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Public Speaking Course: 

Storytelling DON'Ts

If you want to be able to tell a good joke or story check out these storytelling tips from my public speaking course.

Try not to say the words" funny", "reminds me of", or "story" to start off your story. Don't say "I heard a good one the other day..." These words tell 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 feel like saying, "Let's see you make me laugh." or "OK (yawn), here comes another story." They want you to prove to them that you can tell a good story or funn joke instead of just being involved in what you are saying

Never say, "I don't know if I should tell this one..." If there is any doubt whatsoever about whether a story is appropriate for a particular group, don't tell it.

The best way to start a story is to just 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 ..."

"In the cab today ..."

"I was talking with ..."

These are all good ways to just begin your story without alerting your audience to the fact that its a story.

Now phrases like, "Let me take you back ...", "Come with me ...", "Imagine ...", "Visualize this ...", are a little different because even though they alert the audience that a story is coming, they also serve to get them so involved emotionally that any resistance is counteracted.

When getting out of a story,  never say, "But seriously folks..." If it was a funny story you don't have to say, "Hey Stupid people! That was a joke." Give your audience some credit.  To exit a story, don't say anything about it being over. Just make a slight change in delivery, tone, rate, expression, etc., and continue 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 impact.
  • 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 aloud.
  • 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 by telling a story the right way.

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