How to Never Be Boring

Last night I had a EUREKA MOMENT.

As I prepare for my Story and Speaking workshop in NYC, I have been trying to figure out why some stories are so captivating -- and others have the same effect as Ambien.  I woke up at 4am with the answer.  Let me know if this makes sense to you.

We’ve all heard boring speakers drone on about the events in their life, sucking the life out of a room like an energy vampire.  Their story usually ends with a "Well, I guess you had to be there” moment.

But then you hear stories that make us lean in, put down our phones, and stop tweeting, because we don’t want to miss a word.  These are the stories that make us laugh, give us hope, and are more interesting than our friend’s latest FB status update.

What is the difference?  OK, before I tell you, let me tell you how I got this.

One of my clients was expressing their fear of forgetting their material.  I launched into a story about how I forgot a huge chunk of my speech at a very important gig.  I went into detail about what happened and my panic.  But, then I took a breath, made a joke about it, and everyone laughed.  My memory came back and from that point on, I had the audience in the palm of my hand.  Moral – sometimes when the worst happens, and we acknowledge it, we become more authentic, and a better speaker.

Are you seeing what a good story is?  You’re telling them every day.  A story is only good and relevant if it is told in REACTION to your AUDIENCE'S PROBLEM.  For instance, if a dear friend of yours is talking about how she lost her job, lost her lover, and is worried about her health -- most of us would tell a story along the lines of "I understand.  I was there where you are.  And I struggled.  And in the end, I found my true career, I found the love of my life, and I recovered my health."

These stories are never boring to the listener because the story is generated to GIVE hope, recovery, and inspiration.  The story is geared toward the listener's problem.  When the speaker’s story is motivated by empathy for the audience, it  naturally truncates the story because it makes the speaker focus on the MESSAGE rather than details motivated by narcissism.  When the motivation for telling the story of your life is because YOU think it’s interesting – you’re only telling it because of your own need for attention, approval, and laughs. You become a TAKER.  When the goal of your story is is to provide the troubled listener with a message of hope, you become a GIVER.

You can’t have a successful story without understanding the needs and problems of your listener.

Back in my blog, Get People to Love You in One Minute, I explain the exercise of actually interviewing audience members before you perform.

Stories can be a powerful form of communication in speaking, in business, and in your personal life -- if your approach is based on GIVING -- rather than TAKING.


  1. Fantastic article! I loved the picture -- how nice of you to have pointed out the spinach in the woman's teeth and offered her floss!!!

  2. You said it! Thank you for articulating these important points and making it easy to understand. There are so many takers, though. What do you say to a person who is so boring and constantly emotionally upchucking all over the place? It would be great to have a funny comment to say to that kind of person. How would you go about figuring out a humorous response?

  3. I'm in the background of this picture somewhere. What a wonderful moment and it did indeed bring the audience a bit closer to your message. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation and chatting with you out on the back porch later. You might remember me as Gianetta what? Good luck with your gig in the desert!

  4. Oh, this reminds me of my dear song coach Susan that every now and then asked me: Do you wanna IMPRESS or EXPRESS? When you are there for the audience you give your very best to them. Your express.
    When you are on stage just to show off how good you are, you instantly become boring. Even if you're the biggest name in the business. So keep on giving is the only way. Thank you for reminding me, Judy!

  5. This grasshopper learned at your feet...along with everyone else who was rolling on the floor laughing. Bravo!

  6. I loved hearing you at EBWW2014. This post provided some instant clarity and affirmation & helped to squelch some recent self-doubt. Instead of viewing the act of publishing posts on my blog as narcissistic - I will embrace being a GIVER..and continue to focus on funny & hopeful stories. You are brilliant, Judy!

  7. Whoo hoo, Judy. I loved your advice on being a giver...and constantly remind myself that it's not enough to vent, rant or whine! Nobody wants to feel worse after having read my material! They can simply step on the scales if they want to be depressed...and that takes less time than plowing through a thousand pages of "woe is me."

  8. This is a great article. It is good to get a message that can help someone get reengaged with what is important in comedy, business or life.


Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.