The Delights of Facing an Audience

Glaring eyes“Why do they have so many eyes? Why are they seeing into my soul when I’m trying not to bare it?” Why does anyone put themselves in the spotlight when it’s so scary? It’s not easy to face an audience and share something with them. How do you find the magic?

People say “Just enjoy yourself!”, but that’s easier said than done. Mastering your psychology isn’t simple. I coach storytellers through seven key stages in this alone, each with its own strategy, before they fully embrace the deep freedom of the storyteller’s role. One of these stages is all to do with delight, which is a great quality to encourage in yourself because it really helps.

To me delight implies a certain surprise, the joyful pleasure of being charmed at a discovery. The act of storytelling should certainly always be fresh and full of discovery, but of what exactly?

You can find and take delight in:

Words: being inspired with a perfect one to express the moment. The feel of a nice one rolling around your tongue and launching into the world. Rhythms, rhymes, alliteration.

Images: the beauty, wonder, or dread of a vivid visual, brought to life in the minds of you and your audience.

Drama: the excitement, conflict, contrast, or justice of events. The calm before the storm. The anticipation.

Responses: the audience’s expressions, rapt attention, confusion, smiles, impatience to know, and more. Even just their lack of boredom or fidgeting.

Your role: being able to share a favourite tale, some wisdom, an entertainment. Building community, consensus, collaboration. Bringing meaning or hope. Provoking change.

You can choose to find and notice delight even in small ways, to go with that emotion at every opportunity, even before you start. That then energises you repeatedly and rewards your efforts. Delights build into joy, which is expansive and reaches your audience.

You don’t have to show your delight, just feel it. If you find delight in what you are doing, your inner state will have a strong effect on your audience who will follow suit and find delight in your storytelling. It enlivens your telling, your mood, and the mood in the room. Even if you start off intimidated, nervous, or self-conscious, little delights soon add up to real enjoyment. And all those eyes looking at you? They’ll all be smiling back.

To paraphrase a paean to jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, written by Adrian Mitchell:

We breathe in air,
We breathe out light.
Storytelling's my delight.

What little steps or delights give you courage and a healthy mindset when you struggle to face an audience?

8 comments

  1. Pam Faro says:

    I’m delighted at how this connects with my “B” post on breathing! (http://www.storycrossings.com/2014/04/02/body/) [And tomorrow I’ll have a brief post looking at the importance of audience…How does that fall under “E”? – hmmmm, you just might check it out…!] 😉

    I’m very much appreciating your A-Z posts so far, Tim. Thanks for them!

  2. Ipsita Banerjee says:

    Very interesting, I really enjoyed reading your blog and will be back for more. How do I follow?

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Ipsita! I’ve now put in subscription options for you: by email in this reply box, or by email or RSS in the sidebar. Thanks for the prompt.

  3. Something that surprised me was the rightness of feeling delight even when telling sorrowful stories or ghost stories. I think the inner delight makes a sorrowful story become a hopeful one, for example. I used to try to make ghost stories feel scary, but I’ve found that my inner delight doesn’t prevent others from feeling chilled by the content of the tale. Not sure how I look, but I feel like I’m wearing a smile of sinister delight.

  4. Tarkabarka says:

    A wonderful post, and an awesome picture! 😀 You expressed the point really well. If one is not having fun with doing storytelling, why do it at all, right? 😀

  5. The phrase my wife and I regularly use after a session, across a range of our activities, is “Well, I enjoyed it!”
    Then you know you’ve got it right.

  6. […] to get past your desire to hide part of yourself from the audience’s gaze, as I talked about here. But your defences can be so instinctive you may not realise you are holding anything […]

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