Today was the fifth edition of Mediamatic’s Kom Je Ook? conference.* Today’s topic was storytelling. Storytelling seems to be hot. As some of the speakers at today’s conference pointed out today, however, it’s nothing new. Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s Iliad used to be told as stories. That’s a long time ago. Storytelling once was the only real source of information sharing we had. The Moroccan storytellers who still tell the stories of A Thousand and One Nights are one of the many examples of this ancient tradition, still present today.
So, what we’re doing is trying to reinvent an old tradition. Fortunately, most of today speakers showed that we haven’t thrown away X million years of experience with storytelling. Actually, we might have made some small steps forward. Or regained some lost skills.
The most important lessons for museum trying to implement storytelling I’ve heard today:
- Storytelling is as much about telling stories as about listening to stories of others.
Renate Zentschnig of Soundtrackcity emphasized how much value there is in the stories of others and that listening to these might inspire you to tell stories of your own.
- “Bring a bottle of wine, bring yourself and bring a story”
Sara Barron of The Moth exchanged some of the basics of good storytelling. When so much of our communication is done with our fingers, good storytelling might make people feel socially connected and comfortable.
- Care about what people have to say
As Sara Barron said, “Whatever it is you have to say, we care about it.” Stories can get rather personal. Care about these emotions and care about the reactions to these emotions. Which leads me to:
- With stories, the emotion is unpredictable
You never know if a story will be funny or sad. Nor will you know how every audience reacts on a story or how it is changed when you tell it. Be prepared to follow up on a wide variety of emotional outcomes.
- Comparison is key to enticing stories
Master storyteller Wijnand Stomp had everybody listening in awe. His trick, apart from using traditional metaphors to tell a good story: comparison. How does the audience relate to your story? How do they fit in? Include your audience and a story is told more enticingly.
- Storytelling is a meeting of minds, not technology
Pieter-Matthijs Gijsbers gave a compelling speech on storytelling in his museum. In his opinion, the most special moment was when an unexpected encounter in his museum led to an in-depth conversation and exchange of stories.
- How the story is told is as important as the story itself
Blaxtar, a Dutch hiphip artist, showed that the same lyrics can have a completely different feeling (and thus meaning) when told on a beat or with a piano playing. A tough rap text turned into an emotional song.
Today’s Kom Je Ook? was an inspirational meeting with explored many aspects of storytelling. I’m pretty sure that the people at Mediamatic will post most of the presentations online, so check out their website if you’ve got a chance.
* “Kom je ook?” translates into something like “will you be there too?” and although I spend the best part of my life in their office, I never thought about asking why they chose this name for a conference on new media and innovation for the cultural sector.