Professional Storyteller

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Should Storytelling Conferences be Professionally Recorded?

Last summer I pushed for the recording of important sessions of the National Storytelling Network’s (NSN) 2008 Conference I was recording my session on the future of storytelling online for the Art of Storytelling Podcat. I figured why not do a little more? I exhausted myself and recorded the membership session and the regional NSN rep session. These recording are the property of NSN. Unluckily I work for myself like most artists and it took me two months to edit the work – then having finished it - I promptly forgot about it. Finally in November I got my copies to the NSN board. Jo Radner, the NSN board chair was very excited about getting some key sessions recorded. I got the feeling the board would have liked faster service – but you know the old saying you get what you pay for and I was free.

Others recorded the Keynotes and the Master storytellers concert. I don’t know what happened to these files. I’m sure the NSN got a copy of them somewhere. The master storytellers performance - Doc McConnell’s last performance - was almost not recorded! I saw the volunteer putting his equipment away before the performance, and when I asked why, I was told by NSN volunteers that the storytellers would never agreed to their work being recorded.

So I walked up to each storyteller and asked them for permission to record their performance “for NSN” with any other uses to be worked out later. They all said yes with a great deal of passion and Doc McConnell said we could do anything NSN wanted with his recording. I’m sure I was too pushy for bystanders

The reality is that storytelling has an advantage over other art forms, because new work is always being created. We all have material that we have not performed in years. We all have stories that were once primary to our performance, but now no longer capture our attention. What if all of that material was still available? Mostly I try to downplay storytellers’ fears by asking this one question: Reframing the whole debate… Do you want to be a part of the historical record?

That is how I would frame this debate over recording conference sessions.

Five years from now if this material is available will it still matter to you? Won’t you be on to other things?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have this historical moment recorded? The question is not “Do we record our conference sessions?” The question really is ”When do we release our conference sessions? One year? Two years? Five years from now?”

The storytelling skill set is timeless – the skills and abilities we have today will not, unlike computers, internet or blogging, become old fashioned – they are ageless. I personally know that the storytelling movement has a lot to offer the world and think it’s time we stepped up to the plate to offer our skills. NSN or any other national organization could be the vehicle for that delivery. Who ever builds a content delivery system around the art of storytelling first will win that race and be the source for the international storytelling movement for the next twenty years. My website is well on the way to being the source for all things relating to storytelling with children, but what about storytelling with seniors, in business, marketing, or any of a dozen different topics that I have not had time or resources to cover in the depth that should be covered?

NSN could be so much more then a network, using it’s conference it could bring the separate candles of the storytelling community into a bright light that would shine forth across the world.

Eric Wolf

Views: 57

Tags: Community, Storytelling, conference, online, podcast, storytelling


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Comment by Margaret Meyers on May 10, 2009 at 5:13pm
I agree that a professional gets paid. There is only so much anyone can do for free. I am amazed at the number of people who don't realize a storyteller should get paid for telling stories. We should just do it for fun, right? And the person asking you is often raking in a salary you'd like to see yourself.

Thank you for your research. I didn't get in touch with Karin at NSN about the LA planning committee until Friday, when they are off (they work 4 ten hour days). Hope to have more information to report here next week.
Comment by Brother Wolf on May 10, 2009 at 8:16am
The original post said that the conference should be Professionally Recorded that suggests that the person doing the work - does that work for a living. I am tired of the hearing that I should volunteer if it is important to me.

Reminds me of the story of the farmer who had a big bill board pointing people to his apple orchard/farm stand. One day a man from the city dropped in and said - you know the economy is tanking you can't afford that billboard you better cut exspenses and take it down cause your customers are not going to be dropping by iun such big numbers next year. So the farmer stopped paying for the bill board and that city guy was right the next year his customers dried right up!

I am going to do a little research into how we can get
semi-professionals say students or radio techies - I'll get back to you all. With a full report of what is possible at 2010 – and I’ll forward a copy to LA NSN planning committee.

Eric Wolf
Comment by Sean Buvala on April 29, 2009 at 4:52pm
Thanks, Margaret, for your energy and communications.
Comment by Margaret Meyers on April 29, 2009 at 4:47pm
Eric, your answer was strongly worded but so true. I am pushing and pushing for media presence. But we really have to have people on the board who know a lot more than I do because I can't envision what I don't know. But even before we get that filled, we have a tech task force and perhaps need to move on to a media task force as a separate issue. We could get the PR task force to work in this direction, but it's more than just PR. The education side of it is huge.

And the reality is if we want to have young people involved in storytelling then a media presence is the only way to find them.

I like the idea of trading ad space, too. In some ways I'm thinking NSN can do a lot by being a connecting-place.

I did find out that the L.A. local committee has someone doing work on technical issues and I think they may already be working on recording the sessions. The contracts for keynote speakers includes permission for recording. Karin Hensley and I are going to try to get all of you together so you can see who can do what.

I am flying home Thursday the 30th, so I'll try to get things moving next week. I am exhausted. But happy.
Comment by Brother Wolf on April 29, 2009 at 9:32am
Ok folks - I don't really like the tone of my reply there - a little to strident.
sorry - I got excited and didn't read the 2nd page of replies...

I am very interested in working with NSN board or not -
Currently I am committed to YES board for the balance of the year.
I don't think NSN should do any dual branding stuff - all members no matter what there ability should have the same brand value. However Sean's offer of trading ad space is a GREAT idea and should be actively explored by NSN.

I'll look into industry standards for podcasting conferences. Report back here.

Comment by Brother Wolf on April 29, 2009 at 8:48am
I am always fascinated by how “we” of the storytelling community feel that are experience is unique. Podcasting of conferences has been going on for eight years. Repurposing of content from magazine or newsletters for use on websites has been going on for 20 years.

Someone else has already to solved the problem of - how do we do this cheaply? Why don’t we go and ask them instead of making up how it’s not possible?

My post is about how the storytelling community of NSN – (is that a more honest description of the community Sean?) is standing at a truly fantastic opportunity to recast or repurpose the content from both from the conference and the magazine to rest of the world via the internet. That content is slipping through are fingers into the dustbins of history.

In the New Media field (blogging, social networking, podcasting and video casting) – that is currently wiping out the old media (Magazines, Newspapers, Radio and Television.) offers us a cost effective way of getting storytelling content out to the rest of the world. The storytelling community (of NSN) is swimming in content.

But in New Media the most important step is just putting your flag up – and as Dianne has demonstrated here you can do it a lot with very little $$$. Example A – this NING. The NING could have been the why not? Because NSN didn’t think of it – hell I didn’t think of it either and I am still embarrassed to admit it. ☹ This is the price we pay at NSN for not having a New Media strategy.

Fiscally the question is how many potential members have we lost by not having the content up for listening or reading by a larger audience?
Yes – it takes thought – but more importantly it takes commitment and painfully as I hate to admit it – it takes political will.

Yours in love of storytelling

Eric Wolf
PS: I would invite any one who is interested to sign up for my Free E-course Sign up: Podcasting and New Media for Artists and Artistic Organizations.
Comment by Tim E on April 28, 2009 at 8:21am
Margaret, I appreciate that you take the time to engage with us on this topic while you're attending a Board meeting. Many thanks!
Comment by Margaret Meyers on April 28, 2009 at 1:55am
What a group!

Here's the process: Karen Wollscheid is now in charge of the NSN website and has great visions for what we can put there. So you should check with her on whether she sees the recordings as part of

Personally I like the idea of a joint effort by and NSN. But I'm not on the conference committee--I've got smaller fish to fry.

Go through Karen Wollscheid and always keep in touch with Karin Hensley who is our events coordinator and ultimately responsible for everything that happens at the conference. She is one of our two full-time staff at NSN, so give her a little slack on answering. She is cautious and will want to talk to the steering committee. She has good insights and did a great job with the Gatlinburg Conference.

Erik's story which started this topic amazes me--that he just asked and people were willing to be recorded. I think that totally depends on who is there because I know for sure a few past keynotes would not have allowed a recording. I get the feeling certain people want to copyright their entire person--every image, every word that comes from their mouths. But maybe it takes careful wording, explanation, almost selling the presenters on the topic.

NSN cannot maintain a Marketplace right now, so don't think about selling DVD's or CD's. I actually think downloads are probably the future of delivery anyway. Free? For money? I don't know. I think you folks are in the best position to give advice.

I am amazed how NSN changes with changes in the staff and in the board. Sean has a real advantage because he is in charge of and can keep it consistent. Non-profits are complicated, particularly when leadership changes.

One thing we are committed to now is a "one voice" policy. I speak for myself only, and the board works together to come to decisions. But you need to start with the committees. If you run into any major roadblocks along the way, I may be able to help in some way because I share a lot of your views on electronic media.

By the way, we really need at least one or two board members who see and understand the e-revolution. I'm in charge of finding new board members, so if you have any ideas of who would help lead NSN down this path, please let me know. It's complicated by the conflict-of-interest policy--any non-profit is in danger of losing its 501c3 if board members profit from transactions with NSN. So we look for someone who is good in technology but doesn't need to sell anything to NSN right now. Complicated.

I am really happy to see all this good discussion of ways to get done what you think needs to get done.

I have another half-day of meetings here in Tennessee (July-August meeting in Salt Lake City if anyone is interested). I'll catch up on your discussions over the weekend.
Comment by Rachel Hedman on April 27, 2009 at 3:36pm
Dear Tim and Sean:

Yes, there does need to be an understanding as to how the recordings will be made available--free or otherwise.

I believe at least half should be free. That gets your audience wanting more anyway while still satisfying them with a good part of the information/recordings. Then the other half is for purchase.

We would need to know the availability anyway due to the release statements for the workshop presenters and keynote speakers.

June 15th is the deadline for workshop proposals. It would be nice to have something decided before presenters receive invitations.

The presenters themselves should get their parts for free, which they can use as they wish. Since presenters are not paid, the recordings are forms of payment. However, they would also be aware of what will be free to the public.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Comment by Sean Buvala on April 27, 2009 at 3:30pm
Tim, of course I wil work with you. However, I want to know first what will happen to the recordings. I am not interested in helping the NSN hoarde content for more "shouting down the well." We need to see at least 1/2 the recordings offered free to the world.

How about a duali-branded and NSN collaboration? Anyone on the board willing to make a commitment?



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