Don't steal other people's stories. It's not nice.

Avoid Borrowing Stories

We all know stories make a speech, sales presentation or staff training more interesting. May I urge you to create vivid, personal stories for your presentations.

Imagine how I once felt, sitting in an audience of 18,000 people, listening to Barbara Bush describe a great story she had read in Chicken Soup for the Soul–my own story which made the point, “What you do speaks louder than what you say.” (Yes, I know Ralph Waldo Emerson said it first.) Did Barbara Bush mention it was my story? No.

But even if she had mentioned my name, I think she missed a huge opportunity with her speech. Back then, I imagined her sitting in bed at the White House, going through stacks of books with a highlighter pen for things to talk about. Since then, after speaking at the Ragan Speechwriter’s Conference, I’ve realized more likely, a speech writer did the research and wrote her words. My point? I’m not upset she didn’t credit me. Just disappointed that someone with Barbara Bush’s incredible life experiences did not share them 100% of the time during her talk. I am sure she had much more interesting topics and perceptions than reporting on what my friend Bobby Lewis said to me when we were jogging in Oklahoma City many years ago.

That’s how audiences will feel if you repeat stories and examples they’ve already read or heard before multiple times.

My suggest, use your own life experience.

One of the highlights of the Speechwriter’s Conference was the dinner for the speakers the evening before the formal opening. Can you imagine how excited I was talking to people who write for history? These fascinating individuals around the dinner table write for individuals from Colin Powell to Senators to Corporate leaders and University Presidents.

As we sat down for dinner I suggested we go around the table and they give me a ‘thumb nail sketch’ of their lives.

Wow… you should have heard the stories! My point… YOU have stories you hear, or can hear, if you ask your interesting successful friends and associates the same question. In fact, what stories from your life, family or career do you entertain your dinner guest with? Ever thought of putting them in your talks? I promise you, if it works at the dinner table it will work from the podium.

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Patricia Fripp CSP, CPAE is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach and award-winning professional speaker. She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It!, and Past-President of the National Speakers Association. Visit Fripp’s website at

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