with professional storyteller Andy Copps
In the latest instalment of our #VillaMariaTalks events, brand ambassador Angela Lewis was joined by London based professional storyteller, Andy Copps. A former accountant, Andy left the spreadsheets and 9-5 life behind, as he embarked on a new career, celebrating his passion for storytelling.
We caught up with Andy to pick his brains on how conversations have added value to his life.
Having been an accountant for such a long time, how was it that you came to become a storyteller?
I became an accountant really because of the security that a steady profession can afford, but over time, I realised that I found people fascinating. I wasn’t the best accountant because my manager used to come along and say, ‘where is he?’, and I’d be off chatting to somebody and finding out their life story.
My fascination with storytelling actually began when my company had an event on storytelling. I found this absolutely captivating - it was gripping. All the host did was stand in front of the audience and tell a story and everybody was in a trance. I met with her afterwards and I ended up going to a training workshop on storytelling and starting doing that on the side.
Now my storytelling career has been based on some really crucial and often random conversations! I once won a helicopter ride across the Thames, as a result of charity silent auction that I won. While my wife and I were on this trip, I met this young Australian and told him I was fascinated with storytelling and we got chatting. One of the things he said to me was; ‘you have to find your tribe, find people who are interested in you and you in them’. As a result of that conversation, I left the corporate world and began working in this field of storytelling. It is amazing how a couple of conversations can shape your future in that way.
What do you think makes you a good storyteller?
The thing that I really love about being a storyteller is meeting new people and listening to their stories. Obviously, I worked in a stressful industry for twenty odd years, I know what pressure is! I know what society demands of people today - it’s being able to empathise with people and being able to listen that actually makes someone a good storyteller. If you listen to people, it’s likely they will listen to you as well.
How do you find being a good communicator has helped your personal life?
Storytelling is so instinctive for us as human beings. Since humans have been able to speak, we’ve been telling stories. Stories bring people together. For me, it has helped me meet new people and develop a whole host of skills. By the same token, there is great responsibility with storytelling, you have to respect the story, and I think these are traits to carry in other areas of your life.
How do you keep people’s attention?
The whole visual aspect of storytelling; body language, the superman pose, eye contact and making sure that you are including everybody around you are all crucial. Posture is important to keep people engaged, making sure you aren’t just standing there, fidgeting. People can quickly become disengaged if you aren’t communicating in a way that will grab their attention.
What skills are important when relaying an anecdote you have been told?
It happens so frequently when you hear, ‘oh, you had to be there’. The delivery of an anecdote you have heard is a tricky one. The key is to breathe and remember the central aspects of what it is that you have heard, and always remain calm. It’s just when people get flustered that the classic line, ‘oh, you had to be there’ comes out!
What is a special conversation that shaped your career?
For me, as a storyteller, it is the everyday conversations I have with people where I’m finding out their life stories as well as sharing mine, where you stop and think, ‘wow, this is actually quite incredible’.