You have a lot to consider when selecting speakers for your next conference. Can they expertly speak on the theme of the event? Do they have information that hasn’t previously been shared? Do they have credentials that will draw a crowd? Oh, and most importantly, can they keep the attention of an audience and leave them wanting more? If you hire a skilled storyteller in your industry, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding, “yes.”

What is a storyteller?

Anyone can present information. What a storyteller does is take that information and put it in context to the larger world. They make it more understandable and memorable because they couch in it a narrative that is widely relatable to those in the audience. They also provide a memorable story arc to the information that makes it easier to follow and recall later.

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Storytellers also know that it isn’t just about what is being said, but also how it’s said.  We have all sat through presentations where the speaker has little to no energy or vocal variety. This doesn’t happen with storytellers. They use their voices and bodies as tools to draw the audience in and pay attention. If a good storyteller is on stage, no one is looking at their watch or their phone. They are too involved with the story.

How do you attract storytellers?

Unfortunately, you can’t just say “storytellers wanted” and expect them to come running. What you will find is that a lot of people consider themselves storytellers who really aren’t.  You will also find that a lot of people have no idea what telling a story really is.

When putting out a call for speakers, be specific in how you expect them to present. Let them know that you want to not only know the topic they will present on, but the narrative they will use to present it. Make it known that you are looking for presenters who won’t be hiding behind a podium, but are comfortable using the entire stage. Tell them you are not just looking for someone to present information, but to bring it to life for the audience. Language like that will be music to a storyteller’s ear.

Can you coach presenters into becoming storytellers?

The good news is that anyone can be a good storyteller. It just takes time, practice and a willingness to try something different. You can help guide speakers into becoming storytellers by asking them to reconsider how they present their material. Feature video of storyteller-centered presentations on your submission page so that potential speakers know what you are expecting. Provide links to articles on why storytelling improves a presentation and how to do it well. If you let potential speakers know what you want, many will work toward that goal.

A conference is only as successful as its presenters. If attendees come away feeling like they didn’t learn anything new or if they can’t recall what they heard at all, it is less likely they will attend similar conferences in the future. Storytellers can keep attendees entertained, engaged, and coming back year after year.