Congratulations, youíve made the decision that you want to bring a storyteller to your next event! What do you do next? I suggest answering the basic questions first: Why/what, who, where , when and how. Although the majority of tellers are some of the most cooperative, interesting and fun people you will ever meet, Iíll also make the assumption that you and your teller are using a written contract to clarify the following questions. Getting the details in writing protects everyone by eliminating mis-communication.
Now, hereís some of the important questions:
Why? First, before you call any storyteller, clearly define for yourself what you want that teller to do for and with you. Why do you want a storyteller for this event instead of some other type of speaker? What are your goals for the event? Is it just a birthday party? Are you teaching a lesson somewhere? Do you want to entertain or motivate? How much time do you want the teller to fill? Knowing why you want a teller at your event is an important first step to a successful event.
Who? Who is your audience? It is especially important that you let the teller know exactly who the audience is going to be. For example, some tellers donít tell for children under the age of twelve. What a surprise it would be for a teller to show up to an audience of all children when they have only prepared stories for adults! Are you expecting a mixed age group or just adults? Is your group of adults composed of professionals or more of a general audience? Are the children at the party expecting this special event or is this a "surprise?" If you are hosting an event for teens, what ages are the young people? Telling to thirteen year old junior-high students is much different than telling to a group of eighteen year old high-school Seniors.
Where? Where, exactly, do you want your teller to perform and present? Again, be honest and forthright with the teller you are booking. When you are going to be outdoors, will it be under the cover of a tent, or on an elevated stage in the middle of another event? Will there be any possibility that the event may get moved to another location? If so, be sure your teller knows! Different telling styles, and indeed, different stories, may require unique staging. Are you in a classroom that will accommodate the entire group and still have "performing" space, or should your teller expect to be surrounded by listeners? Almost any teller will express to you the importance of knowing the details of the "where" question.
When? What time do you want the teller to be ready? Understand that when you contract with a teller to work with you, they may be under their own time-constraints. If you arrange with the teller to perform at 2 P.M. for one hour, yet do not start until 2:30 P.M., your teller is well within their rights to only provide a one-half hour performance, while still being paid the full fee. Do you expect that your teller divide their time between to different stages or classrooms? Will you expect that the teller be available after the presentation to answer questions or meet the participants? Be sure all of the these special features have been discussed in advance.
A special note about the "when" of telling. Most tellers will honor your request for the length of program for which you have asked. However, there are times that, although you have asked for a 45 minute performance, the teller might do 35-45 minutes. Sometimes, when the energy is especially good between audience and teller, it may be appropriate to end with a final story a few minutes before scheduled, instead of "forcing" an extra five minutes. An experienced teller has a variety of stories in their repertoire- and may change their program "on the fly." You need to trust that your teller will always work with the best interest of the audience in mind.
How? And finally, the "catch-all" category! "How?" Every event and every teller has specific needs in mind. For example, if your event involves overnight accommodations, have you clearly set out, in writing, exactly where the teller is going to be staying? It is unfair, and a violation of a contract, to arrange with a teller for hotel accommodations, then put them up with a family or other arrangement. Are you providing the sound system or is your teller? What are the arrangements for transportation between venues, if any are needed? How will the fee be handled? Will deposits or full payments be made ahead of time, at the time the teller arrives at your event or will a check be mailed at a later date? If you agree with a teller that you will pay them when they arrive at your event, and yet fail to provide them with a check or payment, the teller would be within their rights to not perform, with you still owing the teller the agreed upon amount. There may be several other "hows" directly related to your event. Be sure you talk with your teller!
Whether you are in a church, school, library, private home or regional festival, clearly discussing and answering these questions with the teller you are using will result in a much better event for you! When all parties involved are sure of the details, it will be so much easier to enjoy the magic of having a storyteller working for and with you.
C. 2001 Sean Buvala is the Director of Media Production at Storyteller.Net and can be reached via eamil at firstname.lastname@example.org.