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Get ready for story-season

“‘Tis the season to be merry”, some say. For many people it’s also a season to reminisce and reflect, to look back at the passing year and years. Which means it’s also a time when the stories tend to flow free – so are you ready to catch them as they drift by?

Family gatherings and end-of-year parties are great opportunities to capture stories about the family, community or business. They’re places where people want to talk about the past, about lessons-learned, about hopes and fears for the future. If we’re building a story-bank, this is exactly where we’d need to be.

To get the best value out of those gatherings, we need to make sure we’re ready for them.

First, think about logistics: do you have the equipment that you need?

Good stories can appear and vanish in a moment – so you need to be ready for for them at a moment’s notice too. And being unobtrusive – such that you don’t break the flow of the stories – is an art-form in itself, and one that you’ll need to practice beforehand to get it right.

You’ll need a small notebook to hand at all times, of course. Yet remember you can store not just text in your Zahmoo story-bank, but audio, video and photos too. This is where all those gadgets start to show their real value…

People do tend to clam up on stories when they see someone writing in a notebook, or when a camera appears, so a small voice-recorder can be very useful here. I use a small purpose-built one in much of my regular story-work, but every smartphone and most feature-phones will have an app for this somewhere in the system. Practice with it beforehand, so that you know how to start and stop recording at any time, even in the middle of a conversation.

(Remember to ask for permission to record, of course; but once you’ve done so, they usually won’t notice the recorder again.)

Afterwards, review the recording to extract the stories. For Apple users, there’s a nice app for iPhone and iPad called Highlight, which makes it easy to tag key-moments in sound-files. There are plenty of other ways to do this, though: perhaps even a transcription-service, for business-use.

Once you’ve done that, save the stories in your Zahmoo story-bank, with appropriate tags and other story-metadata.

And ensure that you know how to recognise a story. For business-stories, Anecdote provides a useful self-test site called The Story Test: use that to attune yourself to the shape of a good story. Remember that a meaningful story will always have these key elements:

  • people and place
  • specific events
  • “something unanticipated happened”

There’s often a learning in the story, though that’s not always the case. The real key is that a good story provides strong meaning: it helps us to tell ourselves who we are.

Most important, though, is that the best stories often appear without any warning, in the midst of the narrative-flow. So if you want to capture those stories for your story-bank, are you ready for story-season?

December 12th, 2011 by Zahmoo
Filed in: For Business, For Community, For Family, How to, Recording
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Zahmoo is a story bank for collecting and sharing your family and business stories.