Linking Your Stories to Your Message

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There are many compelling reasons to use humorous stories in your presentations. They make you more likeable, they make you more memorable, they help you generate higher fees, etc. But as far as your audience is concerned, there is only one reason: you use humorous stories to further your point! That’s it! You’re not using them to get a laugh, because getting a laugh is about you, the speaker. Using a humorous story to help get your point across is about your audience. And when you’re on the platform, that’s where your focus should be: on your audience!

We’ve covered the benefits of humorous stories—and where to find these stories—in other articles. Now let’s take it to the next step, and talk about how to integrate these stories into your message—and your presentation. And, as a bonus, we’ll also see how a relatively small handful of stories can be used to exemplify multiple messages.

The key to the whole thing is linking. Here’s the basic principle—the “trick” that makes it all work: the story stays the same, but the link changes to suit the message. I’ll give you an example from my own unfortunate life.

I’m not going to go into the whole story here, but when I was seven years old, I got urinated on by a full-grown Bengal tiger. (Refer to separate article, re: “comedy is when something goes wrong.”) It happened at the Philadelphia Zoo, and the tiger was behind bars (they still used bars back then), but surprisingly, that didn’t make it any more pleasant. Anyway, the entire story, as I’ve developed it, takes about five minutes to tell. And regardless of my particular topic, I’ll tell the story pretty much the same way each time. What will change, though, is the link—the sentence(s) connecting the story back to my presentation. Here are a few possible topics, and an idea of the link I might use for each:

Planning: “I didn’t realize it then, but looking back on it now I can see that the difference between me and the tiger is that the tiger…had a plan!”

Negotiation: “I didn’t realize it then, but looking back on it now I can see that my problem was…I didn’t know what the tiger knew. So when you’re negotiating with the tigers in your life—your boss, your clients, the car dealer—know what the tiger knows!”

Competition: “I didn’t realize it then, but when I look back on it now I can see what my problem was. I underestimated the competition. Never underestimate the competition…even when you think you have them right where you want them.”

Dealing with Change: “I didn’t realize it then, but looking back on it now, my biggest mistake was…I didn’t see it coming. And just like that little surprise from the tiger, you don’t always see change coming. And that can ruin your whole day!”

Conflict Management: “Looking back on it, I realize something now that I didn’t realize then. See, the tiger and I had a conflict, and I didn’t manage it well. Fact of the matter is, I didn’t even know we had a conflict. But the tiger knew, and sometimes that’s all it takes!”

Obviously, these are just a few quick examples. Now, I’m not suggesting you run out and get urinated on by a Bengal tiger. What I am suggesting is that you take the stories in your own life and look for ways you can link them to the various topics you speak on. By being a bit creative with your links, I think you’ll find that a small number of stories will serve you well in a very great number of circumstances!


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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