I heard a radio phone-in segment the other day, in which callers related tales of having their stories stolen by other people. There seems to be a lot of it about.
Imagine you had a really hilarious experience, full of amusing twists and turns. Like this squirm-inducing tale from singer Megan Washington:
Then picture yourself at a party, where you find one of your friends telling an entralled circle of people the story – with themself as the central midget tickler character instead of you.
That’s a crime.
Storynappers abound in presentation land as well. I’ve seen lots of speakers, professional and amateur, relating stories in the first person that you know they picked up from someone else on the circuit or read in someone else’s book.
That’s white collar crime.
If you’re borrowing stories from other people, acknowledge your source. There’s no copyright on spoken stories, but stealing is immoral and the bad karma will catch up with you at some point.
A lesser crime is telling stories that have been done to death. I caught up with presentation consultant Mike Kelly the other day, who counsels his clients against using stories that have been worn thin by countless retelling.
“How many times have you heard the Colonel Sanders story?” he pointed out.
It was a good story. But I think I’ve heard it more times than Colonel Sanders made unproductive sales calls during his bleak startup phase. Presenters haul it out like a wedding band trying to kick some life into You Can Leave Your Hat On.
Look to your own life and work for interesting stories. They don’t have to be huge success stories that end with you owning a global fast-food chain. Small, personal stories are just as interesting. You’ll tell them much better, because you were there.
And if nothing that makes an interesting story has ever happened to you, it’s pretty clear you should change jobs or go on a long holiday to Peru.
By the way, check out Megan Washington’s music. I wasn’t aware of her until the midget story. She has a voice of startling beauty.