How to tell irresistible stories

We’ve all been there, halfway through a story only to find our audience’s eyes glazed over, or worse, having to hear a story that was so boring and dull you wished for escape.

If only a certain storytelling device was more widely known. If stories were built around the tool we’re unpacking here, it would be hard to resist any anecdote. Here’s what it is.

Five second punch key moment

This is where you say something so profound, interesting, or impactful that the audience has to take a few moments to process what you just said and it makes an impact on them as a result.

When executed correctly, it doesn’t matter if you’re telling a story at dinner, giving a talk in public, or creating a piece of content for advertising. You’ll leave the audience impacted.

It’s going to take them a minute to process, but what you say will stick with them longer as a result. So how do we do it?

#1 — Start as close to the punch as possible

This is where 95% of stories get lost. They start with irrelevant or unnecessary details that mire the point they’re trying to make and deter the audience from listening.

To avoid that, we want to begin our story as near to the end as possible. Did your story take place at a restaurant? Then you don’t need to include the fact that…

  • You took the train to get to the restaurant
  • You had to walk through wet streets to get there
  • You’re seated at the round table in the middle of all the commotion

…unless those details have an absolute material impact on the punch line. If they don’t, get closer. Skip as many of the details preceding the punch line as possible.

Adding all this extra detail beforehand is really just a comfort blanket for you to help you warm up into the story and try to make sure they fully understand it.

What’s better is just to tell the story effectively and in a concise fashion so your audience can quickly listen, understand, and get out. If they want more information, they’ll ask.

Once you start the story, you’ll need to add enough color and context to make the punch line impactful that you’ll be able to fill the story and make it something that’s relevant and helpful.

#2 — Give enough detail to hook your audience

Even though you’re starting as close to the punchline as possible, give just enough detail to engage the audience and to make them curious about the outcome.

This is where you’re trying to hook them. Hook them without betraying the punch line itself. You can do this by…

  • Prompting a question
  • Making a big statement that requires an explanation
  • Give them a false punch key that resolves over the course of the story

For Example

You could make them think they’re hearing a story about the time you dropped scalding hot pizza on your boss, but in reality, it’s about the night that you met your wife.

You’re not saying up front, “This is a story about the night I met my wife.” You’re saying, “You’re not gonna believe this time I dropped incredibly hot pizza on my boss’ lap.”

Maybe that happens early on and then, as you tell the rest of the story, it’s like, “Oh, my goodness, this is the time he met his wife.”

#3 — Make the punch the last thing you say

Or at least the next-to-last thing. Every word you say after the punch key moment will take a percentage of impact off of the story.

You need to make sure your audience walks away with the intended effect.

When you get to the punch line, lay it out there, give them a moment to digest, and then conclude as quickly as possible.

The five-second punch key technique is very powerful when used correctly. It can take your next boring story told around the holiday into a legendary tale.

More importantly, it’s an incredibly useful way to create a piece of content that is going to resonate with your audience and potentially be something they’ll want to share.