• Story Club
  • Posts
  • If you don’t know one… then it might be you

If you don’t know one… then it might be you

I finish my talk, and I can tell something is wrong. 

I’m in a friend’s house, rehearsing before a speaking competition, but their reaction is… odd. 

This is a very emotional talk about Thor, my dog, and when I practiced it at my speaking club there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. 

Roberto and Mari, though, are just looking at me with an expression I can’t quite make out. 

“So… what did you think?”

“I mean, it’s a great story, for sure, but…”

Roberto pauses. He looks uncomfortable.

“But what?”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“What do you mean??”

“Well, I’ve known you for 20 years, and that’s not how you talk. Or move. You were… weird.”

I didn’t know it back then, but I had become the Story Weirdo 😬

You’re not figure skating

For years I’d been part of Toastmasters, which is the largest public speaking organisation in the world, with thousands of clubs everywhere. People meet every week or two, give speeches and get feedback. It’s incredibly supportive and a great place to practice public speaking. 

They also have competitions, where some of the judging criteria is about vocal variety and body language. Because of that, people get into the habit of exaggerating what their hands and body are doing, and speak in a performative voice (think really bad musical theatre). 

I once spoke to a Toastmasters World Champion who compared it to figure skating: you amp up the bits that get you the high scores, but you would never do any of that if you were skating to get somewhere. 

Back then, I had been speaking in front of that kind of audience for so long that I forgot normal people didn’t speak that way 🤦‍♂️

If you don’t know one… 

This is not just an issue just from Toastmasters. Everyone has an annoying relative, friend or co-worker that can’t tell a story without trying to make it a performance - and a terrible one. 

Here are some of the hallmarks of the Story Weirdo: 

  • They start with “I have a great story for you” or “I have a really funny story for you” (and it’s never great or funny)

  • Their voice changes

  • Their hands start miming basic things or moving in a dramatic way 

  • Their language becomes florid and artificial (“The moon was glinting off the snow…”) 

  • When they finish, they will look at you as if expecting applause 

Everyone knows a Story Weirdo, but if you don’t… then there’s a chance that might be you 🤭

When you speak or tell a story, you are trying to get somewhere. The fancy performative stuff is not only unnecessary - it will also get in your way. 

Talk like you’re with your friends at a bar - not performing on Broadway. 

When it comes to storytelling, that’s how you actually put on a show 🤘


Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Getting clarity through your story to stand out from all the other coaches, speakers and entrepreneurs out there 

  2. If you dream of speaking on the Red Dot, take this Scorecard and instantly discover how likely your idea is to be accepted by a TED-style organizing committee

  3. If you (or your team) got any storytelling challenges, I’m sure there’s something we can do together ;-)

Thanks for reading! Reply any time.