Tuning the Audience

Tuning the audience

I remember Duncan Williamson, famed Scottish Storyteller, saying “no time spent getting to know your audience is wasted.”

The relationship between teller and listener is critical to the story.

Working with kids I often start with a drum, a bodhran. I start with a slow persistent rhythm, picking it up. I start throwing “beats” in the air and catching them on the drum. Then I start throwing “beats” into the audience. They start throwing the beats back. It finishes with me throwing enough beats for everyone – they throw them back together, I catch with the loudest bang I can make. Two minutes spent and already the audience and I are working together, before I’ve opened my mouth.

Then I might throw out a phrase and get them to repeat it. “Again, but make it sound happy. Again, but sound sad. Again, but sound angry (this often brings in the boys at the back who thought they were too tough to listen to stories). Again, but loud (the tough guys are still onboard). Again, but quiet. Again, but very quiet”. Now, I can start telling in a quiet voice with everyone listening.

The kids have realised that this storytelling is not a passive exercise, they are intrigued and most importantly they are involved. They are a part of the process. Storytelling ensues.

None of this is original, just my version of it. It’s up to each teller to devise their own approach, as they would with any story.

With adults it varies a lot more, depending on the circumstance, but again no time spent establishing a relationship is wasted.

Interested to hear other folks’ approaches.



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