How to fix the most common storytelling mistake

Cathy Goodwin
3 min readMay 6

You’re telling a story and you want to get attention, respect, and followup. Here’s the one BIG mistake a lot of storytellers make…especially if they’re veterans.

You’ve got your story. Maybe you wrote out the whole sequence or you took bullet notes on 3×5 cards.

Now you’re getting. ready to go live! I’ll be sharing strategies for telling your story on next week’s free webinar: Telling to Sell.
Meanwhile, here’s a tip to consider…it seems simple, but veteran speakers are especially likely to miss it.

An article in Inc. Magazine shares tips from Wharton professor Jonah Berger, author of the book Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way.

One of his tips is deceptively simple. It’s one you’ll get if you join a Toastmasters group. “Watch the ums, uhs, and fillers. Replace them with pauses.”

You come across as powerful when you replace a filler word with silence.

Being comfortable with long pauses shows you’re in control. When I was a college professor, I knew the class was with me when I could hold a long pause. As a stand-up comedian, pauses are a critical part of every set.

Frankly, losing the filler words requires practice.

When I go too long without a presentation, I find myself slipping back into more filler words. I have to remind myself to follow the most basic guidelines.

Practice every day. When you’re talking to clients. When you’re making an appointment on the phone. When you’re meeting people at networking events.

“But I speak all the time…”

Ironically, if you’re a sought-after speaker, you’re more likely to ignore filler words. From time to time I bring guests on my podcast. Most of them are so comfortable with speaking, they relax…and we got lots of long “umms” as they think out loud.

As a bonus tip: If you’re a podcast guest, and you want your host to love you madly, be especially careful to cut the fillers and go for the pauses. A lot of us edit out the filler words, so you’re making life easier for us.

When you tell a story out loud, plan

Cathy Goodwin

Create a compelling marketing message that attracts your ideal clients through your unique selling story.