Why Story Slams?

Story Slam events provide an informal venue where people can share personal stories related to receiving or providing Right Care or wrong care, and why fighting for a better health care system is so urgent. Storytellers get some instructions on how long their stories should be and how to tell a great story.  Story Slam Organizers just have to find some storytellers, a venue, a date, and invite an audience.

Story Slam Guide

All the information on this webpage can be downloaded in this guide. Print it out for your reference or share with friends you think would be interested in hosting a Story Slam for Right Care Action Week!

Preparing for the Event

  • Step 1: Sign up on rightcareactionweek.org to let us know you are hosting a Story Slam. Fill out the Event Registration Form (coming soon) to share the details of your event.


  • Step 2: Find others who can help you plan this event. Leading this event as a group means less individual work for each person, and you get to pool the creativity and resources of colleagues and friends. Meet as a team to divide the tasks.


  • Step 3: Invite your friends and colleagues to brainstorm together (over coffee or beer always helps) about people you know who would be good storytellers. The criteria that make for a good storyteller are charismatic, passionate about right care, and have the ability to tell stories versus whine about problems.


  • Step 4: Find a venue. Any space will do—an auditorium in a school or university; a meeting space in a local place of worship; a big living room. Also, make a plan for food and drinks for your event attendees. Simple snacks and bottles of water should suffice.


  • Step 5:With your brainstorm group, think of all of the individuals and groups you can think of to invite to attend the story telling. Send emails to listserves, but more importantly, send individual, personalized emails. Ask your friends, colleagues and acquaintances in person if they will come to the event. Make announcements in classes and meetings. Post fliers in hallways and cafes. Blast everywhere online and anywhere in real life you think might get attention for your event. Whenever you talk about the event, be clear about how people can RSVP. This is an easy step to skip over, but it’s important! You need to know how many people are coming so that you can plan.


  • Step 6: Next, invite those natural storytellers to participate in the Story Slam. A sample invitation letter is provided below. They’ll need some guidelines for telling a great story. It’s not rocket science, but it always helps even the best storyteller to know what’s expected of them. The Guidelines for Storytellers can be found also be found below.
Materials for Event Organizers
Sample Invitation Letter

Dear Mike,

I hope this email finds you well.

I’m writing today to invite you to participate in an event called a Story Slam. You’ve probably heard the Moth Radio Hour on NPR. Our Story Slam will be similar. It will feature health care professionals and patients coming together to tell stories that challenge and inspire the audience.

This year, the theme of the event is “listening,” and we are concentrating on stories where listening, truly listening to a patient or a family member changed the way healthcare professionals think and feel about themselves, their patients, their jobs, or where a patient felt differently after being heard.                                                                       

As the organizer of the event, we were hoping that you might be able to share a story about your time caring for HIV infected patients before effective treatment. I am always impressed by your dynamism as a speaker and think you would be a wonderful addition to the evening. The event will be held on Monday, Nov. 10 at 6:30pm on the Parnassus Campus.

If you are interested, I can follow up with more information about the event and how you can best craft your story for the venue.  Also, if you can think of other colleagues that may be able to talk about this topic, please let me know.

What do you say? Will you be a storyteller? [Or alter the letter slightly to invite people to attend as a member of the audience – will you come to our storytelling event?]


Your name here [and any other organizers]

Guidelines for Story Tellers

We have a few guidelines to help you prepare:

  • You can only bring a small index card with some notes. This is not a reading, so don’t bring a full story written out.  The idea is for you to tell your story. No need to  worry about how perfect it sounds.
  • …but you might want to practice. Or at least think about your story before you get up there.
    1. Where does your story start? Where does it end?
    2. What is the narrative arc? What happens in your story?
    3. How does it relate to the theme (“Listening”)?
    4. What are you trying to say? Your story doesn’t need to have a moral, per se, but it may help to think about why you feel compelled to tell it and focus on the elements that best illustrate that. You don’t have to include everything that happened.
    5. Practice by yourself or with others to get the feel for it and feel comfortable telling it.
    6. Make sure it’s about 7 minutes, but no longer than 10 minutes.
    7. Remember that when you get up there, you don’t have to recite it just the way you practiced it, so if you stumble or forget something, just keep going!
  • This is a group that includes students, trainees and community members. Try to keep jargon to a minimum and make sure to explain any technical terms you use in your story.
  • We will be recording the event.
    1. You may opt out of the recording, just let us know
    2. If you are ok with being recorded, we will ask you to sign a release on the night of the event.
  • Most importantly: You must respect patient confidentiality. This is technically a public forum, so in order to be respectful to our patients and be in accordance with the law we have to protect patient information. To this end, follow these guidelines while crafting your story:
    1. Your patient or one of their loved ones should not be able to recognize themselves or each other when you tell the story
    2. No names, no dates, no specific ages. g. “22 years old” should be “early 20s”.
    3. Consider changing key characteristics- gender, age, etc. g. Maybe a particular hat or backpack was a key feature of your patient; make it a scarf or a necklace.
    4. Don’t mention specific diseases that are too recognizable. E.g. lymphangioleiomyomatosis should be changed to “lung disease”
    5. You can get your patient’s permission to use HIPAA-protected information in your story, but we will need a signed document from you and him/her that this has been agreed upon. If you are going to seek permission, please let us know and we will provide you with forms.
    6. See Kevin MD for a quick review of this issue: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2010/02/telling-patient-story-issues-facing-physician-writers.html

We are happy to help you figure out what details you should change and how, so please share your thoughts about this process with us.

The Day of the Story Slam!

  • Step 1: If people are going to flake out of going to an event, they usually make the decision 1-2 hours before the event starts. Make sure you send emails, texts, and even make phone calls reminding people and to come and telling them how excited you are that they will be there.


  • Step 2: Set up fewer chairs than you think you need. A room with more people than chairs feels energized. A room with lots of chairs and few people feels hollow and empty, even if you have a lot of people! Unfolding more chairs right before the event starts is a good problem to have. Ensure A/V is functional in advance, and that everyone will be able to hear.


  • Step 3: Assign somebody to be a photographer and take pictures! If you can do it, film the event.


  • Step 4: As the event starts, pass around a sign-in sheet and make sure that everyone who attends fill it out. That way, you can get in touch with people after the event.


  • Step 5: During the event, storytellers go up on stage one at a time to share their stories. Find an MC who can welcome everybody and introduce the storytellers. Stories should be between 5-10 minutes long. Consider asking people to send you their stories ahead of time, so that you can vet them and let people know if they need to make any edits.


  • Step 6: After the event, keep track of the key themes and stories that emerge from each phone call. Fill out the Event Summary Form (coming soon).