Jerry Seinfeld said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” If you fear public speaking, than storytelling may be the key to changing that. Storytelling can  take your talk from boring to brilliant. It’s a powerful tool. One that I’m just starting to learn more about.

I use to fear public speaking. I remember how nervous I would get at the thought of having to speak in front of my peers.

I don’t really get nervous anymore. Oh sure, maybe a little if it’s somewhere I’ve never been before and I don’t know much about the audience. But that is more jitters than nerves. And I want to have a little of that. It makes me feel like I still take public speaking and performing seriously. If I was completely calm before a speaking event I’d worry that speaking had lost that magic for me.

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in heart forever.” – Native American Proverb

One reason public speaking can be daunting is because you can see that reaction of your audience. Which is awesome if you’re killin’ it. You can see the audience loving every minute of it. They nod in agreement, laugh at the spots where you want them to laugh, and give a roaring round of applause.

But if you’re dying a slow deal on stage, seeing your audience’s reaction doesn’t help. In fact, it will probably make you feel worse about how things are going.

One trick that can make your talks successful is to employ storytelling. Who doesn’t love a well-told story?! Storiea keep us on the edge of our seats. They have us leaning in to hear the speakers every word. We can’t get enough of them.

If you’re new to storytelling, I’m going to hook you up with some resources.

TED Talks By now everyone has seen TED talks. We probably all have our favorites.

TED’s slogan is “ideas worth spreading”. Some of the most popular talks include, “Do schools kill creativity”, “The power of vulnerability” and “The power of introverts”. TED talks are great because they’re short in length, usually less than 20 minutes. This makes them perfect for listening to during a commute, while you’re waiting for an appointment, or during work when you need some motivation and inspiration.

I love TED Talks for the information they deliver. The talks can be a little too rehearsed for my liking but that is just my opinion. Also my friend Eric’s. But that doesn’t take away from the strong and provocative messages they deliver.

TED has a variety of events. For example, TEDx is a local gathering where previously recorded TED talks are shown. I just got tickets to go to my first TEDx event. I’m looking forward to learning more about TEDx and all the great events they offer.

The Moth I just recently learned about The Moth in of all things my monthly Toastmasters magazine.

The Moth launched in 1997, making this year its 20th anniversary. Moth stories are told live and without notes. Scary right? Wrong. Read Long Story Short (which I talk more about later) to hone your storytelling skills. The book is so good. I read it in a day. I can’t get through anything in a day!

The Moth also has a podcast. I just started listening to it when I’m in the car. Not only does it make commutes a breeze, but the stories shared are entertaining.

Ignite Ignite started in Seattle in 2006. I only discovered it a couple years ago. I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ve been to three or four Ignite Minneapolis talks. I’ve submitted a proposal to talk at them but have yet to be chosen. One day, *fingers crossed*. It’s one of my goals.

Ignite is 18 speakers talking for five minutes on a subject their passionate about. Talks can be entertaining, enlightening or educational. They can’t be self-promotional. Okay, I’ll be honest, I don’t know if ‘self-promotional’ is actually a word.

The presenters share 20 slides that help illustrate their talk. The slides advance automatically so the speakers have to be on their game. Once the slides start, there is no slowing them or going back to make a point.

Toastmasters Yeah, yeah, I talk about Toastmasters a lot. I know. Carter and I recently visited a Toastmasters club that’s using a storytelling format. All of the speeches given in the meeting are in story form. Table Topics, which is the impromptu speaking portion of the meeting, is done in mini stories. It is a great club that we hope to visit again soon!

Books There are lots of books that can help you become a better speaker and storyteller. Here are some that I’ve read or am currently reading.


Talk Like TED This is one is my favorite books on speaking. I use it as a text book. I’ve read it a couple times now and I highlight different things every time I read it. I’ve given copies to my husband and my sister because I think anyone interested in speaking not only needs to read this book but also needs their own copy that they can highlight in and refer back to.

Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need I am a slow reader. I read this book in a day. It was that good.

Margot Leitman is a comedian turned storyteller. Not just a storyteller but an award winning one. She has won The Moth StorySLAM five times and is Moth GrandSLAM winner. She also loves the Price is Right. I really want to meet her because after reading her book I realize we have a lot in common.

The book walks you through fill in the blank exercises to help create stories. I’m a sucker for anything that puts me to work because I won’t necessarily do it on my own. But if the book gives me exercises to work on I’ll do them.

One thing I learned from this book is that storytelling involves real stories, not made up ones. I always thought that telling a great story involved being able to make up a great story. Not so.

Great stories happen to those who can tell them.

Steal the Show This book was recommended to be by a fellow Toastmaster. He said it was the best book he’s read on public speaking. I ordered it off Amazon last week and got it for $3.57. The cover price is $27.00. That’s brand new! I haven’t started reading it yet but plan to this week. The Author’s Notes and Prologue are almost 20 pages long. Am I the only one who has to read these before I get into the meat of the book?! Which is kinda dumb because I’m just blowing through them so I can get to the good stuff so I’m really not retaining it. It’s like trudging through eating dinner just so I can eat dessert. The sacrifices I make.

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking I see this book all the time on Amazon. But since I have Talk Like TED I didn’t think I needed it. Today while I was on the TED website looking for talks to listen to, I came across an ad for this book. It sounds much different than Talk Like TED so of course I ordered it. I mean, its THE OFFICIAL TED Guide to Public Speaking! I need to own it. I’m a few chapters (I was able to borrow it online from the library so I decided to dive in) and I’m loving it.

There is a lot to learn about storytelling but I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying something new. If you’re interested in storytelling, whether as a listener or a storyteller, I hope you find these resources useful.

What’s your experience with storytelling? Have you read any great books about it? Have you participated in any storytelling events? Let me know in the Comments section below.

Thanks for stopping by! Julie

Please like & share: