in Storytelling

Storytelling performance indicators | Two feedback questions that help us realize what we can improve on

storytelling performance indicators | Limor Shiponi

By Limor Shiponi

Storytellers often shy away from giving feedback to each other in public. Between “spellbinding” and “moving” we’re not helping each other too much. This becomes a real problem if you’re at the beginning of the journey. The absence of knowledge about storytelling performance indicators makes it difficult to evaluate skill. Even before that, it makes it difficult knowing what to evaluate. “Maybe you should try a different kind of voice” doesn’t help anyone move forward.

Finding good feedback questions

I’ve been trying various feedback eliciting techniques for years. What I’ve been looking for lately are simple feedback questions, suitable for beginners. I’m trying to help develop critical evaluation skills. After some experimentation, I find the next two questions effective in revealing storytelling performance indicators:

Do you feel the storyteller has a good grip on the steering wheel? Is she or he navigating the storytelling event ship or not?

Whatever the answer, what is doing that in your opinion?

These questions train storytellers to be present; pay attention to our sensory impressions. They also train storytellers to check performance from the impact end. The first question frames the feedback process to a performance indicator: the level of grip a storyteller has during a storytelling event. It seems a simple question and it is. At the same time it contains many other possible questions about performance indicators. What are they? That’s what the second question is for.

Revealing storytelling performance indicators

The second question helps explore storytelling performance indicators. A good way to go is encourage students to find indicators on their own. Try not to provide them with a prepared list. Ask both questions several times, looking at different parts of the event: the entire telling, a section, a paragraph, a sentence, a prologue, an epilogue, a link section. The more rounds you take, the more performance indicators you find. The list accumulates in front of the students’ eyes. It will receive more attention and trust than a pre-dictated list.

After exploring and revealing performance indicators, it’s easier to understand how to evaluate your work. It’s also easier to evaluate others’ work, what they need to improve on and to what degree. We can plan our progress, set objectives and milestones, and seek the help we need on various skills.

“Spellbinding” is nice, better is to know the mix of ingredients that make up fairy-dust.

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  1. Hi Limor….Sometimes cutting up a perfomance into details is like throwing the fairy dust into the fan….too much head work..it is a very fine line…enjoyed reading your article…

    • Hi Ellen,
      I totally agree, that’s why this kind of work is done aside, not while people are sharing stories. The path of improvement is very incremental most of the time and it’s ok that way. Can’t tell stories while busy thinking about whether I’m doing this right or that wrong. Need to be in-story. These exercises are like going to the gymn – not the same as actually playing football, but important for playing better.
      Thanks for the visit and comment and best regards.

      • I disagree with Ellen there. I think part of the work as the storyteller is to interrogate, as you are doing Limor, what makes this magical state of wonder happen. I have been investigating the space between me and audience, me and story, me and creativity for 11 years. It does not destroy the state of wonder that occurs during the telling, it simply makes me able to be a better performer. As you say, the exercises allow us to be better on stage.

        • After we get pass the first steps in storytelling, it seems interrogation is core. And for the head-work – if it becomes the doing instead of storytelling (see the buzz in everything but storytelling), I agree it’s not the way to go. For losing the wonder – I don’t think magicians don’t enjoy a great magician’s performance even when they know the nuts and bolts. It carries you away no matter how much head-work. That’s one of the reasons I’m crazy about storytelling 🙂 Thanks for the visit and comment, Clare.

  2. Hi Limor,
    I am a Kindergarten teacher here in the Philippines and storytelling is what i love doing!..It makes my pupils very attentive, curious and excited! They just love it as well…