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Evolutionary tales – Storytelling at the Presenter Network

Tuesday 19th February 2019

A magician, a librarian and a dinosaur scientist walk into a room…. Well, after all, this is Science Oxford, where absolutely anything can happen! Especially in a Presenter Network storytelling workshop, led by Isy Mead – Head of Learning at the Story Museum, the heart of stories if ever there was one. So what happened next? Our Events Officer, Rowena Fletcher-Smith, tells the tale…

“A magician, a librarian and a dinosaur scientist walk into a room and..” You’ve heard this one before right? Of course you haven’t – because a story is different every time it’s retold.

Science Oxford hosted the free training session, Presenting Through Storytelling as part of our Presenter Network programme. An eclectic group of people came along, with backgrounds in science, museums, music, and writing. We also had past and future FameLab contestants joining in, (a national science communication competition) so it was a great opportunity to pick up some tips ahead of the heats!

Marie-Claire went on to get through her FameLab heat, and will compete in the final – Wig & Pen, 8th March (tickets here)

Storytelling is an essential tool for any presenter, allowing us to powerfully engage an audience and create a coherent performance. We all tell stories, whether it’s sharing juicy gossip or explaining why we’re late to work: that’s storytelling. But what are the magical components that make our stories relatable? What makes them universal? How can you carry your listeners with you to the moon?

Isy Mead, The Story Museum

Isy enthralled us with tales and engaged us with her ideas, then offered up the floor so we could see where tale-telling would take us. What followed was a magical afternoon of dragons, minotaurs and mimicking monkeys. We delved into the theory of the ladder to the moon – where as you climb higher, each story is less universal (so fewer people invested in legends than fairy tales than gossip) and discussed different kinds of audiences. From ‘red arrows’ of action to calmer ‘blue mist’ scene-setting, we toyed with and tamed techniques from trusty triads to repetition. Twenty engaged faces kept eye contact and gestured wildly, racing to retell and abridge a story in thirty seconds – I admit it, I killed off half the cast of my tale!

It was a fantastic workshop and so valuable in helping us as presenters.  So, a magician, a librarian and a dinosaur scientist walk into a room.. and twenty energised and better storytellers walked out.

Jason Taylor, FameLab UK runner up and regional judge, said after our FameLab heats 2019 – “I was particularly struck by how effectively the Presenters’ Network storytelling training was woven into some of the performances.

Join The Presenter Network

Rowena Fletcher-Wood, Science Oxford Hub coordinator

Science Oxford manages the Oxford hub of The Presenter Network – a local, national and international network set up for presenters to share best and worst practice. The Royal Observatory Greenwich hub coordinates the network as a whole. Visit here for more information and to sign up.

Coming up next for the Presenter Network we are hosting Presenting to Special Educational Needs Audiences with Dr. Sarah Bearchell, an award-winning science specialist. Book for this free workshop here.


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