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Seven Rules for Storytellers:

  1. Sign up well in advance!
    • You can sign up for any event you see posted on the extempoVT.com homepage.
    • The lineup fills up very fast & very early: sometimes even a month or more before the date of a show.
    • Week-of, same-day, or at-the-door sign-up is rarely to never available & not recommended.
    • The person signing up must be the person telling the story: No third-party sign-ups.
    • If you tell a story, you get in FREE.
    • Sign-up is open to any adult, but given that it's a competition, you should not consider yourself a professional raconteur.
  2. Practice looks like different things to different people, but... PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
    • Extemporaneous stories are well prepared in advance to come off smoothly, while looking & sounding dynamic.
    • Don't recite your story word for word; it shouldn't sound rote.
    • Time yourself when you practice because your story will be timed at extempo & disqualified if too long or too short.
    • The telling of your story out loud must run FIVE TO SEVEN-AND-A-HALF MINUTES (5:00 – 7:30): no more, no less!
    • BE EDITORIAL. Additionally, do not plan a story to max out all seven-and-a-half minutes (you'll go over).
    • No impromptu storytelling: The mic is not open to people jumping up spur of the moment.
  3. 'Act natural' & tell no lie.
    • Your story must be true, original, & from your own life.
    • No fiction, folktales, fairytales, fables, legends (urban or otherwise). No once-upon-a-time stories.
    • No nonoriginal material, & don't retell a story once you've already told it at extempo.
    • Live, first-person, true storytelling calls for being GENUINE and having a NATURAL stage presence: NO ACTING!
    • The first word out of your mouth at the microphone must be the first word of your story.
    • Be stage present: Speak directly into the mic, keep it close to your mouth at all times, enunciate, & make eye contact.
  4. TELL us a STORY.
    • It's not a reading: Don't use any script, notes, crib sheets, cue cards, etc.
    • Narrative true stories only.
    • Use first-person voice: Tell your story from an "I" perspective.
    • It's not open-mic night. NO: standup routines/sets of material/crowdwork, speeches, lectures, recitation, one-man shows, etc.
    • No advertising or PR: No promoting other events, goods, or services.
    • One at a time on stage.
  5. Choose your topic.
    • Unlike every other storytelling event out there, at extempo there is NO THEME.
    • You may tell a first-person true story about anything.
    • Any feeling tone is ok: Stories can be dramatic, funny, anything in between, or be hybrid in tone.
  6. Be comfortable being digitally recorded at the live event, but: Storytellers own the rights to their own stories!
    • Audio is recorded by default, winners are posted on the internet, & any story may be rebroadcast on the radio.
    • Additionally, many events are videoed by & for local community access television.
    • Any storyteller may opt out of likeness, voice, or material capture and/or rebroadcast. Just ask!
    • At extempo you are free to tell compromising material (meant to be ephemeral) live without digital repercussions.
  7. Do your best, & keep good company with other extemporaneous storytellers.
    • The evening develops a pleasingly consistent tenor when everybody's story follows these rules.
    • You will not win if you break format or abuse time constraints.
    • Stories are juried pointedly on rules 2, 3, & 4 above.
    • Winningest storytellers advance annually to compete for prize money at the tournament of champions, the Tell Off.
    • extempo is always meant to be a LIGHTHEARTED competition; please keep it that way.


Four Rules for the Audience:

  1. Arrive no later than 20 minutes before the start time if you want a seat (extempo cannot stress this enough).
  2. Sign up at the door to be a juror or timekeeper, & you'll get in FREE.
  3. It's not a kids' event!
    • Stories told at extempo are by adults & for adults.
    • Storytellers aren't asked or expected to alter content or language on account of the presence of children.
    • So as not to distract storytellers, at extempo, children should be not seen and not heard.
  4. Storytellers love to hear your organic reactions, so laugh, cry, clap, cheer, but please don't heckle or interrupt.
    • Exception: It is ok to ask a storyteller to speak louder if you cannot hear her/him.
    • No cell phones: Turn all personal electronic devices all the way off during the event—no ring, no buzz, no glow.
    • If you bring an infant or baby (not recommended), stay near an exit for the duration & duck out when they start to make noise.


Storytelling events have a history of being powerful, moving, & transformational for tellers & listeners alike. And as the Burlington playwright Adriano Shaplin says, "The only reason to tell a story about the past is to tell a story about the present."

To tell a story, join the mail list, or ask a question: email storytelling@extempoVT.com