In this lesson, you’ll learn to:
- Develop and use Dave’s system to remember funny stories used to illustrate key points and entertain your audience
Back when I lived in Ireland, I liked to visit a farmhouse-type pub way out in the countryside, seven miles from my home. I traveled there along roads that were barely the width of two small cars, with twists and turns all along the way. I frequented this pub on Tuesday nights because that was when musicians, poets and storytellers would show up for a fun, relaxing evening. A roaring fire would push out the dampness. The characters that would turn up ranged from pretty young farmer girls to weathered-looking storytellers to jolly musicians. Just thinking about this place brings fond memories. It amazed me the way the old storytellers could tell a story with so much tension, emotion, humor and visual detail.
As business communication skills expert and award-winning storyteller, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using funny stories in keynote speeches, workplace meetings, presentations, seminars and training. They make your points come alive, captivate your audience and make your information memorable. There is no better feeling than having someone come up to you and say, “I remember you! You were the one who told the story about … “
Are you ready for this to be you? In this lesson, I’ll share with you a process for compiling hundreds of your own stories. Once you begin, you’ll never again look at a blank sheet of paper or computer screen and think, “What story can I tell here?” or “How can I make this point more interesting?”
One of the most common complaints I hear from speakers is, “But Dave, I don’t have any funny stories. Nothing funny ever happens to me!”
Everyone feels that way, but it’s simply not true. Take a look at this quick video where I help my audience connect to a few of their own stories!
Are you convinced yet? Before you get a chance to do the activity featured in the video, let’s start with one of the most important parts of storytelling…finding a way to remember your story ideas!
Stories are like that crazy carnival game, “Whack-a-Mole.” One second, they’re there, and they next second, they’re gone! You must have a way to capture your ideas in the moment. Here’s my advice!
Purchase some small Post-it Notes and keep them in your car, wallet and kitchen. Anytime you see, hear or recall something amusing or interesting, write down a few words that will jog your memory later. The key is to write down the words immediately. My rule is to write down the thought within one minute. I typically use five to seven words to remind me of the story at a glance. There is nothing more frustrating than standing with a pen in hand, looking at a Post-it Note, and finding that the thought you had a few moments ago evaporated.
I’m a big fan of Post-it Notes, but you may prefer an electronic way to capture your memories. These include:
- Cell Phone Note Application: The same principles apply. Take out your phone immediately and record five to seven words that will jog your memory later.
- Digital Recorders: Keep a small one with you and use it to record a few words that will remind you of the story later. You can also incorporate a voice-to-text software program such as Dragon.
- Cell Phone Voice Recorder: Most smartphones can record your message and convert it to text and/or email it to you for filing.
The key is finding a method you will use. Set a goal to capture a certain number of “story starters” each week, and your brain will cooperate! It’s like switching on a scanner that prompts you to be more observant and capture funny memories that come to mind. Watch or listen for “triggers,” such as someone telling you a story that reminds you of something. You’ll be amazed by how many ideas you capture in your first week if you commit to the process!
Over the last few years, I have captured nearly 900 story starters that I build upon to incorporate into presentations, training sessions, humorous speech competitions, blog articles, newsletters, humor, and even books. Every month or so, I gather my Post-it Notes and transcribe the information into a simple Microsoft Word Story Organizer Table. In this organizer I hyperlink each story summary to a separate page, where I stretch them from observations or vignettes into stories that have vivid details. Does this sound like a lot of work? It really isn’t. When I am having a lunch break or drinking coffee at home on the weekend, I might peruse my list of story starters and decide which one to write out in more detail. All my stories and blog articles started as a sentence or two on a Post-it Note to remind me of the story.
Here is a screenshot of the simple story organizer I use:
SITUATIONS THAT MAKE ME SMILE (AND WRITE)
The following are some funny memories that I originally wrote on Post-it Notes with five to seven “recall” words. I have elaborated on them to give you the gist of what they were about. Some of these will end up being brief anecdotes or quips. Others may end up being five to 10-minute stories when fully developed. They may become stand-alone stories to entertain an audience, or they may be used to illustrate a serious point in a funny way.
- Christmas season is here and the wife’s impulse shopping drives me crazy. To stay out of trouble, I apply the “don’t ask, don’t tell” shopping policy.
- Sister-in-law was doing a Skype video call to her mum in China. In view of the Webcam I mischievously modeled her bright red bra – trouble.
- Told a presentation-skills class to avoid walking through the projector light. Tried to demonstrate but was too short.
- At a three-day breast cancer charity walk there was a competition for the most decorated tent. The winners had lots of colored bras hanging outside.
- Wife did clean-up community service. She lifted a piece of wood and saw a huge, curled-up snake. Texas outdoors is too dangerous!
- My big old Irish setter was snuggled up on the couch at 6 a.m. I brought her dog treats (breakfast in bed). She considers me fully trained.
- My great-grandfather spent his life in a wheelchair and had seven children. My funny mum joked, “He certainly got out for his exercise, didn’t he?”
- Built a sub-fence to keep my big dog from the muddy bits. Three trips to the hardware store and $$$. My dog went outside and bounded over the fence!
- Memory of my mum dozing in the rear seat of our car between our 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. My son asked, “Why does Granny have a mustache?”
- Irish religious/positive thinking perspective on flights getting delayed and getting stuck at the airport: “God wants me to drink beer!”
- Shopping with my wife and I saw a stand of wigs. I put one on to surprise her and give her a laugh. Checkout girls saw me and laughed (red face).
- Low-caffeine morning. Dropped an apple into my mug of coffee. It fit perfectly. Paperwork and my favorite shirt were hit by a caffeine tsunami.
- At work I let a group of women get on the elevator first. I lost focus and the doors closed without me. I heard them laughing all the way up.
- Low-caffeine moment driving to the auto shop to get muffler fixed on my wife’s car. Three miles from home I noticed I was driving MY car.
Believe it or not, I started out sharing 75 different stories that originated from my Post-it Note process for this lesson, and I whittled it down to 14! You’ll be amazed at how fast your brain begins to find the funny stories in your life once you begin the process. Decide on your capturing method, Post-it or technology, and get started!
Speaking of getting started, there’s no time like the present! In the following exercise there are a few prompts to get you started, just like the participants in the video. Write down a few words that come to mind for each prompt. Download the editable PDF below and fill in the blanks.