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How to successfully introduce stories in your speeches
March 06, 2020

In this Issue

Image:comic style girl looking bored. Text: Story telling set ups. Some work better than others

Who loves being told a good story?

There's only one answer to that. Everyone!

We all love stories. We love them because we're human and in a speech they can tell us more than a bullet-pointed list of facts on a power-point screen will ever do.

They reach our hearts, our minds and hold them.

A story is, as the old saying goes, the shortest distance between people.

But what's the best way to begin one?

Story telling set ups

How you lead into, or introduce, a story is called a set- up.

Some set-ups are much better than others.

If, like me, you've had the experience of stretching the distance between yourself and your audience to the point of waving their attention goodbye, it may be because your story set-up or introduction needs fine tuning.

Using any of these examples below unwittingly creates a barrier, a block between yourself and the people you are talking to:

  • That reminds me of a really funny story ...
  • Have you heard the one about ...?
  • I heard a great joke the other day. You'll really love it.
  • I don't know whether I should tell you this but ...

Let me show you how.

In the first example, "That reminds me of a very funny story", you've given yourself two hurdles to get over before you even get to your story.

One is that you have said you are intending to tell them "a story". Your audience may interpret that as you are going to tell them something at best, fictional, and at worst, a lie. The word "story" has several interpretations. Not all of them are positive.

The other hurdle is that you've told them it's "funny".

Some people don't want to listen to "make believe" and many more don't want to be told something is funny before they experience the funniness for themselves. They want to make up their own minds about what is amusing.

"Have you heard the one about ...?" as an opener sets your story up as a yarn or joke that is going the rounds.

Someone told it to me and now I'm telling it to you. It's not personal experience, or even a new story, and therefore it can be dismissed easily.

"I heard a great joke the other day ..." fits into the same slot as the "very funny story" starter above with the added loaded inference that the word "joke" carries.

The last example, "I don't know whether I should tell you this ..." invites the response, "No, you shouldn't", in the mind of your audience before your story has begun.

So what does work?

Click story telling set-ups for a collection of suggestions. You'll find examples of three types of openings that do that magical thing of bringing you closer to your audience.

Here's to your successful story telling!


If you're interested in honing your story telling skills be sure to check out these pages too:

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Until next time,
Happy speaking,


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