Public Speaking Course:
Here are some storytelling tips I teach in my
public speaking course.
Try not to say the words" funny", "reminds me of",
or "story". These words alert the audience that a story is
coming and causes the audience to resist your story rather than getting caught
up in what your saying. They say in essence, "Let's see you make
me laugh." or "OK (yawn), here comes another story."
Don't say, "I heard a good one the other day..." for the
same reason you don't say "it reminds me of..." The audience
will resist and challenge you to make them laugh.
Never say, "I don't know if I should tell this one..." If
there is any doubt about whether a story is appropriate for a particular
group, leave it out.
The best way to start a story is to get right into it. You should be
into the story before anyone realizes it is a story. That way they are
already deeply involved and don't have time to resist. You could say:
"There was this man ... "
"On the flight here ..." or "Driving in this morning
Don't say, "A funny thing happened on the way to the meeting today."
"In the cab today ..."
"I was talking with ..."
"Let me take you back ...", "Come with me ...",
"Imagine ...", "Visualize this ...",
These are a little different because while they do alert the audience
that a story is coming, they also serve to get them so involved emotionally
that any resistance is counteracted, or as with the "Borgs"
in science fiction "Resistance is futile".
When getting out of a story, I you never
say, "But seriously folks..."
If it was a funny story you don't have to say, "Hey Stupid! That
was a joke." Give your audience some credit. It also implies you were lying, so now why should they trust you and
continue to listen?
To exit a story, don't say anything about it being over. Just make
a slight change in delivery, tone, rate, expression, etc., and go on
with your presentation.
A change of expression on your face or a different pose, are both body
language that can say, "We are moving on..."
Here are some More Don'ts:
Use too many stories on the same topic. Each successive one will lose
Tell a story where you are the hero. If you are the hero, make it appear
that it was dumb luck that made you so (self-effacing humor).
If you are a bonafide hero, forget what I just said, but make sure
you add a healthy dose of humility for best connection with the audience.
Use terms that may be foreign to the audience. Educate and excite the
audience with new words, new experiences, new insights.
Die of printed page poison. Written stories must be changed to be recited
When you find a story that you like in a reference book, you cannot
say it exactly as it is written or you will sound stupid.
You must knock out the he saids and she saids. People care about Dick
or Jane, not about him or her, he or she.
Don't give a history lesson when telling a humorous story, because
many of us think of history as long and boring. Humor is best when it
is short and sweet. Put yourself into the story to make it believable,
even if you are faking your being in the story.
Fake truth is essential to humor even if the story is totally untrue.
After the punch line of the humorous story, most (not all) folks will
"get it" and realize you were in the story just for effect,
not in reality.
The exception to the need for fake truth is when you are telling an
exaggeration. Then anything goes.
I had a terrible day at the beach. I came home with 14 harpoon wounds.
That exaggeration is pretty evident to anyone. Now to twist the humor,
you can say,
"Fortunately, they were all in the fish I speared. Anyone for
a fish fry?" Now you are the hero, too!
In your public speaking course you will learn how to keep the attention of the audience,
keeping connected, but not with a harpoon!