I is for Interruptions
So you've got the kids settled; all eyes are on you the special guest storyteller; you've got a great story primed and ready to go. You smile and begin the tale . . . then it happens. Kids start screaming. A swarm of bees (or maybe it was just a few bees) shows up unexpectedly. Potential chaos. It's the dreaded interruption.
This is what faced President Barack Obama the other day during an Easter storytelling event on the White House Lawn where he was about to tell a group of children Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." As you can see in the video below, no sooner had he started then screaming children interrupt his telling. Real wild things showed up. Now, to his credit, Obama doesn't panic. He smiles, laughs and reassures the children they'll be ok. "Bees are good," he says, "They won't land on you. They won't sting you. They'll be OK."
At some point in your storytelling career you're going to be interrupted. . . count on it and be prepared. It might be a phone call, a crying child, a plane roaring overhead, traffic noise, a fire alarm, a heckler, or even a swarm of bees. So what do you do?
Keep smiling. If you're agitated or irritated, you're simply going to convey that feeling to the audience adding to the mix. Be reassuring yet stay in command if possible. Assess the situation. Is it something you can ignore knowing it will pass, or is it something that demands attention and needs rectifying?
As part of your preparation, you should do a sort of "risk assessment"--check with the organisers of your event if any fire alarms, for example, are planned on the day. Ask teachers about potential intrusions or interruptions and plan on how they can be avoided and dealt with. Be aware of the relevant response in case of an emergency. Know the procedure. Ensure that a responsible person (other than yourself) is on hand to deal with potential interruptions.
Of course, most interruptions are not planned. They're unexpected. When they happen (and they will) quickly assess the situation. Can you continue or do you need to pause. Keep smiling, pause if necessary until it's OK to resume, use your sense of humour to keep your audience focused and convey reassurance. Most interruption--like bees--eventually go away and will leave you to continue your story happily ever after.
Video courtesy of The Telegraph, 10 April 2015 www.telegraph.co.uk