5 Tips For Storytellers

Alden Stoner and Caty Borum ChattooToday was the Center for Media & Social Impact‘s 10th Annual Media That Matters conference. Media That Matters is a gathering of filmmakers, radio producers, game designers, nonprofit leaders, and funders from all over the US who are using media to spark change.

 It’s a venue for exchanging ideas, asking questions, discussing strategies, planning campaigns, learning new techniques, and every other exciting thing that happens when you get a group like this together.

Since I work at the Center, I was able to attend the conference for free as the designated rapporteur. That meant that after toting around supplies, setting up workshops, and checking people in, I got to settle in the front row with my iPad and listen to five great talks on how to make media that matters.

As you can imagine, a room full of creative communicators and change workers generates a unique energy – and a lot of really useful information. These guys do amazing things.

I’ll be writing more about the conference in my next post. But for now, here are some of the speakers’ (paraphrased) tips for storytellers of all kinds – with photos from today’s talks.

• • •


Put your material out in as many media forms as possible. If you can make it into a website, do it, a radio story, do it. Reach more people. — Greg Pak, Pak Man Productions

Greg Pak


Think about how sound bounces and travels. How does the rain sound when you’re outside, inside, under an umbrella? How does a voice sound when the speaker is to your left, to your right, across the room, under the umbrella with you? Help the listener experience the scene. — Erika Lantz, PRX Remix

Erika Lantz


Start with how you want people to feel. Ask yourself, “How does it feel to do this?” You can make an issue more accessible and intuitive for gamers by creating a task that evokes that feeling. Games are not good for facts, they’re good for feelings. — Colleen Macklin, Parsons The New School for Design

Colleen Macklin


Instead of creating wall-to-wall sound, utilize quiet spaces and vary the volume of the story. Give listeners’ ears a chance to relax before the next big bang. Otherwise, the bang will sound like mush – it won’t have any impact on the listener. Silence opens the listener’s ears and makes them strain to hear the next part. — Russell Williams, American University School of Communication

Russell Williams


If your storytelling is powerful enough – if you get the hard takes, the crying moments, if you can get people to be honest with you – people will want to act. You won’t have to hit them over the head with your message. The power of what you’re doing will get people to act. — Rebecca Sheir, Metro Connection

Rebecca Sheir

So what do you think makes a great story?


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