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Public Speaking Course: 

Storytelling DON'Ts

Here are some storytelling tips taught in my public speaking course.

When beginning to tell your story don't say the words" funny", "reminds me of", or "story". These words tell the audience that a story is coming and causes the audience to resist you rather than just getting caught up in what your saying. Instead they say, "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.

You should also keep from saying, "I don't know if I should tell this one..." If there is any doubt about whether a story is appropriate for your audience, leave it out.

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

"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 they might have had is taken away.

When finishing your story, you should 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. 

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..."

Don't use too many stories on the same topic. Each successive one will lose its impact.

Don't 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.

Don't use terms that may be foreign to your audience. 

Don't 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, do not say it exactly as it's written or you will sound stupid. You must get rid of 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 funny 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 part 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 using fake truth is when you are telling an exaggeration. Then anything goes.

Example of some exaggeration:

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 I show you how to keep the attention of the audience, keeping connected, but not with a harpoon!

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