by Helen McKay


How often have you witnessed storytellers running over their allotted time, forcing those who follow them on the program to cut short their presentations, to bring the show in on time. Running overtime is stealing time from the people who follow you.No matter how good your performance, it doesn’t take long to build a reputation as a time cheat and for Programmers to avoid hiring you. They have to work within specific time and budgetry constraints.Timing is essential. It marks the difference between the professional storyteller and the enthusiastic amateur.To help you become more professional – and time effective – in your presentations, I offer some tips to help you master this important discipline.Storytellers should:

  • Acquire a timing device or an alarm clock, with a prominent second hand and a loud bell – it is a great teller’s aid. 
  • Look realistically at your stories, making sure they fit the allotted time. 
  • Mark them, making allowance for the pace and pauses, required by the story and for the audience responses to it. 
  • Take your story and remove any fat – unnecessary words or phrases – trimming it down to give it shape. This reshaping of the story will give it a much stronger impact. 
  • Retry the story, working with a tape recorder and the alarm clock. Set the alarm to go off, right at the allotted time and try to bring your story in on target. 
  • Repeat this process, until you are happy you have a story that fits the time target. 
  • Listen to the tape recorder, to identify weak areas in your presentation. 
  • Rework the story, taping and timing it until you are satisfied it works. 
  • Take a stopwatch with you, whenever you tell, (they are quite inexpensive). This will make sure you are effective in your use of time. Practice everything you tell, using either the stopwatch, or alarm clock.

Soon you will notice a vast improvement in the timing of your storytelling presentations. Should you be the unfortunate victim of a time cheat, try to have some part of your story that can be dropped -or an shorter substitute story – to allow you to reach the time target. Or, better still, make sure you have a shorter story in your repertoire.Once you have mastered the use of time, you can truly call yourself a professional storyteller.Helen McKay, NSW – © 2007