I used to sit down at the computer and
start to write. Mistake. I had no control,
and rambled my way from start to finish. Not anymore. Now, I stay in control
of my story by outlining a series of bullet points. Ditch the full sentences. Just
write fragments at this stage.
Write like you talk.
Go ahead and skip that step where you
sit at the computer and try to become a
writer. Stories to be read are quite different from stories to be told. Speaking is
about having a conversation; it’s the way
you talk naturally. So, just write the way
you talk. Just got easier, didn’t it?
Funny ideas—especially those given
to you by your friends—will start to
slip in, so go ahead and write them
down so you don’t forget. Try to put
them in the right places chronologically
in your outline.
This was the stage where I stumbled
on “Chub Rub,” the official name for
my thigh-rubbing condition. You can’t
ask for two better words to make a
funny story. (My husband says he thinks
it means something else, by the way.) I
found out there is such a thing as chub
rub lotion, and that there are recipes for
chub rub lotions online. I polled my
funny friends to help me farm for more
funnies. We came up with the Chub Rub
Club—where thigh gap is for losers.
I’m having T-shirts made to sell at
the back of the room. And I came up
with Chub Rubbers Anonymous (“It’s
been 30 days since my last rash,” “My
rock bottom happened when I wore
corduroys to church and the friction
caused sparks, and they had to put me
out in the baptismal pool”).
loosen your death grip on the facts.
“But that isn’t exactly the way it happened” is the Grim Reaper for a funny
story. The truth is usually not funny
enough, so massage it a little. You’re
not selling your soul if you change the
funny story from last year to last week.
Nobody cares that there really isn’t a
Conflict is necessary.
Chub Rubbers Anonymous. And if you
care, well, you are taking life way too
seriously and missing out on
better stories and more income.
In every story, the main character
Raise the stakes and build drama.
has a conflict—something he
wants, or wants to get away
from. In an embarrassing moment,
the conflict is the embarrassing
moment you have found yourself
in. The conflict could also be what
you are going through at that time
—the personal issues you are bring-
ing to this embarrassing moment. That’s
a way to “raise the stakes” on the con-
flict and make your story funnier and
NSA member Bill Stainton says you
need to raise the stakes to make a story
good. He’s right and has the Emmys to
prove it. Don’t just make it any day;
make it an important day. Don’t just
make it anywhere; make it happen in
the worst place that it could happen.
Don’t just make one screw-up; turn it
into three. One good phrase to help
you raise the stakes is, “And to make
things worse.” Or keep asking, “What
if this happened?”
The key is to connect with your
audience. We don’t connect to plot.
We connect to emotions. It’s the
No. 1 thing I see speakers leave out
of their stories. Don’t just tell me
what happened; tell me how it made
you feel all along the way.
Here is where it pays to tell the truth.
Don’t fabricate emotions or they won’t
be delivered in an authentic way. Stick to
who you really are in life. Here are some
of the emotions I added to my story:
• Being a professional speaker puts
me in a business where how you
present yourself—what you look
like—matters. People are waiting
and watching for you to mess up.
Luckily, I never let them down.
• I’m surrounded by important people in my industry, and at this event
I still feel like I’m sitting at the
kids’ table at Thanksgiving.
• I feel like I’m not good enough.
• I want so much to impress these
people—they are my heroes.
• Standing there trying to look
cool—just like prom all over again,
except I didn’t get invited to prom.
Just like standing outside the window of prom peeking in—only
now my thighs are even bigger.
Resolve the conflict.
Even funny stories need some reason
for telling if you’re a professional
speaker. Find a lesson learned. Resolve
your conflict. It’s great when something
surprisingly good comes out of this
embarrassing moment, even if it didn’t
happen until years later. What did it
Here is what happened when
I walked through the Chub Rub
fiasco, and found a beautiful life-changing truth waiting underneath