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Public Speaking Course: 

Storytelling DON'Ts

You can definitely learn about the best way to tell a story from my public speaking course. Here are some dont's to remember.

Do not to say the words "funny", "reminds me of",  "story" or "I heard a good one the other day..."when beginning your story. These words tell the audience that a story is coming and causes the audience to resist your story rather than just getting carried away 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

Don't say, "I don't know if I should tell this one..." If there is any doubt in your mind about whether a story is appropriate for a particular audience, then please don't tell it.

The best way to start a story is to just get right into it. You should already be into the story before anyone realizes that you are telling a story. That way they are already deeply involved and don't have time to resist. For example, you could say:

"In the cab today ..."

"I was talking with ..."

"There was this man ... "

"On the flight here ..." or "Driving in this morning ..."

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

Now you can use 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 ending a story,  never say, "But seriously folks..." If the story was funny you don't have to say, "Hey Stupid! 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 on with your program.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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