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Lesson 8 – Embellish to Maximize the Audience Experience (Preview)

Dave Hill – Funny Motivational Speaker

In this lesson you’ll learn to:

  • Exaggerate or provide additional visual details to stories to increase audience engagement
  • Turn chuckles into belly-laughs to maximize your talk’s entertainment value
  • Implement a step-by-step process to enhance speech content
  • Be aware of the realistic “truth-boundaries” for exaggeration in stories

Embellishment, or adding additional details to make a story more amusing, is great way to incorporate humor into your speeches, presentations, training, and even business communications. It increases the entertainment value of the audience’s experience, creating positive energy and aiding in retention.

The process of incorporating embellishment is quite easy:

  1. Write out your story.
  2. Make the story concise and visual. “Tighten up” the story by removing unnecessary words and sentences. Substitute words that help the audience visualize what’s happening for words that do not.
  3. Once your story is “oozing” with visual details, read it out loud. Make any additional changes to make the story even better.
  4. Begin to “embellish” it even more, by asking yourself, “Where can I go from here?” Take each scene and look for ways to uncover humor or “punch-up” existing humor.

One way to do this is to ask the types of questions listed below. Remember to consider what could occur in addition to what did occur!

    1. How do I feel?
    2. What could I smell that is unusual?
    3. What could I see that could be quirky?
    4. What could I hear that could be unusual or annoying?
    5. What crazy or quirky things could I incorporate?
    6. What could annoy or frustrate me at this present time in this “scene?”
    7. What could be ironic about what is happening?
    8. What are the “norms” that could be “flipped” to shock?
    9. How can I embellish this story to build tension prior to triggering laughter?

There’s one very important point to make regarding embellishment. Most of the time when I embellish a story, I still make sure the embellishment or exaggeration is believable. (Notice I said most of the time, not all of the time!).

I increase the visual details and stretch the truth, but the story as a whole is based on real occurrences. If the audience feels that your personal story is untrue, they may react negatively. However, if I am delivering a tall-tale story that the audience knows from the onset is stretched beyond credibility, then there are no boundaries!

Let’s see this in action! The videos for this lesson are in two parts. Each will help you explore the success strategies I use to embellish stories to maximize the audience’s experience and to turn chuckles into belly-laughs.

In this first video (5 minutes) I explain the purpose of embellishment and the logical steps to implement it. The video also incorporates a brief video snippet where I show the process at work while discussing the funny happenings during an embellishment workshop with a hilarious 12-year-old.

In the second brief video (6 minutes) I share the time commitment that is needed to embellish. (I also share that the time does not matter to me because I enjoy the process!) To wrap up this segment, I include one of my funniest embellished stories that was delivered to a very responsive audience.

Once you view it, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an extremely embellished story! Did you notice how much fun I had with the audience? Remember, it took me around XX hours of time to get the story to that level of detail. Was it worth the time investment? You bet!

You might think that some of visuals were rather risqué. Yes, I agree, and it’s important to understand that I analyzed the audience beforehand to decide if the material was appropriate for them and the occasion. I concluded that it probably was. This is key with all humor development. Always ask yourself, “Is it appropriate for this specific audience and is it appropriate for this specific occasion?” If it’s not, or if you’re not sure, leave it out. In this case I was conducting a humor training session for speakers (at a Toastmasters public speaking conference break-out workshop session).

Ready to try embellishing for yourself? Complete the activity below before moving on to the next lesson.

Exercise: Take a written paragraph of one of your stories that has embellishment potential. Go line-by-line through the paragraph and ask yourself, “Where could I go with this scene?” Remember to consider what could occur in addition to what did occur!

  1. How do I feel?
  2. What could I smell that is unusual?
  3. What could I see that could be quirky?
  4. What could I hear that could be unusual or annoying?
  5. What crazy or quirky things could I incorporate?
  6. What could annoy or frustrate me at this present time in this “scene?”
  7. What could be ironic about what is happening?
  8. What are the “norms” that could be “flipped” to shock?
  9. How can I embellish this story to build tension prior to triggering laughter?

Copyright © MMXIX by David R. Hill

Back to: Finding the Funny: How to Create and Deliver Humor in any Speech or Presentation
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