I recently challenged myself to participate in a Story Slam. It’s a competition where I had five minutes on stage in front of an audience to tell a true story about my life. As I prepared for this event, I focused on how I would feel telling my story, what this experience would do for me. I didn’t think about what it would give to my audience. I wanted to feel a catharsis, or at least an adrenaline rush.
However, I was so distracted trying not to say “um” and remembering my story and figuring out what in the world to do with my hands that I didn’t really notice anything else. Could the audience see the sweat pooling at my armpits? Could they tell I had secretly memorized the entire five minutes? Could they hear my voice crack in the microphone? When I was done, I just felt relieved to be off the stage.
However, at the intermission I had a few people tell me that they enjoyed my story, that they thought I was funny. They were surprised to hear I’d been nervous. (Thank goodness for black shirts.)
As I relaxed and listened to the other stories, I began focusing on what the storyteller was giving to the audience. The best stories were the ones I found myself in. I could tell everyone else did too by the feel of the room—the genuine laughter, the shared glances, the deeper silences.
“What makes your story different?”
“Nothing.” That’s why I need to tell it.
(Photo courtesy of thetellingroom via Flickr)