The Megaphone

Storytelling for a sustainable world

At the heart of advocacy is the ability to tell a good story. The creation of a compelling narrative is perhaps the best way to make a persuasive argument in support of an idea that you feel most passionate about. In order to help Madison residents learn the subtle art of storytelling, Sustain Dane, in partnership with Living In Balance is hosting a two-part workshop that aims to teach local activists how to effectively share their message.

Takeyla Benton

Called the Megaphone: Storytelling Workshops for a Sustainable World the program offers a few basic techniques on how best to craft a tale that an audience of listeners would be eager to hear. Led by master Madison storytellers Takeyla Benton of Listen to Your Mother and Jen Rubin of the Moth, this crash course in creative communication provides practical advice for even the most novice spinner of yarns.

“I never considered myself to be very good at telling stories,” said Mark Lydon, a business advisor at Focus On Energy. “I’m glad to know that it is a skill that can be learned.”

Mark Lydon

Benton and Rubin detail the specific elements that make a good story. They believe that an effective narrative follows an arch that flows from beginning to end and pulls with it the listener’s attention. Starting with a strong introductory sentence the storyteller unfolds an inciting incident that is filled with intrigue. With each new layer of information the stakes rise and rise to build anticipation for the main event that likely comes as a complete surprises. And in the end, the story concludes with a resolution that offers closure and maybe even teaches a lesson.

“A good story isn’t the same as an anecdote. You have to tell us more than just something that happened,” Rubin said. “It has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. And when you’re finished you should make a point that makes sense!”

Jen Rubin

Each participant will attend the second evening of the workshop with a story of their own. With a focus on the importance of sustainability they are asked to share a real-life occurrence that happened to them that might have made them think differently about energy conservation or environmental protection. As one student pointed out “sustainability is a broad topic that can mean a lot of things.”
But what matters most is that they “tell a story with enthusiasm and a bit of wonder,” Rubin and Benton say in their course materials. “Joy, humor, surprise, anger, a lesson learned, a reckoning – all the things that make people want to hear a story.”

The Megaphone Storytelling Workshop will conclude with a story slam in late February. For more information visit

Takeyla Benton, Jasmine Banks and Jen Rubin

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James Mills

James Edward Mills is a freelance journalist who specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving, and practices of sustainable living. He has worked in the outdoor industry since 1989 as a guide, outfitter, independent sales representative, writer, and photographer. He is the author of the new book “The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors” and the co-writer/co-producer of the documentary film An American Ascent. James has written for the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Magazine, and Wisconsin Trails. He is currently a contributor to several outdoor-focused print and online publications such as National Geographic Adventure, Rock & Ice, Alpinist, SUP, Elevation Outdoors, Women’s Adventure, the, Park Advocate, High Country News, Land & People, Outside Magazine and The Guardian

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