Storytelling – Audiences Delight in “Ordinary” Stories

Jane Jenkins Herlong
Jane Jenkins Herlong

The art of storytelling is integral to effective public speaking. You do not have to have founded a Fortune 500 company, survived a perilous arctic expedition, or won a Nobel Prize to tell a good story – because audiences identify with and delight in stories drawn from ordinary life.

My friend, humorist, author, and speaker, Jane Jenkins Herlong may be a born storyteller. (Fortunately, if you are not a natural storyteller, the ability to tell a successful story can be learned.)  Jane’s humorous take on life’s challenges reminds us that wonderful, engaging, and instructive stories can be found in the fairly ordinary world around us. I share this story from Jane’s book, Bury Me With My PearlsEnjoy!

Joe’s Funeral Hole
by Jane Jenkins Herlong

My friend Joe was enrolled in mortuary school and desperately wanted a full-time job at the funeral home where he was being trained. One of the town’s most respected patriarchs had passed away and the funeral was going to be one of the largest the town had ever seen. Joe wanted to impress the owner of Carter Funeral Home, so he made sure every detail was covered . . . no pun intended.

Joe was nervous about the big day. He believed his entire future hinged on that funeral, and he desperately wanted things to go well. Before the graveside service was held, Joe asked the owner, Mr. Carter, about his chances of being hired by the prestigious funeral home.

“Well,” said Mr. Carter, “We do need a new staff member and we will consider you, but we must see extreme professionalism. Make sure that no matter what happens you know how to make it look excellent.”

The solemn service concluded with the Baptist church soprano singing the classic hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.”  The nervous funeral director wannabe stepped too near the edge of the grave that was covered in AstroTurf and tumbled to the bottom of the red Georgia clay hole.Covered in mud, Joe realized he had ruined the largest funeral in the history of the county and buried any chance of employment with the Carter Funeral Home. Embarrassed and literally “red-clay-faced,” Joe was hoisted out of the grave by his colleagues.

The soloist sang, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.” Suddenly, Joe had a thought. The song inspired him. Mr. Carter’s words—“make it excellent”—resonated in his brain. He walked over to the grieving widow, knelt down on one knee with red clay dripping on his shiny, black patent leather shoes and calmly said, “I took it upon myself to personally inspect the grave, and I want you to know all is well with that hole.”

Joe got the job. He turned an irritant into an opportunity.

Bury Me with My Pearls by Jane Jenkins HerlongSomeone once told me a story about a young man who approached the corpse at a wake and asked the deceased if he could marry the departed man’s daughter. No one could figure out what the young man was thinking.

To me, it was obvious. At one time or another, the deceased must have said to this young man, “Over my dead body will you marry my daughter . . .”

Another opportunity born from an irritant.

Humorist, Amazon “Best-Selling” author, speaker, and professional singer, Jane Jenkins Herlong, CSP finds the funny in dysfunction.  Jane helps audiences confront negativity with grace and humor to increase performance and productivity as she did overcoming being labeled Dyslexic and other challenges. From the tomato fields of Johns Island, South Carolina to a Miss America runway and beyond, Jane’s funny original, Southern stories and award-winning singing helps audiences learn life-skills and the healing power of laughter when dealing with stressful issues thrown at their field of dreams. You will love this farm-girl’s Southern-style recipe for balancing your own personal journey with a sense of humor, hope and heaping helping of folksy wisdom. For more information visit:

Thank you Jane!

“The quality of your life depends on how you respond to the situations and circumstances you find yourself in.” – Patricia Fripp

Many complimentary articles are available on to help you improve your storytelling.  Here are two to help you get started, “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling” and “Do You Tell Your Own Stories? Why & How to Create Original Stories.”

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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.