Malaysia International Storytelling Festival 2011 (Day 2)

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Sheila Wee from Singapore

(Continued from Day 1)

Day 2: Step into Storytelling – Storytelling for Beginners by Sheila Wee
I enjoyed Sheila’s workshop immensely. She was so well-prepared (she even prepared extra shawls for those who couldn’t stand the cold!), knew exactly what she wanted and needed to do; she even timed each session so that every minute in the workshop was well spent.

So, let me go straight to the meat of her workshop. When storytelling, you:
• use your own words
• make eye contact
• change the delivery of the story according to how the audience reacts (i.e. be spontaneous)
• choose a style that suits your personality; something you’re comfortable with

Storytelling is a ‘connective’ (not sure if I copied correctly) art. It is engaging and is the theatre of the mind. It transfers images from one mind to another through the bridge of oral language.

In a conventional communication, you only have one active participant, i.e. the speaker, while the listener’s passive. Whereas, in storytelling, both speaker and listener are active, because when listening to a story, your imagination is activated, and you create a ‘new’ story in your mind, therefore taking ownership of the messages in the story. I think this explains why many research have proven that storytelling contributes to brain development, imagination, problem-solving skills and perspective taking.

Participants sent on a Scavenger Hunt

Storytelling also improves your listening skills, comprehension, vocabulary and speech. It helps to bond two individuals or more (ever tried talking to someone you’ve just met and ask them about their background? You’d find, almost immediately, the ‘stranger’ isn’t a stranger anymore. This point was proven with the ‘Scavenger Hunt’ activity :)). Stories also create a sense of belonging, helps an individual to empathise; they also instil positive values and give hope.

For successful storytelling, choose a story that you really like that has a simple plot and choose a simple, clear, natural manner of telling. Here are some tips from Sheila:
– use your posture to illustrate the characters (remember to mind your distance from the audience.)

Sheila telling us about 'Truth & Stories'. I loved this story!

– use natural movement and gestures
– begin with confidence
– signal story coming to an end
– don’t worry about making mistakes (If you realised you missed an integral part of the story, you can try phrases like “What you didn’t know…”, or “I haven’t told you this…”

A major part of her workshop was dedicated to various activities that involved the participants, making the sessions very hands-on and more memorable. These sessions I find, answer the objectives of her workshop. They aren’t just sessions just to get the participants to do something, but sessions that help the participants achieve their goals and understand the reason for doing them. If you have the chance to attend a workshop by Sheila Wee, GO FOR IT.

Jeeva Raghunath from India

Talking Tales – Building Communication Skills by Jeeva Raghunath
Jeeva stressed the importance of communicating effectively and how to do so by:
• stressing key words in a story
• not swallowing your words
• pronouncing your consonants
• express is with the right emotion (face, body language, voice/volume, intensity) and intonation

Then she told a story in a very unique way. She tore a page from a newspaper into different shapes and sizes. She just tore and tore, letting some of us help her out too. Then, using the torn papers, she asked us to label the papers with names of objects/things/people. She chose 6 shapes and we labelled them as a car, fish, cat, shoe, knife and stairs.

Jeeva telling us a tale using newspaper

I came up with this story: The cat was eyeing the fish in the fish bowl near a window. Then he heard a honk from a car outside which startled him. It’s his master. Heard the keys at the door. The master took out his shoes and went up the stairs. The cat was relieved now that he could proceed with his plan. As he was about the pounce on the fish, suddenly a knife landed right in front of him. The cat meowed and ran out of the kitchen. “Crap! Me and my butter fingers!” cried the master’s wife.

You can also create a story using just one object. Jeeva used the example of the water bottle which could be a torchlight, a tower/building, a microphone, a dumbbell, etc.

To be a good and effective communicator, you’d have to be clear of what you want to say using the right emotion, expression, body language and tone of voice.

She also gave us each a handout about storytelling techniques that’d improve your communication skills: How?
* Begin with a familiar story (Repeat it as often as you like. It’d help improve your verbal skills)
* Listen to stories (to improve your listening skills. Listening is part of communication skills too)
* With some creativity, develop your own imagination to make your story more interesting (use different voices, add ‘meat’ to your character and settings)
* Draw charts with who, where, when, what, why and how and fill it with information from the story (this will help with your analyticial skills)

That’s the end of my Day 2 🙂

If you’d like to see more pictures from MISF 2011, you can find me on Facebook (Jee Wan).


4 thoughts on “Malaysia International Storytelling Festival 2011 (Day 2)

    Storyteller John Weaver said:
    September 17, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Great report on MISF! When I heard that Malaysia was to have its own version of the conference, I was very curious about it, & how it would compare to SISF. Sounds like it had a lot of very valuable content!

    g1jeewan responded:
    September 17, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Thanks John! Yea this being the first, it was well-organized. Unlike Singapore, the workshops were held in classrooms, so it lacked that ‘artsy’ atmosphere but that didn’t matter much. Also, the participants were mostly students. It was amazing to see how interested and talented they were 🙂

      Storyteller John Weaver said:
      September 17, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Wow, so these participants were even more into the courses than the attendees at SISF? That’s great– as I said in the trip report on my own blog, the attendees were “throwing themselves into the experience much more than attendees of similar gatherings I’ve attended back home!” So to see the students at MISF even more involved still– fantastic!

    G1 responded:
    September 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    They were very participative and not afraid of coming out of their comfort zone 🙂 I was amazed to see how participative the students were, and to think that teenagers these days aren’t interested in a programme/course such as this…! How wrong I was! 😦

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