At a Moth StorySLAM in August I opted for the anonymous route. The host read my response to the question, “Tell us about a time you let the cat out of the bag” – which I answered literally. The story got about two laughs (thanks mom and dad) and some constructive criticism from the host stating that whoever wrote it should work on their penmanship.
Trying to learn where I went wrong, I contacted Claire Flowers, the regional producer for the story slam in Birmingham. She filled me in on mastering the theme, how to tell a good story in only five minutes and ways to work on my handwriting (just kidding).
1. A little background about The Moth StorySLAM
Although the StorySLAM series didn’t reach Birmingham until recently, “The Moth” podcast launched in 2008. The organization itself started in 1997, a nonprofit dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Once you do the math that’s over 35,000 true, personal stories told live, without notes, from stages around the world!
“What make The Moth so unique is their commitment to diversity and allowing people to have a platform and share. People come from all walks of life. It’s not professional story tellers, it’s not actors.”Claire Flowers, Regional Producer for The Moth Birmingham
At the slam fate decides whether you’ll be called on stage as only 10 lucky storytellers’ names are pulled out of a hat. Three groups of judges, picked unbiasedly from the audience by the host and producer, give their scores out of 10 after each story.
If you haven’t prepared a story or public speaking makes you weak in the knees, on your seat you’ll find a paper with one question relating to the theme. The answers are read anonymously by the host between each story.
Since the StorySLAMs are held in cities across the globe, it’s a big deal Birmingham is one of the lucky ones who hosts.
“It’s further validation for the fact that Birmingham is really a great, unique city to live in.”Claire Flowers
2. The Moth StorySLAM is all about the theme
The best part about the theme, which can range from “Lessons” to “Spooky,” is everyone has the opportunity to take inspiration from it. They’re curated in a way to be inclusive and promote diversity between stories.
While some people take a traditional approach to the theme, others are more conceptual with their ideas. On Mother’s Day one person chose to tell a story about their affinity for the University of Notre Dame.
3. How to make your story great
If the story is raw and full of emotion you’re on the right track, but don’t forget it has to be true – the audience can tell when it’s not.
Claire emphasizes getting on stage is hard. Like me, she didn’t ace her public speaking course in college. If you can stand in front of an audience and tell a story that is completely authentic, you can expect support from the crowd.
“Usually when people react or even clap and cheer is when someone gets up onstage and does something really brave. It could honestly be bad, very, very, bad, but the person is up there and they’re proving they’re brave and the audience really, really likes that”Claire Flowers
4. Advice for first-time storytellers
You never want your story to sound memorized, but telling it to a friend beforehand is a good idea. This is some advice I could’ve used when I forgot the word for “ghost” during one of my winged speeches.
Follow along on Facebook at The Moth in Birmingham.