Legendary rock band KISS, in January, embarked on “The End of the Road World Tour.” For its fans, the group can tap its deep catalog of hits, including “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” “Beth” and more.
As for the case with most classic rock groups, you go to hear the old stuff. But when it comes to candidates trying to get their message across, they shouldn’t rely solely on the tried-and-true anecdotes. Go ahead, play some new material. If you don’t, you might find yourself turning voters off.
Stories give people an inside look into our values, vulnerability, and ultimately, character. When I did stand-up years back, my set, or collection of stories, gave the audience a sneak peek into my worldview. As my career progressed, I kept the hits, but always struggled with developing new material on a consistent basis.
Not every candidate has stand-up ability, but they do have a message. And if the audience hears you tell the same story over and over without any new tweaks, the message may get lost, or not heard at all. Don’t just take my word for it. Ten recent studies found that people who tell the same stories “over and over are viewed as less sincere and less authentic,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Here’s how you can pepper in some new material into your stump speech.
Jot down the roles you play in your life.
To voters, you may be a candidate, but you can also remind them that you are a husband or wife, parent, or Game of Thrones addict just like them.
As a parent, you’ve probably had your kids utter words that stopped you dead in or your tracks, or that made you laugh out loud. Chances are the voters you’re talking to have these types of “out of the mouth of babes” experiences, too. What a great chance to connect.
If you’re not a parent, that’s ok: there’s a good chance you’re a consumer and active citizen who might be frustrated with the gridlock a transportation project has created, or the closed businesses lining a formerly lively street.
Put a little notepad in your back pocket, or just dictate into your phone so you don’t forget these gems.
Now, once you have a few new stories in your arsenal, how do you know if they’re entertaining or if people will even relate?
You can join Toastmasters International, or ask a friend or family member, “Do you think this story is funny?” and then proceed to tell it.
Test out your stories organically.
Each week aim to incorporate two-three stories into your everyday conversation. It could be walking with a friend, making small talk with a barista, or even talking to your significant other as you’re doing dishes.
Look for the response. Do people smile as you’re telling it? Do they
laugh at least once or twice? Can they relate? Little moments like these present themselves every day, take advantage of the honest audience of one.
Like a classic rock group, you’re bound to play the stuff that goes over well. When you do, simply preference the story with an acknowledgment up front, such as:
“Here’s a story you may have heard me tell before. …”
“This story is one I’ve told many times. …”
And when you’re done knocking their socks off with what works, sprinkle in some new stuff. You never know, it could become your next big hit.
Josh Womack is an independent speechwriter and the co-founder of Laugh Staff.