PSU Insight

Speak with Power and Passion

Types of Stories

Stories are the backbone of an effective speech. But just as you should vary the different elements of your speech, intermingling stories with statistics, examples, quotations, and other elements, you should use a variety of story types as well.

There are many types of stories. The more popular forms include:

  • Jokes are humorous stories, usually obviously untrue, with a surprise ending. Well told, a joke is quite effective — if your audience hasn’t heard it before. (And in today's Internet Age, it's very difficult to find a joke that people haven't just seen or heard. So choose your material carefully.)

  • Personal anecdotes are stories about you or people that you know. Since it’s unlikely that your audience will have heard your personal stories, you have the greatest chance of entertaining them with your own anecdotes.

  • Tall tales are stories which involve so much exaggeration, they’re obviously untrue. They’re mostly useful in humor.

  • Fables are morality stories, frequently about animals. Almost everyone knows the fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”. Fables are most commonly used in speaking to children, but business people can also respond favorably to fables.

  • Legends are stories about mythical or supernatural beings. Ancient legends involved giants and dragons. Modern legends involve giants of business and many athletes. Legends are frequently motivational or inspirational.

  • Myths are historical stories, probably false but with a possibility of truth, that tend to explain why things are, or how they came to be. For example, ancient myths described how the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses caused things to happen.