Inspired, I decided to start my own. I asked half a dozen friends to think of an experience they’d be prepared to share and invited practically everyone I knew. It was a success — every single person stayed until they heard all the stories.
Storytelling events are a great way to make new friends and learn more about those you already have. Mostly though, they’re simple, fun and easy to set up your own. You could host a perfect party even in an ordinary living room if you’re prepared to let people into your house. If not, you can ask for a spare classroom at school or go to a nearby cafe.
You are sure to have friends who love being the centre of attention and they’ll usually jump at the chance to speak to a larger audience — so they are the first to be invited. You might also find that your quieter friends have brilliant stories, so do everything in your power to help them relax and feel at ease. Sometimes it is a good idea to start with a small group of people in a familiar environment.
Giving your event a theme means the storytellers have something to work with and your audience has a better idea of what to expect. Make sure it’s not too narrow (say, “My First Kiss”) or you’ll get a set of near-identical stories; too wide (“Happiness”), you might as well not have one. Some themes that have worked well for me include “Emergency”, “A Bad Day” and “Our Funny Pets”, and they caused more stories from the listeners. One girl told us the story of her sister’s wedding. Someone else told us about the surprising things he saw during the summer he worked at his father’s photo shop.
The structure of the party is important. To stop people talking, set a time limit. Seven or eight minutes is enough. And you should have a general idea of the tone of the stories before starting so you can order them accordingly.
Some of the best stories I’ve heard have been from the audience members afterwards in the cafe. Often, they can be persuaded to share their tales at a future night. But if they can’t, half the fun of the storytelling is this social aspect. Nothing draws people together like stories in common so these evenings become networks. People come back time after time, bringing friends who have their own stories to tell.