The guy opened his mouth to tell me a story he’s been working on for over a month; it was a disaster. The words stumbled out of his mouth; he looked totally confused and frightened. “But I’ve been practicing daily,” he hissed with visible frustration.
I asked him to tell me about his daily practice. Turns out he’s been practicing during his daily swim – in his head, silently.
Storytellers need to practice out loud
You don’t need to use your full vocal projection every time you practice – although that couldn’t be a bad idea – but you do need to talk, speak, breath, use your lungs, diaphragm and vocal cords. Here are some good reasons to take this advice seriously (besides flunking a specific telling):
>Practicing only the text, you’re not developing 2/3 of your expression channels. Voice and gesture are as important for storytelling as text, and they need practice.
>If you practice in your head while doing something else, that something’s pace will take over and stick to the text as its foundation pace. The foundation pace influences various facets of storytelling performance. Issues like punctuation, pausing and prosody. The guy’s story sure sounded like front crawl (not a compliment).
>Storytelling can be physically demanding. If you don’t use your speaking organs, you have no idea about the physical challenges hidden in a particular story. You don’t even know if you’re fit to tell what sounds so nice in your mind.
Do yourself a big favor and skip practicing in your head. Even more, find people to tell to as you practice. Their feedback – whether explicit or implicit – will help you improve your telling, tweak the story and build your expressive skills.