Using Zoom for Storytelling & Performance – Thoughts and Tips from Gav Cross
About midway through 2020 the whole concept and notion of Zoom fatigue was being discussed.
Suddenly, new regular phrases emerged, such as ”Can you hear me okay?”, “You’re on mute!” and “you have no authority here..”
And I envied it…
I haven’t been in many Zoom meetings. As a freelance performer and creative I wasn’t really in a team.
I wanted to play with Zoom!
So I started to tell stories on Zoom*.
*I know it’s never going to replace live work with an actual audience. One you can see and smell. And I, like you I’m sure, miss that dearly…
And I loved it. I loved having a new audience of people to interact with and get a response from. As I’ve got more used to the software I learned how to adapt my material and performance style to increase interaction. I started to be able to bring the bulldozer of chaos that I adore in my own storytelling, into this new realm. I learned how the software could include people at what ever level they want to be included.
It has meant that I’ve been able to work across the country and beyond. That I’ve been able to tell stories and shout at children from around the world! Who could ask for more?
I had hoped to tour my storytelling show, Twisted Tales for Terrible Children…” in 2020. Instead I took it onto Zoom. And I could hear laughter. I could see the engagement and I could involve an audience that wanted to be part of my stuff and nonsense. I was invited to perform for Manchester Libraries, with one of the days being 20 classes in 3 shows. Joyous!
I’m also the talent manager for my cousin, Father Christmas and actively encouraged him to deliver some storytelling zoom sessions. And equally, he had a wonderful time being extraordinarily silly. Well he does have a very high pressure job so it’s good to let off some steam. The Father Christmas Storytelling was projected into the venue at The Pound. Mr Christmas was able to see and hear the audience. Sat in the their family bubbles 15 minutes before the virtual audience, there was a chance for FC to have a pre show chat and hello with those that had come out on that Christmas Eve. The Zoom Audience was let in and the estimable Pound Zoom hosts were able to let me see, hear and interact with audience members online and on site. After the Zoom show there was time for Father Christmas to interact once again with the audience in the venue. Before having to leave and get on with the other jog of that night… That blend was deliciously fun. Jokes were swapped, funny faces were pulled and shared. Laughs and the lovely echo of a time together that will soon return, I’m sure.
More recently I have been enjoying zoom storytelling sessions for Cubs, Scouts and Beavers up and down the country. Virtual Fireside storytelling. Plus a Funny Looking Kids: Comedy Club. An online live sketch show for families. So I thought I would give you a few top tips.
I think there are going to be plenty of opportunities moving forward, of retaining the online element. I’m looking forward to experimenting with blending live storytelling performance and an online audience.
Here are my very simple top tips, from a very simple Storyteller:
- Play with Zoom as a Host if you haven’t, see what the differences are between pinning, spotlighting, the different types of views.
- Keep your set up in gallery view, so that you can see as many of the audience as possible.
- Look at the camera lens and not the Zoom room…
- Have fun with a green screen! Or any blank wall colour. Adding backgrounds are a nifty little way to transport yourself with simple video and images.
- Light your face. Bright and clear. It helps with the video quality.
- Have the camera at eye height, not desk height. Look at your audience, not down on them.
- Talk to the Waiting Room before you start your show! Ask them to change their screen name to whoever is watching this show.
- I ask that a grown-up is there to give me a thumbs up if children are on screen.
- Encourage people to take part. Unmuted as individuals, or a specific times, the full group. Or contribute in the chat.
- Have a buddy/co-host that can help you steward the group and send messages to you about audience members desperate to be involved you might have missed.
I think it will remain perfect for scratch performances, readings, poetry, storytelling and more.
I can’t wait for live audiences, who we know are desperate for enthralling, engaging, exciting, entertaining performances. But not everybody is going to be able to get out so readily.
I know personally I am enjoying the opportunity to see more work from diverse people, from around the world.
I bet you’ve got a fantastic story to tell and I would love to watch and help. Do get in contact with your experiences. I always love a chat with another performer about what they have been up to. See you soon, on Zoom?
Some Zoom audience Feedback:
“The joy and laughter of the Beavers – and the parents chuckles in the background (we were a zoom session) spoke for itself.”
“Just wanted to say thank you for organising such a great meeting tonight. My children both really enjoyed it and I loved hearing their laughter throughout. It was exactly what we needed part way through this lockdown. Thank you.”
“Stories told very well and funny. Liked the “best smile”. Very much enjoyed the interactive bits.”
“The whole group loved it! Primarily booked for beavers and cubs, some of our scouts logged in also and he thought it was very funny, So spanned from 6 to grown ups, loved seeing them all laughing and enjoying, and thinking differently about traditional tales!”
About Gav Cross
Gav describes himself as a Storyteller, Creative & Idiot. Find them on:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GavCrossStoryteller
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/gavcross
Twitter – https://twitter.com/GavCross
And grab a peak at the tour brochure for “Twisted Tales for Terrible Children…” –
For the upcoming Funny Looking Kids: Zoom Comedy Club details, go to https://funnylooking.co.uk