehicle for passing on factual information. Historical figures and events linger in children’s minds when communicated by way of a narrative. Any topic for that matter can be incorporated into a story form and made memorable if the listener takes the story to heart.”

Using stories to teach text book lessons promotes learning faster and facilitates better understanding of the concepts. Here is a great example of a science teacher using storytelling to innovate teaching-learning in school.

For team leaders, sales managers and corporate trainers:                                           

These are people who constantly need to tell their audience (team members or subordinates) how to perform, how to achieve a target and how to succeed. For someone who is always in need of effective ways to demonstrate, explain inspire and persuade, becoming storytellers is the best method by which leaders; managers, coaches and trainers can nurture trust and inspire the desired actions.

For parents:

Parents are not akin to storytelling. However, parents can make this pleasurable activity a learning resource by using stories to teach their kids about different cultures, explain essential life skills like sharing and empathy, help them discover world of science and nature, introduce them to the lives of important personalities and great men and women; the possibilities are limitless.

For individuals:

You could be someone who wants to enhance your communication skills or an aspiring author or creative designer or anybody interested in stories and storytelling. You all need a common starting point – a story. Therefore, learning the nuances of storytelling you learn how to effectively voice your thoughts, how to communicate clearly and how to reflect your experiences in your work.

Story Matters: Your chance to learn the art of storytelling

Now that you know how storytelling benefits us and understood why you should use storytelling in your work and life, here is a chance to learn the art of storytelling. Story Matters, a two day storytelling workshop for adults is being held on 10-11 May, 2014 at Rangoli Metro Art Centre, MG Road, Bangalore.

This one-of-a-kind workshop will tell you everything about storytelling and teach you how to become a master storyteller.

Story Matters will be curated by experienced, professional storytellers, Deeptha Vivekanand of Ever After Learning, Aparna Athreya and Soumya Srinivasan of Kid and Parent Foundation who share among them over 17+ years of storytelling experience and are known for their highly interactive, experiential and delightful storytelling sessions for kids and adults alike.

For registrations and more details about the workshop, please go to our Facebook page.

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Of Trains And Cockroaches

Final-poster-jan2ndI think this is a great way to restart this blog that’s been lying in cold storage for almost a year. On Saturday, Jan 11th, 2014 I had  a cracker of a storytelling session at the Rangoli Metro Art Center (R-MAC). First up, it’s a big honour to have performed there, right in the heart of Bangalore city and just below the purple metro line. The folks at R-MAC are doing a fabulous job of promoting the Boulevard as the city’s cultural hotspot. Get this: in one day there was a ‘Coffee Santhe’, a photography exhibition, storytelling sessions and poetry reading, all in the same  stretch of Bangalore’s most famous, MG Road. Whether you’re an adult or child, you were spoilt for choice. The ambience was just what a storyteller wanted: people of all ages everywhere, lovely bright sunshine and the smell of fresh coffee.

So, ‘Tale Trail’, a series of storytelling sessions that will be held at Rangoli, every second and fourth Saturday of Jan and Feb will feature unusual and unheard of folk-tales from around the world. It’s a humble attempt to educate and entertain people about the different cultures of the world through fascinating narratives. I have partnered with two other wonderful storytellers and my dear friends, Aparna and Sowmya from Kid and Parent Foundation to run this initiative.

For the first session on Jan 11th, we decided to tell stories about trains and coffee, in keeping with the ‘Coffee Santhe’ theme and given the fact that we were performing at a train station. The show started with us playing the popular Karadi Tales song, ‘Train.‘ Once the audience was familiar with the beat, we had them sing another song—dedicated  to Bangalore Metro—with the same tune but with altered lyrics that went something like this: “Metro Metro, Namma Metro; Stand behind the line yellow, the train is here and in we go…”  Just a small but spirited way of showing our gratitude to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation for encouraging art and performers like us.

The first two stories were about trains and  journeys. Aparna and Sowmya do a fantastic job of tandem telling. This time they presented Calabash Cat, a West-African folktale that talks about a cat’s journey to find out where the world ends. Out came the puppets as A & S, invited kids onto the stage to help them tell the story. There was laughter and happiness all around as every child wanted to be up on stage. At one point, all the kids–and that’s about 20–formed a huge train and circled the stage in their quest to find where the world ends! Right after this, Aparna presented a quick segment on the first steam engine and some factoids on George Stephenson, the father of the first steam locomotive. Sowmya then narrated the legend of John Henry, a worker on the railroads. In a poignant story that captured his struggles as a steel-driver in the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in the 1870s; he had to eventually give up his job to a steam powered machine that was capable of laying tracks faster than a human. It was a tale of his prowess with the hammer and his almost super-human strength that kept him going till the very end. Sowmya, known for her inclusion of music in all her tellings, played a clinking tune with a pair of spanners and a hammer, while singing a soft ballad about his life. A brilliant rendition that humanized the railways for the audience.

The final act was mine. I chose to tell the story of Martina, The Beautiful Cockroach, a Cuban folk-tale. I was scouring the internet for coffee-based stories when I found this. What a gem, this one turned out to be. I had to learn the Spanish accent to add authenticity to the story, so I had to listen to some Spanish speakers of English to understand the phonetics behind it. Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek helped! As I was reading the story, I realized I was opening tabs to look up information on coffee, Spanish, Cuba and cockroaches. Did you know Cuban cockroaches (Panchlora nivea) are green? And did you know Kaldi, a goatherd from Ethiopia accidentally threw coffee beans in the fire only to realize that it gave out the most beautiful aroma, which in turn led him to make the first cuppa. And that to me, is the power of story. These are not topics I would look up on a normal day. I mean, I do love my coffee but to scout around for in-depth information on these matters is another issue altogether. One simple story has such far-reaching applications. You can get involved at any level you want. On the face of it, it might seem like a simple, funny, children’s story but can give rise to deep, enriching discussions about related topics. So powerful is the trigger. The reason I ended up reading about all these associated topics is because I was emotionally involved in the story. It made a connection with me. And real learning takes place only when a meaningful relationship has been established. It works the same way for everyone: children to adults. To be able to appreciate something, it must talk to you. Only a story can do that! The quantum of research we have all done to put together this one-hour show has been tremendous. In the bargain we have learnt so much more about this world, about the story behind things we take for granted, about the magnificence in the mundane.

I assure you, once you’ve read about Martina, the roach, you’ll never look at those critters in your kitchen the same way again! This morning when I saw one in mine, I simply swept her out without hurting, while the words “Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha” rang in my head.

From trains to coffee, from cockroaches to Cuba, this Tale Trail journey has begun on an excellent note and has set the tone for the New Year. The next session is on 25th Jan at the Rangasthala auditorium, Rangoli Boulevard, MG Road, 5 to 6pm. Do come over for an evening of stories about freedom and liberty. You never know what you’ll take back home!

-Deeptha