Shannon Cason has shared his stories all over the country. A graduate of Michigan State University, he has worked with big names like Spotify, Uninterrupted, and Henry Ford Health Systems. Shannon is a host, MainStage storyteller and GrandSlam champion with The Moth. He is a regular on NPR’s Snap Judgment and has spoken at events like TEDx, Third Coast Festival, and Podcast Movement. He may be known best for his personal podcast, Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories.
Growing an Audience
Shannon started small. He gained his footing with small groups, and slowly his following and career grew to the point where he was performing in front of large audiences.
“Going from telling a story with 10 people in the audience like at a coffee shop, then doing something at the mall which is like 200 people, and then them asking me to do something somewhere else and it’s like 800 people, then going somewhere else and it’s like 2000 people. It was like immediate – within a year I was doing larger shows.”
Shannon has been podcasting for over 10 years, and the best way he has found to grow his audience is to ask for it. When he is a guest on other shows, he is sure to give the audience a place to find him. When he gives talks, performances, or is a guest at an event, he’s always sure to get the chance to get or make a shout out for his platform. A place, such as social media or a website, works as a platform—somewhere people can find you and connect with you. Your platform makes you more than just a name mentioned on a podcast, during an event, or in an article.
“You’ll fall into a zone within storytelling… you can see things from the other side of your imagination and just look around and then there’s a decision that you make on which way you want to go within the story, the memories, all of those things.”
Watching other people tell stories has been Shannon’s greatest asset in becoming the great storyteller that he is today. From his father, to pastors, salespeople, or even strangers sitting at the bar, he has mastered his skills through observation and “mimicking” other great storytellers. His father, one of his greatest influences, guest starred on an episode of Shannon Cason’s Homemade Stories, which has shown to be one of the most popular episodes he has released.
What Makes a Story Interesting?
Being transparent. The stories and experiences you don’t want to talk about usually end up being the best stories to tell. Two of his most influential and popular stories, he says, are the ones about his own failures—such as the stories he tells about gambling and infidelity. People relate to failures and honesty, raw stories told without a spin on them, that reveal his true vulnerability. Be transparent, he says, if you “build a house that isn’t real,” you’ll have to play it out. So when you go to build your story, choose honest materials to craft with.
Tuning into your natural awareness and intuition. Some things you learn and some things are gifts, Shannon says. Awareness is something some people are just born with: an awareness of the people and things around them, and a knack for understanding them.
Cross over into your memories. The best stories are the ones that are true and authentic, things that have or could have happened. Think about the people around you, about their past as well as present, think about the insecurities of others and how they relate to you. Reflect these qualities onto your stories and characters.
Move forward. Accept your failures and embarrassments, they will happen, learn from them and keep going.
Be comfortable. Everyone has a style or way of doing things. It’s important to find your own in order to be comfortable in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Additionally, be comfortable with sharing your story. People need storytellers. They either need to hear stories to learn lessons, or they need someone or something to relate to.
Have a purpose. Why are you telling your story? There must be a bigger purpose to what you’re doing, one that can drive you forward. Ask yourself, “Who am I beyond what I do now?”
What’s Next for Shannon?
Shannon is currently working on courses to teach storytelling and podcasting skills. He’s starting out this project by doing things his way: growing from something small, at home in Detroit.
Buy a journal or record on your phone. Record your family and important moments in your life. Time passes, things change, and to be able to go back and look at the life you’ve documented is very important.
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