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Frequently Asked Questions for Storytellers and Those Who Want to Hire Them - Part II
By True Thomas

Here are True's answers to the next three burning questions:

3. What should I expect from a professional Storyteller?
4. What will 'Tellers expect from you?
5. How do I find a Storyteller?

In this article, storyteller True Thomas gives more of his answers and opinions combining his own special blend of storyteller enthusiasm and wisdom. (Note: Part I of this article may be found HERE.)

3. What should I expect from a professional Storyteller? Every teller is different, just like most businesses. Some are happy with a verbal contract over the phone (and legally binding), and others might fax you a contract. A Pro should give you the following:

  • Show up on time, with a little lead-time for "surprises"
  • Appropriate dress, and performance material. Material should be pre-agreed on.
  • PR photos/ headshots for you to use, as well as a bio and introduction.
  • They should hit their marks in terms of length, and produce a "quality product" (No two audiences are alike, so you never know. The important thing is that the teller gets up and delivers a consistent and reasonable story)
  • They should be able to furnish you with a receipt, upon request. (It will usually be sent once they get home).
  • They telephone/e-mail contact numbers to get a hold of them in case of emergencies.
  • When dealing with guests, VIP's and audience members, they should reflect well on the craft of Storytelling and your event (patience, charming, etc.)
  • They are guests, and should not breach etiquette or hospitality.
  • They should be willing to allow for publicity both for and after events. (The event producer should tell them ahead of time what this might entail....)
  • Every Teller should leave an event with good thoughts about storytelling in the minds of the producers and audience about them, and storytelling in general.

4. What will 'Tellers expect from you? Tellers need you to help create the mood, the environment where they can work their magic. The producer is the unseen partner of the teller. Here are some suggestions, no particular order.

  • Care and feeding of a Teller is not that hard. Tellers will need accurate maps and contact numbers to get a hold of you. One of these numbers has to be a way to get a hold of you just before a gig (if someone gets lost, calling your home won't help...)
  • Most tellers are pretty flexible, but "big surprises" like promising an audience of 30 and ending up with a hall of 300, is likely to be a bit flustering. They will need a "handler" who will meet the teller, get them situated, and help move them and their gear as need be. If your venue includes kids, kid wranglers are a must, and they should know not to interrupt the teller if at all possible (quietly removing unruly kids, etc.)
  • If dealing with kids, sitting some adults in the audience is a good idea. Sometimes, tellers get treated like "a video tape" and the parents/ teachers / hosts proceed to talk loudly in the background. Likewise, if a teller is performing at a large function, giving them a quiet corner, or room to perform in will make all the difference. Let your crew know that the respect they pay the teller will influence the audience.
  • Having a quiet place to change clothes, rehearse, and stow gear securely is very handy. For the record, changing clothes in a public bathroom is awkward at best. If you will need sound or lighting, these need to be resolved and tested before the teller arrives. Any gig with more than 30 people could require a sound system. Having water available, and place for the teller to rest, and eat off stage is good too!
  • Most tellers would prefer a check made out to them, given to them at the end of the performance. They will need to examine it (nothing personal, just to make certain names, and prices are correct) on site. With any publicity (clippings, posters, etc.), copies should be given to the teller. Likewise, taking photo's at the gig is usually okay, but not during a dramatic part of the story (unless you are using a professionally "blimped") camera. Tellers and producers always need new photos.
  • A teller may leave a follow up sheet, for you to make suggestions and offer compliments, likewise getting feedback from the audience and passing that on that as well can be truly helpful. Always keep track of what stories a teller tells, just in case they'll be back- and you may or may not want a repeat. If the
  • Teller has a lot of gear, or needs to deal with a dark parking lot at night,be aware- the teller does not know what you know. A little help can go a long way, so the "handlers" should make certain everything is okay from beginning to end. (The handlers are best if they are calm types, who know who the players are.)
  • Onstage, a Teller may need a mike either on a stand or a clip on. Plan for sound checks. Tell your sound person that tellers have a pretty big dynamic range. Often times, Full or Part time tellers will have their own mikes, and sound systems. Check compatibilities and needs. Tellers might need a stool to sit on (not too low) or table to set stuff on. Lighting should be high enough in the audience for the teller to make eye contact (and if the house spot is on, it's like being speared like a bug) - tellers like to see their audiences.
  • Audiences- not too warm, not too long, not too noisy. If you've parked the audience in a thoroughfare, with an electric band and a jumper nearby, and with no shade... then the teller will be talking to only a few people. This is what we call "Storytelling Hell". Give the teller a pleasant non-distracting environment, cool-ish, and a visual place to look for cues from the stage manager. Some tellers make ask you to give them time cues, or be in a certain place if they need to ask someone to adjust audio, or deal with an audience member.

All in all, a little planning and consideration can make for an incredible storytelling event.

5. How do I find a Storyteller? Before you look for one, have in mind the kind of event and teller you might need. Because once you get on the phone, the creative part of you joins the business part of you. Hopefully when you talk to the teller you've got a pretty good idea of what you want. This will cut down on the phone time, and let the teller work with you on the creative side. What kind of stories do we want to do! Every teller has specialties and strengths. Some are good with kids, others with adults, and some with corporate types.

  • One of the best ways to find storytellers is to go to storytelling events. You get to see them in action. Talk to the event coordinators (usually a few days after the show). Check web pages (like ours) or the National Storytelling Network www.storynet.org/newdir/ - This is a directory on the network, as well as the regional Liaisons at www.storynet.org/NSN/Liaisons.htm who can give you recommendations. Every teller I know has favorite tellers they like - and will be glad to refer you. If at all possible talk to people who have seen the teller in action, and see if there are tapes, audio or video available.
  • Tellers come from all walks of life, and there are people who might not think of themselves as storytellers, but are absolutely wonderful speakers, and natural tellers. So keep an open mind, and look for those people. But remember that this person may not be comfortable in front of a mike with 50 people watching them intently. So a few dry runs might be in order.

Good Luck and may your stories be Legendary!

True Thomas is a professional storyteller based in the Southern California area, and can be contacted at truethomas@usa.net, or 818-762-9075. www.storyteller.net/tellers/truethomas

 

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