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What can stand-up comedians teach us about storytelling?


Written by Jennie Armley

Want to hear a funny story? Stand-up comedians are great at storytelling, and no, it’s not just the way they tell it…  

Whilst I am a massive fan of a one liner, the comedian’s that have the ability to absolutely floor me, are the ones that can really tell a story. Through the ages, the likes of Michael McIntyre, Peter Kay and Lee Evans have all harnessed the power of storytelling in order to captivate their audiences, and have had the world in stitches, as a result.

In the same way that storytelling has proved effective in comedy, businesses are also beginning to use stories to engage with their customers. A well told story has the power to provoke feeling in its audience and even spark a reaction. It is these stories that will resonate with the reader and be remembered in years to come, much like the famous punch lines of our favourite comedians!

Telling your businesses story, like a stand-up comedian…

Set the scene

Behind every good story is a good setting. You’ll notice that the funniest comedians are those who take the time to set the scene and engage their audience. Whilst it is important to keep your story concise and to the point, it is important to provide the details that will paint a picture and captivate your audience, before getting to the crack!

Present a problem

Stories are usually centred around a problem. This could be a conflict or obstacle of some sort that must be overcome in order to lead to a resolution, or in the case of a comedy – the punch line!

Whilst a comedian’s problem will often tend to be light hearted and topical, as a business leader you might be reflecting on an upcoming challenge within the industry, or maybe a problem your audience is facing that you are able to solve.

Be honest

You’ve heard the age-old phrase ‘honesty is the best policy’? Well, the same is true of storytelling. Most comedians will admit that the majority of their material is based around real life experiences observations and anecdotes, with a healthy dollop of exaggeration added of course! By including an element of honesty within your story, this will work to humanise your brand and add the much-needed personal touch that will capture your audience’s attention.

Relate to your audience

In order to truly captivate your audience your story must be relatable. A good comedian will know their audience and play on their interests and motivations. In the same way, storytellers must research their audience, so that they can engage with them on a personal level. Asking questions throughout your story can also help you relate to your audience. A comedian will often encourage crowd participation, not only to get the crowd going, but also to provoke a certain response.

The punch line

No joke is complete without a punch line, and this is equally true of storytelling. Make sure your story finishes with a specific call to action. Think about what it is you want your audience to do next. Whilst the purpose of a punch line is to get a laugh, yours might be to persuade the reader to visit your website, request further information or get in touch. As a business telling its corporate story it is important to keep in mind the purpose for your story and what you wish to achieve from it.