Tips for Effective Storytelling

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Stories can be told even without showing the pages to the audience. Like casting a good spell, we love how a storyteller can take us from one point to another great adventure. Thus, stories are not only shared through reading or mere memorization but also by artful conversation.

Storytellers do not only rely on the power or the words so that they speak monotonously. They paint a picture of the story by spicing every detail with magic. Effective storytellers do not just tell the story. They capture the imagination while creating an emotional bond with their audience.

So, how does one become an effective storyteller? Ma. Lorna Eguia and Roxan Catadman, reading advocates and long-time storytellers, lay down helpful tips to guide you to become a very good conversationalist worthy of everyone’s attention.

At all times, be prepared.


Planning is an important stage in every storytelling activity. Ensure that the materials you planned to use are appropriate for the age group you will do the storytelling to.

Today, storytellers can already use video, audio, photography, and other digital media platforms to enhance their artistic way of telling their stories. Eguia said that children learn more if they can see, hear, touch, or feel the story before them.

“Use big books your audience can look into. If you’ll be using a digital presentation, such as PowerPoint presentation or slideshows, make it more presentable and attention-grabbing,” Catadman added.

For the venue, it should be a safe and comfortable location. Eguia said that for events, make an ocular visit first to see the size and look of the place.

On the day of the storytelling, you can set up mats, pillows to cuddle, or a mobile library, for the children to feel the ambiance of the activity.

Also, take time to figure out the interest and type of message your audience needs. For children, tailor a message specifically for the group. Anticipate the behavior of the kids, the interruptions they can make, and their tantrums.

Find your story.


Make sure that the stories you choose are those you enjoy and love. Storytelling is neither a lecture nor writing an essay. It is a story. Picture the story first and see the scenes in your mind.

Choose books that will entice your audience. One dependable material that both Catadman and Eguia recommend is the Akong Bugsayan illustrated bilingual children’s book written by Amaya Aboitiz and illustrated by Karmina Cuzon.

“Storytelling can teach people, especially children, values in life. Make sure they learn something from the story. Leave something to them that is hard to forget,” Catadman shared.

Akong Bugsay charts the story of a little boy named Andoy, who goes on a fishing trip with his father. Along the way, Andoy learns valuable lessons on planning and working hard to achieve a goal.

The book teaches the famous Bugsay principle of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) President Roberto “Bobby” E. Aboitiz.

“Storytelling can be an avenue for teaching new lessons, values, and practical life skills. Lives will be improved through a well-told story. You can touch lives one story at a time. You just have to love and master the craft of what you are doing,” Eguia agreed.

First-timer storytellers can use the simplest stories to share, such as folktales, a hero tale, ghost stories, or legends. They can also be stories based on the personal experiences of the storyteller.

It is better to look for stories that have clear values, simple structure, and strong characters. Eguia advised that storytellers need to absorb the story first until it becomes part of their nature.

“Choose a story that is relevant to the theme of the occasion of the event. Choose a story that is close to your heart that has relevance and impact on your life. Master the plot and the characters of the story,” Eguia said.

Be creative.


Even how simple the story is, it can be shaped into the best story ever told. As a storyteller, you take your audience to a different journey, fly with them up in the sky, or you sail together in a vast ocean. You must know the destination.

“Don’t keep on reading the book. You can glance for a while, but be sure to look at your audience in the eyes. Wear a pleasing smile. Make it artistic,” Catadman said. If you think some scenes are unnecessary, it’s fine to skip them.

Reciting or memorizing the scenes is a big no-no. Not only does it create a distance between you and your listeners, it makes the storytelling boring and uninteresting to hear. If you think some parts of the story can be memorized word for word—anecdotes, colorful dialogues, and riddles—then we can bend the rule a little bit for them.

“Facial expression…experiences in life, they help. Just feel the emotion and rhythm of the story,” Eguia said.

Storytellers need to think outside the box. Sharing a story is not plain reading the text. Storytellers should imagine the characters, adopt changes in intonations, and differentiate between voices by changing accent or pitch. Paint a vivid verbal picture by making things more interesting to hear.

You can stamp your feet to sound like you are running. You can make a loud bang for loud noises. You can talk in high-pitched voice if you like to portray an alien in the story. Use your hands, shoulders, and body to show actions, feelings, shapes of objects.  Your audience would surely appreciate your little bit of artistry.

Eguia shared eight storytelling techniques that can be used, namely: storytelling apron, storigami, draw and tell, puppetry, read-aloud, creative dramatics, flannel or felt board, and story sack or story bag.

Storytelling is communication.


Without an audience, no storytelling can happen. Storytelling is about communication, and communication is a two-way street. It is an interactive platform where the audience can respond to your story.

“Show the book to the audience regardless of the storytelling technique used to promote reading and books.  Usually, the kids love to browse the book and read it after the story,” Eguia said.

Involve your audience in the journey of creating the story. Ask them questions like, “Where did you go last summer?” “Can you describe an elephant?” You can ask your audience to whistle or to blow to portray strong winds or they can make animal noises.

“Discernment and timing when to communicate without words are very important,” Eguia said.

Practice makes perfect


It is essential to practice reading aloud any book you intend to use. Try to gain more confidence. You can first tell stories to yourself in front of a mirror, to an imaginary friend, or to your siblings.

Eguia said that desire, exposure, and practice will help improve voice projection skills. Practicing in front of someone is also a good way to discuss points of improvement and work on it, she added.

“You only need a story to tell for the audience to feel it. If you once dreamed to change lives and failed to do it, being a storyteller will mean you have another chance to make an impact on your community,” Catadman, on the other hand, said.

Also, attend as many storytelling sessions as you can. You can get inputs and techniques from the experts and other storytellers.

“Organizing storytelling sessions is like reviving an ancient form of communication. It brings a direct and fresh interaction between the teller and the listener. It enhances bonding moments between parents and children. It brings hope and inspiration to the needy and desolate. It informs and transforms individuals,” Eguia said.

There is no better way than to trust yourself, your crowd, and the story you prepared in effective storytelling. Like any other learning experience, the best way to becoming an effective storyteller is to learn one step at a time. (Chrisley Ann Hinayas/Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.)



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