Doug Lipman, Storytelling Coach

  Doug Lipman. World-renowned storytelling coach

Doug Lipman. World-renowned storytelling coach

I do many things (performing, writing, organizing, recording, teaching), but I think of coaching as my principal strength.

When people are interested in being coached, they often ask me questions like these:

1) What do you coach people on?

2) How do you coach people?

3) Who have you helped?

4) What is your expertise?

  • Your origin
  • Your publications
  • Your other qualifications

Below are some answers.

For case studies of large-project coaching:

Want to know about the prices and logistics of coaching with me? Check out these pages:

1) What Do I coach people on?

Short answer: Whatever you would like help with! 

Longer answer: I have helped people with all kinds of things, such as: 

  • Perfecting a particular story or stories, such as:
    • I have a story that I need to perform soon, and it must show me at my best.
    • How can I shape my personal or family memories into effective stories?
    • There’s a story that’s been nagging at me to tell it, but I don’t know how (or don’t know if anyone will want to hear it)
  • Preparing for a particular presentation or performance
    • A TEDx talk or other speech
    • An audition or job interview
    • A festival appearance
    • Whenever you must do your best work.
  • Overcoming bad habits or persistent problems
    • In performing
    • In developing stories
    • In telling stories that I’ve told many times
    • (and more)
  • Solving a general problem with storytelling, such as:
    • When I tell certain types of stories, my listeners aren’t with me. Why is that?
    • Once I get an audience with me, I do great. But I struggle at the beginning of a program.
    • How can I manage participation with young children?
    • I often put off working on my stories until the last minute. How can I stop this?
    • How do I manage my emotions while I tell?
    • How do I know when I’ve practiced a story enough?
    • (and many more)
  • Marketing
    • How do use stories to spread the word about my non-storytelling work?
    • How do I spread the word about my storytelling?
    • My work is technical and complicated. Can storytelling help people understand what I do? How?
    • I already use marketing stories. Are there additional kinds of marketing stories I should develop?
    • Who are my (ideal) customers?
    • How do I build an email list?
    • How do I build relationships with potential customers?
    • How much should I charge?
    • (and many more)
  • Beginning, advancing and finishing a large project
    • A full storytelling program
    • A series of stories (e.g., family history, or tales of women workers in early industrial Massachusetts, etc.)
    • A storytelling recording or series of recordings.
    • A book (In Doug's office is a shelf of books that he has helped people create or perfect)
    • (and many more)

2) How DO I coach people?

Short answer: I help each person in a unique way, based on the person's goals, strengths, struggles, and style

Longer answer: My goal is to help you achieve your goals!

That can mean helping you:

  • Discover, refine, or articulate what you actually want to achieve
  • Discover what strengths you already have relative to your goals
  • Overcome any obstacles you face on your path

I try to discover and help you with the big picture, as appropriate to your goals:

  • Become more aware of your unique set of needs to unleash your creativity
  • Help you more fully discover and understand your own creative process
  • Notice how you think, so that I can help you in your “native language”

Typically, a session may begin like this:

  1. I ask you what you want my help with
  2. I listen intently, asking questions along the way to help clarify
  3. I offer you appreciations of what I’ve heard.

At that point, each session takes its own shape. Commonly, some or all of these things might happen:

  • I offer extended appreciations, perhaps in the form of stories of how important your strengths are or how difficult your particular strengths might be to notice "from the inside.”
  • With your permission, I offer suggestions for helping you achieve your goals
  • I respond to your responses to what has happened up until now!
  • I suggest a next step for you to take or a “homework assignment”
  • I ask you what else you might need from me at this point
  • If appropriate, we schedule a next session

3) Who Have I Helped?

I have coached hundreds of people since the 1970s, around the world and in many walks of life.

I have done hundreds of workshops in the U.S and Canada, as well as in Europe, Asia, and Oceana (New Zealand and Singapore)

In addition, I have coached many people on their own recording projects, such as:

  • Jay O’Callahan: Numerous recordings over decades. Most recently: Falling for Emily Dickinson
  • Jim Gregory: The Hanging of Tom Brown (powerful story of the Civil Rights Movement in the US - and its aftermath)
  • Derek Burrows (Bahamian storyteller, master musician, and filmmaker who has appeared at the White House): Afro-Caribbean Animal Folktales and Folktales of African Animals.
  • Jane Cunningham: Miss Jane — Stories of a Southern Upbringing (Storytelling World Award) and Little Girls, Mind Your Mamas! More Stories of a Southern Upbringing with Miss Jane

I have coached several people on their book projects, often over a period of years, including:

Others have created their books using techniques they learned from me, such as:

  • Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi, Wisdom in the Telling: Finding Inspiration and Grace in Traditional Folktales and Myths Retold Folk-tale collection.
  • Steffani Raff, The Ravenous Gown: And 14 More Tales about Real Beauty. Collection of “folktales” of strong women whose beauty more than skin deep: some tales are highly adapted from folk sources; most are original.

I also coached Dr Sharon Livingston on her popular TEDx talk (which has over 396,000 views—and the number climbs every day):

4) What is my expertise?

Short answer: I am the world’s most experienced storytelling coach, having begun this work in the 1970s.

Longer answers:

A. My origin 

I am the offspring of a “mixed marriage”: a Jewish father and a Protestant mother. So I learned very early to translate from one “symbol system” to another. Ever since, I have loved discovering the different ways that people think and express themselves.

My father told stories to teach, to resolve conflict, and to create connection. As a result, I love helping people connect with others—however dissimilar in background—through storytelling.

B. My publications

I literally wrote the book on storytelling coaching:


I have had three other books published, most notably:

Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics For All Who Tell Stories in Work or Play (August House Publishers, 1999)

Three of my books have received one or more awards. I have also contributed chapters to many books on storytelling and related topics.

I have pioneered the use of recordings and online courses to teach storytelling, interviewing, and marketing, such as:

  • The Storytelling Workshop in a Box (37 audio recordings, each with exercises and accompanying resources)
  • The Beginning Storytelling Toolkit (8 audio recordings)
  • The Image Riding Toolkit (22 audio recordings about how to liberate your internal “image maker” - the part of your mind that allowed you as a child to create endless images and stories)
  • How to Grow a Story: the Three Essential Processes (an online video-based course on the natural processes that allow us to grow stories efficiently and effectively)

I have also recorded nearly 20 CDs and mp3’s of storytelling and songs, such as:

  • Tell It With Me (Participation stories and songs for young children—received the Parents Choice Award)
  • The Soul of Hope (a 2-CD Jewish mystical epic)
  • Folktales of Strong Women
  • Milk From the Bull’s Horn: Tales of Nurturing Men

C. My other qualifications

I have been a leader in the storytelling revival in the United States since the late 1970s. I have helped start:

  • The Storytellers in Concert Series (pioneering adult storytelling series; ran for over 12 years; founded with Jay O’Callahan, Judith Black, and others)
  • The Sharing the Fire Conference (with Lee Ellen Marvin and others). Since 1982.
  • Northeast Storytelling (formerly LANES). Since the early 1990s (If I remember the year correctly)
  • NSN (The National Storytelling Network). I was on the founding board of directors. I had been on the board of the National Storytelling Association (formerly NAPPS) when it split into the International Storytelling Center and NSN; I served on the board of NSN for its first several years.

As a performing storyteller: 

Last, but not least:

Lifetime Achievement Award trophy
  • In July, 2017, I traveled to Kansas City to receive the highest honor in the U.S. storytelling community, the Lifetime Achievement Award, for “sustained and exemplary contributions to storytelling in North America.”