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5 Reasons Stories Are Better For Public Speaking

Posted on December 14, 2011 by Leslie Dickson

A common public speaking tip is to use humorous stories.  Likewise, many of VoicePro®’s articles have stated that using funny personal stories far outweighs using jokes. Of course the question remains: Why not jokes!? To give insight into the benefit of storytelling, we offer you five reasons that stories are better than jokes when you give your next business presentation.

#1 They’re Unfamiliar

If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of telling someone a joke they’ve already heard, the result is often unfavorable. Sometimes they laugh.  Sometimes they force a laugh of out pity. Or finally, as when I tell jokes to my sister, they stop you mid-joke and correct you on the delivery. Of course, not every audience member will know your jokes. However, those that do will question your authenticity. Will they know a funny story from your childhood? Unless they were there, your story will be something new.

#2 They’re Easy To Memorize

As a speaker, you should be properly prepared for your presentation. You should know your audience, check on any technical equipment beforehand, and know your material. If you’re giving a presentation about your specialty, this won’t be a problem. Adding something you don’t know as well, like a joke, for the presentation adds an element of memorization you don’t need. As comic Dan Licoppe explains, your own stories don’t require any memorization: you know them. Eliminate an unnecessary risk, and use your own stories.

#3 They Avoid A Punch Line Pause

Traditionally, jokes have a specific format. The setup or premise comes first, and then the punch line which spins the setup to inspire laughter. But if the punchline doesn’t resonate with your audience, the punch line creates a public speaking nightmare: unplanned silence. This is awkward for everyone. Stories are preferable because you can avoid the expectation of laughter.  If there’s laughter, that’s great.  If they don’t, you can continue unscathed. In fact, you may discover parts of your story that you didn’t intend to be funny are hilarious to your audience.

#4 They’re Less Likely To Offend

Have you ever been told a joke you found offensive? Unless the joke was a personal attack, the joke-teller probably had no intention of offending anyone. This is a major downside of joke telling. Jokes about political candidates will offend their supporters. Jokes about lawyers will offend lawyers and even people espoused to lawyers. It’s hard to tell a joke that doesn’t offend someone. Personal stories, on the other hand, are based upon your own experiences rather than direct mockery of any group or person.  Self-deprecating stories are a great option since you’ll only offend yourself.

#5 They’re Real

As strange as it seems, audiences often forget that the speaker front of them is a human being. The effect is usually compounded if the speaker wields power over us. Jokes don’t show humanity because they lack realism. When’s the last time you walked into a bar with a priest and a rabbi for a drinks? Your experiences are real.  Best of all, people can relate to them. When’s the last time all the traffic lights seemed to change to red when you were running late? Most people have experienced something similar.  Personal stories give us a grounding in reality and let the audience connect because “that’s happened to me too!”

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Image provided by Rosenfeld Media

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