Sunday, October 24, 2010

What is Storytelling: Thinking About What I Do

A friend of mine recently posted a small Facebook update about his work in pursuing his PhD. He is at the stage now where it is no longer just a dream but is actually close enough to be seen just over the metaphorical horizon. In his post, he posted the a long description of his PhD work and then tongue-in-cheek asked "And what are *you* doing?"

"What am I doing?"
That is not a hard question for me as a professional Storyteller. As well, to give credit, Limor's Storytelling Agora posting really pushed this post to the front for me.

What I am doing is
teaching all these folks with a "D" in their titles how to speak about their complex ideas so that the rest of the world can understand them. My clients come with all kinds of doctorates: JD, MD, PhD, PharmD, DMin and so forth.

I do not just train
the "D's" in storytelling technqiques. Some of my clients have "M's" and "B's" in their titles. Many have no titles at all. Some are still in elementary, high school or college.

What do I do as a storyteller?
Only a small percentage of my time as a working teller is actually involved in telling stories. Mostly, lately, I am training my clients how to speak their truths and content in a way that their audience can grasp and understand. As these others get the basics, the stories get deeper and more complex. Not everyone is a "D" nor should they be.

Complex ideas need to be expressed
in Story. Business to classroom to stage to home, I teach people to do just that.

This "how" is done through Story.
While I prefer storytelling, there are many ways to express Story. The new buzzword is "transmedia storytelling" As a storyteller and an artist first, I am open to the many ways to express Story, but only storytelling is storytelling. If you cannot see your audience and interact with them, allowing them to be cocreators in that singular moment of the Story, then you are not storytelling. You might be doing another equally important and useful art form. However, you will not be storytelling.

Let me clarify what I mean.
All dance is dance. But Tap dance is not Ballet. All Story is Story. Reading a book aloud is not Storytelling. These expressions of art are equal, different and needed.

Some of my expression of Story has been in writing.
My "DaddyTeller" book and workshops are a way to reach dads (moms, too) to urge them to fully engage with their children with by using storytelling. My "Storytelling 101" workbook is a bedrock "how to" of Storytelling essentials. My free Ecourse teaches folks some more tips for storytelling one piece at a time. I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts. I have two more books in different stages of development. I am the director of where we were talking about storytelling online even before Google existed.

Back in 2008, I did a project
where I posted a near-daily update and picture of my work as a storyteller. It's at . That is a singular snapshot of one year. Every year is different. Every year has new clients. Every year is another unfolding of Story and storytelling for me.

I have been doing this since 1986.
I have paid my dues enough to be able to put forth theories, understandings and definitions. I am also enough of an artist to know that life is rather fluid and tomorrow is another chance to see what I have not seen before. You can agree or disagree with the ideas I have. It is okay

This post is not ego.
It is clarification for some future posts and projects. Storytelling has burned in my bones for 25 years and it has lit more than its share of fires.

I wonder
if this is an "Artist Statement?"

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Storytelling Tips: 9 Things to Know For Better Storytelling Anytime

Knowing a few good storytelling tips can make your presentations better. If you want an effective ways to share a story, you will find that storytelling is one of the best ways to make an impact with story. I've listed nine basic storytelling tips below for you to think about whenever you want to create a storytelling experience.

1. Select a story you like.

Choose a story you like wherever you are telling: for kids at the library, for a sacred setting or to leaders of business or nonprofit groups. There are so many stories in the world. Take advantage of that variety. Use the ones you like.

2. Work to understand your story.

You need to know how to tell a story. You need to hear or read the story multiple times. Think about your story as parts and not a whole when you are learning. A video camera and a friend who can be gentle yet honest with you will help as you practice.

3. Take out the parts of the story that slow down the action.

Beginning storytellers will hear or read a story and then try to retell every nuance of the story. With each audience, you will remove the parts of the story that do not fit for that audience. Think, "Is this piece required this time? Is it critical?"

4. Speak clearly.

You have chosen a good story and prepared well. You will be confident. Speak with clarity and confidence. Remember you basic speaking skills of enunciation and projection.

5. Use good pacing.

When you are confident, you will not be in a hurry. You want to speak slow enough so that the story is easily absorbed by the audience but do not speak so slowly that their minds check out of the room.

6. A microphone is required.

Use the microphone. Respect the group enough to let them hear you speak. That is why they came to your talk. If you have much experiences as a public-speaker, you probably need a mic when you have more than twenty-five listeners. Beginners, use the mic unless you are speaking to a few folks at a luncheon round-table event.

7. Keep good eye contact.

Look into the eyes of the audience. Some members of your audience will think you are speaking just for them when they know you look at them as a person, not part of the crowd.

8. Use natural gestures.

"You looked so confident up there. I never know what to do with my hands." When people say this to me, I am thankful that I took the time to prepare which gestures I would use and when I would use them. Make gestures that come naturally to you, but plan and prepare them ahead of time.

9. You can skip the here-is-what-to-learn conclusion.

Stories teach. Storytelling is a most effective way to teach with story. Your story gets diluted when you attempt to tell people how to feel and think about that story. If you can't resist telling the moral, at least let the audience speak first. Their answers might teach you.

I've shared 9 storytelling tips to help you create a story with good storytelling. Newbie or veteran speaker- take these nine easy steps into your next speech prep.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Future of Storytelling is In Its Past (Part One)

I have been intrigued by some online conversations lately about the past and future of corporate storytelling. I will be writing a few more posts about this subject. Here's my first post.

The future of storytelling for business and nonprofit work is in its past. The foundation of storytelling has not changed. The need for storytelling has not changed. There is a reason that "how to tell a story" is a major Google search term.

Let's define some terms. "Story" exists in many forms. Beginning, middle and end all create a narrative "thing" that can be expressed through a variety of mediums such as dance, written word, digital audio and video and then, yes, storytelling.

"Storytelling" is another term we keep tossing about these days. To tell a story you need at least two people together at the same time: the teller and a listener. Without the storyteller in the room with the audience, you do not have storytelling. You have another expression of story. Without an audience in the same place as the storyteller, you may also have another expression of story, but it's not storytelling.

How you express story is your choice. As a storyteller, I have also used story in video, podcasts, on the page and in audio recordings. Those are not storytelling. Only when I can be with my audience, when I can see and hear them breathing, laughing and responding am I storytelling. Storytelling techniques are not digital techniques.

So, the past of storytelling was/is in the hearts and souls of millions of listeners. These millions of listeners heard the story proclaimed, saw the storyteller as real and human and participated in the creation of the storytelling event.

In that past, storytelling took one more leap into the next breath of the future. 2000 years ago, 200 years ago, 20 minutes ago, story moved forward in storytelling.

So now, we're abuzz with the buzz of "storytelling" for business and nonprofit use. After 25 years of doing this, I have seen the groundswell rise until we have a cacophony of experts, guides, coaches, conferences and strategists all ready to speak about story. Business owners are desperate to know what is the newest and latest technique to bring storytelling to their clients.

Look to the past. Storytelling is a relationship and conversation. It is an agreement between at least two parties to delve deep into the way "what if" became "what was" leading to "what will be." To business and nonprofit leaders, I ask you: what is your face-to-face relationship with your clients and customers? Are you still "we" to their "them?" Can any of your customers put a name to the storyteller they've met in your company?

Are you filling the conversation with noise? Is there a chance for your clients to meet a real person or are they forced to run only through your gauntlet of the social media cocktail-party and look-at-me loud videos?Are they lost in your forest of customer service? Where in your plan is the person-to-person live interaction? The future of storytelling is its past: converse with your customers. Tell and be heard. Hear and be informed.

In the past, storytelling taught the values of the community. Storytelling gathered the tribe to hear and feel the history of the group. Storytelling laid the groundwork for new innovation not because of the sophistication of the story but rather the listeners' ability (need?) to touch and interact with the mind of another live, in-the-moment storyteller. A story is an expression of "this was." Storytelling opens the door to "this could be."

If you want to move forward with storytelling for your business, you need to embrace this basic human need: "I need to talk with someone." The future of storytelling for your organization lies in its past: human interaction trumps noise. Stop being noisy and move to interaction.

I think we need to keep at the many ways to express story as I listed up at the top of this article. But don't call them storytelling. Rather, teach every member of your company the stories of your group. Teach them how to bring forth the stories of your collective past and to catch the stories as they continue to happen. Teach them to speak those stories to each other and clients.

The future of business storytelling is in its past and foundation:
people to people,
voice to voice,
face to face.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Photo courtesy of .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How To Tell A Story: Quick-Learn Storytelling Techniques!

So, we were digging around a vault of old films from the 1910's and look what we found. Who knew "how to tell a story" was so important in the Chaplin days?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Working Artist Coach: I Pack Parachutes

Do you need your parachute packed? Or, are you taking a leap and hoping you magically discover a net below?

Just reflecting today on how one sentence from a good coach coach can change your life. That's happened to me on several occasions. One huge statement came from a coach that never charged me a dime and several other life-changing moments from coaches to whom I paid more money than what most storytellers make in a year.

The power of a good coach is phenomenal. As artists, we've got to get our navel-gazing, narcissistic selves out of the way so that we can learn how to truly impact our world with our art form. Any coach that wants you to think more about yourself than your clients is not helping you. Get a coach who will nudge you off the cliff.

"Leap and the net appears." Just BS and it's wrong. Leap with a parachute instead. Find a good coach to help you pack your chute if you have never done it before.

I am very grateful today to those that have coached me and continue to do so both formally and informally.

If you need some help with that leap, contact me. I will be glad to push you over the edge.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Short DaddyTeller Video 114.

Here's the latest video talking about my DaddyTeller book. 1:14 seconds. The 30 second spot is on it's way.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

DaddyTeller™ #11: Storytelling Is Long-Term Protection for Your Child.

So, if you run out of gas in your car, you have a small problem. If you run out of oil, you have a large catastrophe. Stortelling with children is like putting oil in the car- long term and required. My latest free video from

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

"How to Tell Stories with Your Kid" Radio Interview

Here is part one of four of my interview about the DaddyTeller Book with Dr. Stan Frager. Fun interview, great host and guests.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Telling Stories for Children: Grandparents- How to Tell a Story

http://www.tellingstoriesforchildren has a new video teaching grandparents how to tell a story. Simple and fun.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Voice Announcer Dumps His Brain Out

From http://www.voiceannouncer net here is a video of my voice losing my mind in the Arizona heat. I just was working a warm up for a voice over and the microphone was on. The result is a silly video that we added some pictures too, but I do think the very last frame at the end of the film is "awesome!" That may be my new catch phrase. Please enjoy and don't look for deep meanings here in this video.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Corporate Storytelling for Manipulation

In an interesting blog post with a "digital storytelling" video from way across the pond, storytelling coach Raf Stevens asks the question:

Is storytelling in a business context today not mostly used as a manipulative corporate communication tool?

I answered:

I must have missed the storytelling in the video. I see electronics, I see pictures, I see a giant toy, I see distraction. No storytelling. Frankly, not even digital storytelling.

I am with you that storytelling needs to be reclaimed. And...I have been banging that drum for a long time. Storytelling requires me and you. Not "me away from you" via digital anything.

Face-to-face is an essential component of storytelling. If I can't see you, one-to-one or even one-to-an-audience, I am not storytelling. I may be acting. I may be selling. I may be performing. But I am not storytelling until I can hear my audience breathe and take in their energy and contributions. That is storytelling.

When we forget that the audience breathes with us and co-creates the story, then our branding is sales or at worst, manipulation.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Best Book Reviews: DaddyTeller

Best Book Reviews: Daddyteller: "DaddyTeller is a wonderful resource to help Dads learn how to tell stories to their children. With the limited amount of time that Dads spen..."

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Transcript: What about Fathers and Storytelling Techniques?

(Sean Buvala, author of the DaddyTeller book, talks about bedtime kids stories, storytelling techniques, parenting and fatherhood in an interview on Iowa radio station KBIZ. This is an edited transcript of the interview.)

Voiceover: The mid-morning magazine with Mike continues with page two on 1240 KBIZ.

Mike: Welcome back to mid-morning magazine on this Thursday morning. Well, according to a 2009 national PTA poll, get this my friends, nearly half of all dads fall short of their parental responsibilities. Dads claiming jobs and outside the home responsibilities are seriously limiting their family time. The results can be very serious indeed. Now national storyteller K. Sean Buvala says that one simple solution is to engage your children through bedtime storytelling. Storytelling in all its forms is important for building reading and math skills according to Buvala. He says it’s also an easy way to spend quality time with your children. Now Sean, a father of four has been a full-time national storyteller and business coach for over two decades, nationally traveled workshops and keynote presenter for 23 years, 17 years experience as a youth and family coordinator for a variety of non-profit organizations, founder and director of, a leading online resource for both tellers and listeners of stories, and has received numerous rewards from the National Storytelling Network. He joins us this morning. With that, I say a very pleasant "good morning," Sean.

Sean: Good morning, Mike, what a great privilege it is to be on programs like yours, thanks for having me.

Mike: It’s nice to have you on. Sean, why is something so simple as telling a bedtime story so important to our kids today?

Sean: You know, Mike one of the things that happens in this world is we as parents, and as grandparents, and aunts, and uncles, we get so busy trying to survive that we miss out on the most basic things that affect our children. One of those things is looking our children in the eye, bonding with them, and passing on our values, That’s the power of telling stories to our children: to pass on our values, to bond with them, to be a hero in their eyes. We talk about fixes to education; but if more parents, more dads, would sit down and spend 20 minutes a day telling stories, not just reading, but telling stories to their kids they’d see a huge improvement in everything about (their child's) education.

Mike: You know, I can remember when my two boys were real little, that’s one of the things we did during the evening time was both my wife and I, we would read stories to the kids and we would read until the point they finally fell asleep. I don’t know if it was because we were boring readers or what, but today, boy, I tell you Sean, it’s a completely different story today. Everybody is too busy doing too many things.

Sean: You know, that’s true. Some of those same studies talk about the fact that we as dads maybe spend, maybe on average, spend thirty minutes a day – and the purpose of my book and my work is not about "let’s bang on dads and say how bad they are." It’s not that at all. It’s to say there’s a way for you to change what you’re doing in 20 minutes a day; not just reading books but even putting those books down and engaging your children completely in the telling of stories. Yeah, it is part of helping them go to sleep at night, you’re completely correct about that. But, it’s more than that. It’s giving them reading skills, math skills, relationship skills as well.

Mike: Sean, I have to tell you, the cover on your book Daddy Teller; I’ve seen a lot of book covers but I think this one’s probably the neatest and the cutest one I’ve ever seen. It’s a picture of a dad, obviously, and his son, little son and they’re just kind of got their foreheads together and to me that’s a pretty touching picture there and a nice cover for your book.

Sean: Thank you very much, I really appreciate that. We worked really hard and went through tons and tons of pictures and said, "which one of these really captured what we were talking about?" It would have been easy to have a bedtime picture on there, but (the book) goes beyond that. Storytelling is not just for bedtime. That photograph is from an Australian photographer and I think she did a great job on it.

Mike: You make a point, Sean, about the difference between reading books and telling stories. Expand on that just a little bit.

Sean: Oh sure. You know there are two different skills that we’re talking about here. There is, of course, a lot of value and importance in reading books to our children and in sharing stories that way. That brings in a very particular set of skills for children to learn; reading skills, following along, all of that. As well as doing that, I help people learn to tell stories. Put that book down, and create stories that can be used to teach children certain values. Sometimes as dads, because of our business in our life, we just kind of pick up the first thing that’s there. What we did in the Daddy Teller book was create eight stories, there’s actually nine when people join the group, but we give them eight stories that tell them exactly what to do, what to say, where to put your hands, all of that. You’ve seen the book, Mike, so you know, it’s all laid out there. There’s a lot of detail in there. I also encourage our children to tell stories back to us. Telling stories back and all of that, those are pre-reading and even, believe it or not, pre-math skills. And so not only when I tell my kids a story am I just having story time, but I’m really helping their future as well.

Mike: In your book, DaddyTeller, you focus very much on helping dads learn storytelling skills. Is there any particular reason why your chose the fathers over maybe the mothers?

Sean: It’s really interesting. I think, as it should be in our world, there is a great deal of support for mothers and mothering. I think sometimes, though we say to dads, "Well how come you’re not doing better?" But, we don’t provide dads the resources for that. The other side of that is very practical. I spend most of my work as a storyteller working in corporate situations, you know people fly me into Iowa and I do these corporate workshops and corporate communication. When I get done with one of those workshops, the men will come up to me, women as well but we’re talking about men, men will come up to me and they don’t talk to me about what I was hired to do this workshop. What they say to me is, "boy I bet your kids are really lucky to have a storytelling dad." And I say "Well, yeah they’ve learned to say 'only tell me the funny parts.'" Then, the men at the conference, they say to me "I wish I could tell stories like that." You know, Mike, they’re not saying to me I wish I could be a storyteller, what these dads are saying, when you get into conversations is, I wish I could communicate with my kids. Isn’t that what all of us want as dads: To really be in real communication with our kids?

Mike: Oh you bet. Now Sean, I’ve got to get myself on even keel here because I know the ladies are probably – if I don’t mention the mothers after the show they’re going to be calling saying, "Hey Mike,you didn’t say a thing about moms here." So, can your book also be used by moms too?

Sean: Absolutely, it’s written very much from a guy perspective. You have a copy in your hands there, so you know that it’s designed as a very unintimidating book. I mean I really designed it for the men in my life; my brothers. (There are) men in my life that hate to read, and so the book is very much written from a guy perspective. I had a woman, another professional storyteller with four sons, say "They’re actually going to be able to read this book." Do mothers use the book? Absolutely and anytime I do a workshop, of course, we’re not eliminating any genders and telling them they can’t be part of this process. The book certainly can be used by anyone who has any connection with children.

Mike: How does a dad get started in telling stories to his child, Sean?

Sean: The first decision is to decide to do it. By far, the thing that I hear the most from men when we talk about the book in the workshop, they say "what if I do it wrong?" To be really honest about it, you can’t do it wrong. When you are looking your children in the eye and talking to them and giving them the attention they deserve for that ten minutes, or that twenty minutes, you will not fail. So that’s the first thing. The other one is to simply dive in and get started. If people go to the ( website, there’s a free story they can download- they could be telling stories tonight. But just get started. We do a number of little free training videos on the site. So what do I do first? The answer is open your mouth and start telling stories. Don’t, don’t be afraid and don’t worry about failure. It’s not going to happen, not going to happen.

Mike: Well, Sean, I think if more people read your book like I have and also see it, I think our world would change a heck of a lot; there’s no doubt about it. Quickly, how can listeners get a copy of your book?

Sean: The main site is, and of course the easiest, fastest way as we do in the world now is So go to and search for Daddy Teller. There’s a couple of different ways to purchase the book. You can also get it as an e-book, as a download from the Daddy Teller site as well. I just hope that people go to the Daddy Teller site because there’s so much free stuff there and resources as well. So, Daddy Teller or

Mike: Sean, thanks for joining us this morning and thanks for a job well done.

Sean: Thank you and I again really appreciate being on your show. Thanks for your time, Mike.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Five Essentials of Storytelling

The essentials of storytelling remain the same regardless of where you are using storytelling.

I often get requests via Email or telephone that are similar to something like this:

"I work in the (fill-in-the-blank) industry. Can you teach storytelling to my staff in my (fill-in-the-blank) industry?"

The answer is always yes. The essentials of "how to tell a story" do not change regardless of the industry in which you want to use storytelling. You name it: health care, education, politics, nonprofit, business, marketing, entertainment, sacred- the essentials of storytelling remain the same. I've taught storytelling in those niches and even in some more unusual niches, such as the mining industry. That's right, some people who dig deep into the earth learned storytelling for their work from me.

In any setting, these 5 essentials of story always apply:

1. You must be audience focused.
Before you speak to any group, you need to know what they need from you. Simply repeating the same stories over and over again for different audiences is self-indulgent. Although I may use some of the same stories from group to group, how I tell the story and which parts of the story I tell changes with each audience. There is no such thing as canned storytelling.

2. All storytelling must use the components of beginning, middle and end.
A story must start somewhere. The story then has tension or issue in the middle. At the end of the story, there is some type of finality or resolution. An anecdote may have just one or two of those parts. A mix of storytelling and anecdote may be what your audience needs to hear. Remember, an anecdote is a moment in time. A story is a complete experience.

3. All stories must be broken into episodes.
In any industry, your stories should not be viewed as a one-perspective masterpiece but rather as an image that changes based on where the audience sheds their light. Break your story into episodes, determine which episodes are the "core story" and then add or subtract the other episodes as needed. Life looks different at dawn than it does at noon- both in reality and in metaphor.

4. You need to use good public-speaking mechanics.
Whenever you speak, you need to be heard. You need to know what to do with your hands and gestures. You need to enunciate. A good storytelling coach can help you master your storytelling techniques and your presence.

5. You need to blend personal and world-tales together.
In many industries, an audience grows weary of too many self-referential tales. They also might doubt your professional experience if all your stories are "once upon a time" folktales. Work to make your presentations a blend of stories form multiple sources.

Storytelling helps you to achieve your goals in all industries, markets and businesses. Use storytelling to advance the work of the industry of which you are a part. As a storytelling coach, I have helped many people go past story theory to the fun and effectiveness of successfully telling stories. Let me know if I can assist you.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. ©2010 Sean Buvala

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marketing Worskhop: Video Endorsement

Our next marketing workshop is on May 15, 2010 in Vista (San Diego), California. Registration deadline is May 1. See the website at thanks to Mark Goldman for this video.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Tweens & Teens: Listen or Tolerate?

Just the other day, I had a captive audience. But, this audience kept talking back to me as I was telling stories. They had something to say about nearly everything as I spoke. They laughed, too, even at the parts I didn't make "funny."

Was this a rude audience? No! It was a school room filled with junior-high teens (13/14 year olds) and doing exactly what they should do when they listen to stories. I will share with you one of the most important things that I have learned: a quiet classroom of teenagers usually means they are not listening to you. Instead, they are just tolerating you and your presentation.

I have been telling stories to teens and tweens for more than two decades, even before the word "tween" existed. I will just be using the term "teens" for the rest of this article, but know that I am taking about kids between the ages of 11 and 18 specifically. Here are three quick tips for you whenever you are speaking to this age group:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

When the teens have enjoyed your presentation, they will tell their friends. You would be amazed how fast word can travel in a school. In the few minutes between classes this week, the first group had told the second group how much fun my presentation was. That type of word-of-mouth is invaluable with teens.

At the end of the sessions, a group of girls was standing in a huddle and giggling, scribbling something on a notebook. Finally, the artist approached me and handed me the "portrait" she had done of me (attached to this article over on the left) and said, "Thanks for coming to our school today. We really had a lot of fun."

Working with teens can be rewarding and is a good opportunity to make a difference in the world. Besides, pencil drawing can be among your highest compliments.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Review: A Storytelling House Concert

Storytelling events come in all shapes and sizes. This was a bit more home party.

We had a great time Saturday night at a storytelling house-concert held at the home of Dwight and Sandy Oglesby in Paradise Valley, Arizona, a northern suburb of Phoenix. (In the picture- Sandy is on the right standing next to Liz Warren.)

Sandy had announced the house-concert some months ago, giving people plenty of time to get the event on their calendars. She ended up with about 20 folks (adults, no kids) with many of our familiar friends and a few new additions (in the audience and "on stage") to the storytelling community of Arizona.

Sandy put out a nice spread of cheese, fruit, dips, breads, crackers and other snacks served along with a selection of wines, juices, teas and coffee. The crowd was casual and talked freely with each other as they snacked on good food. She had a basket at the door for attendees to contribute a few dollars to offset costs.

Leading off the night's storytelling was Harriet Cole. Harriet told her good blend of "parrot folktales" that move along well with her accounts of a life-long dedication to birds of all sorts and sizes that she and her husband keep in their home. Think of the idea of "1001 Arabian Nights" from the parrot's perspective- but it's much more complex than that. I was one of the first folks around here to do this weaving of personal and folktales- so I am always glad to hear someone else do this method. Harriet had previously told these "for adults" parrot tales at one of our StoryRise events and I enjoyed hearing how the crafting of the tales has progressed.

Harriet was followed by Annie Gustafson who is new to the storytelling scene in Arizona. Annie told a tale about the origins of how she and her brother were named. Since coming to Arizona, Annie has dived right into telling and exploring storytelling. She's also working hard to create a spoken word/storytelling show on our local RadioPHX community radio station. We are very fortunate to have Annie working among us.

We took a short break for refilling of plates and emptying of bladders. After all, some wine was involved, and as the Merovingian from "The Matrix" films can attest, there is a cause and effect. How's that for being direct with an obscure reference?

We were back to the stories with Liz Warren. Liz began with a very funny tale of trying to decipher the writing of a friend's note on her (recent) birthday card. Then, she told her tale of a family party and the powerful effects of good food, stories and family love that she calls "Eating Memories."

I've noticed a change in storytelling from Liz in the last year. She's always been a good teller, but there seems to be a brand-new comfort level in her telling. Although I am familiar with her story, tonight I found myself thinking, "I am hearing this for the first time." I experience a lot of stories and storytellers from my perch at, so I don't easily get "lost" (in a good way) in the work of other tellers. With both this telling and her recent appearance at StoryRise- I think Liz has stepped up to a whole new level of both grace and professionalism. She is also the director of the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.

After Liz came Sule Greg Wilson. I have been hearing great things about this musician and performer so it was good to finally experience his work. He journeyed us through a set of tales of movies and film, leading up to a story about the homeless that had a surprise twist. When a teller can surprise you with an ending that you just did not predict, then you know they have a gift. Sule is not new to performing and I am looking forward to hearing more from him as he continues to explore storytelling with our community.

To my surprise, Sandy asked me to tell. I had planned to be just a part of the audience tonight, but she called me forward. "Hmm, what to tell?" Annie's early story about her name led me to think about my children's' names. One of my daughters has "Rose" in her name- which we jokingly tell her comes from the Disney movie of "Sleeping Beauty." So I dusted off my take on "Briar Rose" from my "Seven Ravens" CD, discovering a new opening sequence about the "queen's tears" emerging as I told it. I realized that I still wanted to fix the ending. I realized this as I was ending the story- so I hope that was not too distracting. For a surprise telling, I think I was coherent at least.

Our super-host Sandy then recounted a story from Maya Angelou's new book, Letter to My Daughter before we took an intermission with a reset of the food table into the dessert table. Following that little sugar feast, Sandy concluded the night with a risqué tale of what happens when you let the wife do all the work and not have any of the fun. I'll just leave it at that. Sandy's' fun and conversational style reminded us all why she's been a "featured teller" at the Mesa Storytelling Festival.

We had a great night with a variety of adults stories from folktales to personal tales. Thanks to Sandy and Dwight for opening up their home for this experience. I'm looking forward to the next one. Maybe you should try on in your area?

This is the official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

New DaddyTeller Intro Video: Let Me Be Your Coach

We updated the new intro video over at the main site. Here's the latest incarnation as we work harder to help dads learn how to telll a story to children. Learn more family storytelling techniques in all the free videos at

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Storytelling Is the ON Switch for Your Next Audience.

Is storytelling a "switch" you can flip to make things happen in your corporate or personal life? I was recently on a panel-discussion show where one of the other experts said that he believes that storytelling is not a lever that can make things happen. Is he right?

Yes, storytelling can be used to inspire and create new behaviors but you need to know how to use storytelling techniques.

Wandering through one of these home-improvement warehouse stores the other day, I passed through the aisle that has electrical supplies. Some of these stacks of bulk supplies included hundreds of wall switches of various types. What do I know- I thought a switch was a switch? Apparently, different lighting situations require different wall switches.

However, any one of these switches by themselves cannot turn on a light in my house. I need to have it installed by a trained electrician who will put it in a box, hook up the power and be sure that the bulb in the light socket the switch is connected to is actually a good bulb.

By itself, the switch is just a tool. In context and setting, it can bring light to the whole room

Storytelling is like a switch, too. Here are four ways that storytelling goes from a "prop tool" in your bag of communication tricks to a vital part of lighting up a room.

1. Storytelling needs to be installed.
I cannot buy a single light switch and throw it onto the floor of a darkened room hoping it will give me light. I need someone well-trained to install it properly. So, too, there are plenty of books published where you can get stories for trainers, speakers and presenters. In and of themselves, these stories are not very useful. You cannot just toss a story out and hope it works. However, properly presented by someone who knows how to tell a story, a tale from those collections might be able to bring understanding to the listener.

2. Storytelling needs to be in the right setting.
I could just hook up that switch to some wires in my house and leave it hanging there, hoping for the best. Of course, if I do that, my house might catch on fire or someone might be electrocuted from exposed wires. With storytelling, too, I need to be able to place the story in the correct context for my audience. Stories not properly presented or framed for an audience have burned down many presenters for either being too complex or simply childish.

3. Storytelling needs energy.
A light switch installed but without electricity flowing will do nothing at all. Stories presented by boring presenters will be boring. Storytelling won't fix a presenter that doesn't like to present.

4. Different audiences need different types of storytelling.

I may have installed and energized a light switch, but if the bulb is broken in the socket, there will not be any light. I may have a story that I love to tell, but if the audience is not comfortable with the story, my storytelling will fail. Not every story is for every audience. If you run 115 volts of power to a bulb that needs 220 volts, you will not get much light. Choose your stories based on the needs of the audience, not your needs as a presenter.

Hundreds of light switches on the shelf at the home-improvement store looks impressive, but they are useless unless I know what I am doing with those switches. Storytelling can look like such an impressive idea, but, it too, needs to be used with the right know-how.

Done right, you can switch on great understanding and teaching with storytelling. You can light up a corporate boardroom or your child's bedroom- or any room in-between.


The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.