Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for respect

I’m participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge throughout April.
Monday - something light to start the week. A bit of self-care, creativity challenge or the like.
Tuesday - telling notes for a specific story or kind of story. Tips and tricks to help you think about what you're telling and how.
Wednesday - my usual #tellinglife post, looking at some of the more personal aspects of storytelling and its role in my life.
Thursday - a dip into some of the issues facing contemporary storytelling or a dive into some of the more unusual applications of storytelling.
Friday - my usual personal post about life following the death of my husband
Saturday - the storytelling coach offers a tip you can use right now. An example of the kinds of tools I encourage my students to use.

Performance storytelling is about a lot of things. It's about being on stage. It's about being heard. It's about entertainment, about craft, about provoking a reaction. It's about developing a relationship with the audience and, in order to do that, you must respect them.

It's easy to become jaded when you perform frequently. It's easy to forget that each audience is unique and has its own needs. It's easy to forget that it's your job to meet those needs the best you can, each and every time you perform.

Of course, every audience has some similarities. Ideally they are coming to your performance with some idea of what you are like and what they can expect. You can make some general assumptions that an audience of 4 year olds will have different needs from a festival crowd which will have different needs from elders in an assisted living facility. Of course. But it's our job as performing storytellers to pay attention to each audience, to respect them enough to do our best for them.

Each and every time.

Our best may vary, but if we remember that they are as hungry for recognition as we are, if we respect them enough, then we won't lose sight of the fact that they are taking time out of their lives to pay attention to us. Admittedly, a given audience might do things that limit your ability to respect them, but remember that the next audience is a new audience and just as deserving of respect at the outset as any other.

Some ways you can demonstrate respect:

  • Thank them at the beginning and at the end.
  • Don't make fun of them unless you already have an established relationship with them.
  • A personal bugaboo: Don't use accents unless you can do them flawlessly and accurately. Imagine an Irish person is in the audience and you use a not-very-good Irish accent. That could be interpreted as mocking them.
  • Respect your own art and time. Be on time. Stick to your time limits unless you have permission to exceed them.
  • Acknowledge that the audience is human. I wrote about this earlier in my piece on noise and interruption
  • Meet them where they are. Treat four year olds like four year olds and adults like adults.
  • Respect that they each come into the performance space with their own baggage, and they are doing the best they can. Sometimes that won't feel like enough.

Welcome your listeners as they are, respect their time and attention, and you will build a relationship with them that encourages repeat bookings, good word-of-mouth and more telling time.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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