May 19, 2012

Interview with Deepa Kiran, a professional storyteller

Why do stories appeal to us?
Stories are how we experience life and how we store the experiences. Yesterday is a story. Tomorrow is a story. Stories are how we connect with ourselves, with the world and with life itself. There is therefore an intrinsic appeal in sharing stories. The medium of sharing varies. Sometimes it is print (books) sometimes multi-media (movies) and sometimes sheer oral medium. Oral storytelling invites you to journey through time and space simply using the power of the listener’s mind to creatively visualize and craft almost-real experiences. It is such a fascinating and magical trip that it becomes infectiously engaging.

Experts say we should say stories in our presentations to engage people. But most people don’t know how?
Communication experts the world-over wholeheartedly advocate employing the potential of storytelling in all rungs of the corporate ladder. What is being recommended is not just including ‘stories’ but imbibing ‘telling……storytelling’. Which means there are two things to it:

  • Including stories in our presentations, speeches etc.
  • Constructing a ‘mode’ of sharing information which is akin to telling a story. 

These two together are integral to corporate storytelling, considered the key to effective presentations as well as effective leadership.

The beauty and power of stories which is primarily put to use in corporate storytelling is the strength of ‘realization through revelation’.  Reason being stories ‘reveal’ and ‘unravel’ truths rather than ‘tell’. Given a choice anyone prefers to ‘figure out things’ for themselves rather than be ‘told what is right and what is to be done’. And so your listener is taken through a trip where she/he gets to discover new insights by herself/himself from the story and not a trip where they are given a list of information and suggestions by the speaker!

Being able to incorporate stories and ‘make stories’ out of the ‘business’ material is a skill that needs to be developed. This can be done on one’s own through self-study and practice or with the help of professionals who would facilitate exploration and development of effective storytelling skills through workshops and courses.

How can professionals tell stories in business presentations?
There are stories for every occasion, subject and issue. Depending on the theme and focal points of the presentation, one can search and build in stories, anecdotes, analogies which either directly convey the needful or are related to the theme.

How do we create stories from supposedly business events?
A business event/subject would have ‘logic’ integral to it. In a presentation our aim most of the time is to simply transmit this logic and understanding expecting the audience to be impressed. But facts and figures can also bore and overwhelm. The purpose of a presentation/speech is to urge the audience to act/take decisions.  This is where storytelling comes into play. Making the message simple, giving clarity in the details, tugging at the heart in the course of the delivery, building in message-retention, and following a systematic methodology in achieving this. These can help in ‘creating’ a story out of a business event.

What are the essential ingredients of story? What are its stages? What is common to all stories?
Without going into technical and literary details I will jump to the point that is most significant to the readers. Any good story is inevitably about a journey and the best story ever is ‘the hero’s journey’- A story where the protagonist/s that faces some situations and learns to transact these eventually evolving in the process. Stages of any story basically are the beginning, the main plot and the end, and this is common to all stories. It is as simple as that.  It is up to the storyteller (the presenter/speaker) to make the beginning and end effective and to flesh in as much or as less into the skeleton called the main plot based on the target audience and the outcome desired.

Can storytelling be learnt by anyone? If yes, how does one start?
Like any other art form storytelling is both inherent and acquired. Every individual has the potential to tell stories and tell them well. Some people already do. Some tell stories after some assistance from alcohol and some prefer not to! But the truth is we can all tell stories. One can definitely explore and work on the skills on our own or through workshops and programs designed and facilitated by professionals, aimed at equipping the participants with tools and techniques of storytelling.

About Deepa Kiran
Deepa Kiran is an Education Consultant, a professional storyteller and a freelance writer who works with children and teachers. She has been doing storytelling sessions and workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, libraries, cultural centers, publishing houses, corporate and NGO such as DPS, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s, Scholastic, Pratham, Microsoft and Genpact. She builds in music and dance in her telling to bring alive the story time. You can find her storytelling on her website
She truly believes in the magic and healing power of arts and weaves music, dance and drama into her story sessions. She loves the energy sharing of communities, especially children and enjoys exploring the same in her travels. Her two sons are a constant source of inspiration and the testing ground for her storytelling and have recently begun to volunteer as her assistants.

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