Tell Personal Stories Without Being Self-Absorbed [audio]

Tell Personal Stories Without Being Self-Absorbed [audio]

by Tracy Johnson

Telling personal stories from your life without being self-absorbed or sounding egotist is a great skill for any performer.

If you can relate things that happen in your life organically, naturally and without arrogance, your audience gets to know you. That’s what makes them fall in love with your personality.

There are as many ways of doing this as there are personalties.

But at the heart of it, here’s what it’s all about:

Relating to listeners is not at all about you. it’s about them. And yet, it’s all about you.

How can that be?

It’s simple, really: Listeners are interested in stories because well-told stories make them feel something. And if that story can lead them into a deeper relationship with your personality brand, And that builds your franchise.

Here are some examples:

Self-Deprecating Personal Story: Pat & JT

One of the many strengths of KQKQ/Omaha (Q98.5) morning show Pat & J.T. is Pat’s ability to tell self-deprecating stories about his family.

They do a regular feature called “Is Pat a Bad Dad?” which serves as a Content Container (another name for feature) on the show. In this case, it works well to hold a series of stories about Pat’s life.

The key is telling the story in a way that allows the listener to “see themselves” in Pat’s story.

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Here’s an example:

And here’s another example of Pat relating how he wanted to have a teachable moment with his son, but all Bennett wanted was a toy.

Both are great examples of how to tell a story. He does it with humility, focus and with a point.

Pat’s a naturally humble personality, so this approach works.

He gives the story plenty of room to breathe. The show doesn’t rush to the punchline, but it moves forward with a good pace. JT helps him along with questions, comments, responses. She adds interest without getting in the way.

In the second track, notice how Pat pauses and slows at the end of the story, building drama right before the big moment when his son drops the punchline.

And, I don’t know this for a fact, but I strongly suspect that the story is punctuated with exaggeration, and a bit more detail than how it happened in “real life.”

Melissa Etheridge

One of the first things I try to teach air talent is that listeners just don’t care about you. They only care about themselves. It’s not a knock on the talent. It’s about the audience.

But at the same time, it really is all about you. To win on the air, it all comes down to presenting a show that commands attention that stands out to listeners in a ridiculously crowded environment.

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For a short time, I worked with Melissa Etheridge on her radio show. Melissa is a great storyteller, and we found that her strength was relating a personal story as a shared experience. She had a way of bringing listeners into her story emotionally.

In real life, this is the difference between talking about your children and showing pictures of how cute they are, and relating something that they did to make you laugh or made you angry. One is self-indulgent. The other is relatable, a shared experience. That is one of the most important aspects of telling stories successfully.

Listen to how Melissa relates stories from her life. And listen to how she talks about her performance at the Grammy Awards while weak from chemotherapy treatments for cancer.


You may not be able to relate to performing at the Grammy’s, but you certainly can connect with her on how she was feeling. It’s all about her. And it’s all about her audience. Both at the same time.

Everyone has a story. How will you tell yours in a way that relates to your audience?

Author: Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

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