Storyteller Survey

A survey was conducted by Settle Stories in October 2015 to understand the experiences of those currently working in the Storytelling profession. We had 139 replies from all over the world. Four key questions captured a range of insight from common goals and measures of success to obstacles faced and any fears which block the road forward. This report details our findings. We received responses from Storytellers all over the world! Thank you for taking part in our research.

Findings

1. What is your goal as a storyteller?

The survey showed five consistent goals the storytellers shared, which are:

  1. To preserve the heritage of storytelling and keep the oral art alive

  2. The palpable joy of entertaining and inspiring others with stories and moving an audience through performance

  3. To educate and bring a deeper wisdom to society and be an agent for social change e.g. to raise environmental concern, improve childhood literacy or inspire more compassion in the community by challenging cultural stereotypes and overcoming discrimination.

  4. To raise the profile of storytelling as an art form and widen audiences by doing the stories justice and making storytelling more relevant to and appreciated by the modern world.

  5. To earn a sustainable income from repeat bookings and other sources of revenue, enabling the storyteller to work without pressure and generate investment in their own organisation over time.

2. What does success look like as a storyteller?

The survey showed four measures of success that storytellers value, echoing their common goals:

  1. To make an immediate impact on the audience, demonstrated by engaged listeners, clearly moved by the story. This was especially valued in children.

  2. For the impact to have reach beyond the event, e.g. viral sharing of the stories, creating the heritage of the future. Enhancing someone’s life in a meaningful way or putting emotion back into business.

  3. Personal development of the storyteller. Performing in better venues to larger audiences. Honing the craft, working on a more richly diverse range of subjects and requests to mentor others were all cited.

  4. Remuneration that supports a sustainable life. A regular income maintained through repeat bookings, visits to schools, publishing of books or audiobooks and working with recognised arts organisations.

3. What are the obstacles you regularly encounter?

The survey evidenced three key challenging and connected areas, these are

  1. Enduring incorrect Perceptions e.g. that storytelling is only for children or that it is not a form of therapy or that is it not for corporates affects interest in bookings.

  2. Socio-economic constraints, budgets are not forthcoming to grow the storytelling sector because the value of the work is not understood, appreciated, or measured in financial terms. Budgets for the arts have also been cut centrally. Additionally, when storytellers have to work other jobs, time is lacking to promote events or work on new material. The administration of sales and funding is a burden.

  3. A lack of Support also arising from ignorance. This is demonstrated by venues not promoting storytelling correctly, perhaps giving the false impression that it is reading from a (children’s) book or by school teachers not supporting a telling in a classroom. In some cases a lack of intrinsic appreciation is compromising quality, when work is only available for client-directed projects.

  4. Direction of modern society towards technology entertainment increases competition for attention.

4. What fears can stop you realising your goals?

Our final question revealed that the greatest concern was in how to overcome the external constraints, more than internal shortcomings, though these were noted in the spirit of raising personal standards.

  1. A lack of skill and time to undertake the necessary marketing work, especially cold calling.

  2. The feat the audience may experience disappointment, also that it is not possible to reach audiences most in need or of not being taken seriously.

  3. Stage fright, personal inertia and doubting willingness to change to market conditions

  4. Lack of time to capture all the incredible stories and lack of money necessitating the need for a second job and consequent inability to focus on artistic development and other issues captured here.

In summary, it is very clear that storytellers are passionate individuals, proud of their art and the good it can do, yet currently frustrated by the extent to which it is misunderstood and poorly represented. Better promotion of the value of storytelling and increased respect for the profession is key to making it a viable career able to deliver the engaging entertainment, enjoyment and true service to society of which it is capable.

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