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How Do You Write Jokes?


If you’re a business leader or a professional speaker you don’t necessarily need to learn how to write jokes, but it will help you if you can learn to be funny. 

Someone recently asked me, “Rory how do you write jokes?”

My response was “don’t try to write jokes; instead write stories.” 

For most people it’s much easier to write about something that really happened to them that makes them or other people laugh as they think back on it. And there is automatically an extra added element of humor when it’s based on a true story. 

Start with writing out the story first in as much detail as you remember. Then as you go back through and edit the story, look for natural opportunities to use these humor techniques:

Exaggerate the character features – Developing your characters is always one of the best ways to improve your stories. So let us know more about who the people are that were in the story and anytime you exaggerate their characteristics it’s usually funny. 

Instead of saying “she was an older woman” say “she was probably 67…thousand years old. Seriously, she was in the Yoda stage of life.”

Embellish the circumstances – Think of interesting ways to express the circumstances. 

Instead of saying “the family was poor” say “there was no way this family was going to have the money…there was a better chance of an Amish family pulling up in a Hummer.” 

Be self-deprecating – People love to laugh at a speakers own ineptness so don’t be afraid to highlight it. 

Instead of saying “I don’t know anything about changing air filters” say “I went to Home Depot and asked the lady for an air filter and she said ‘what size’ and I said ‘they come in different sizes?!'”

Connect the old with the new – Since all stories are from the past it makes us laugh when you introduce an element of the future that everyone knows wasn’t there. 

Instead of saying “Jesus went to Galilee” say “So Jesus pulled up Google Maps and said we must go to Galilee!”

Humanize inanimate objects – Anytime you treat things as living that aren’t really living it is often funny. 

My friend Craig Valentine has a cute story where he says “I needed help so I picked up a book. I remember I looked at the book and then the book looked at me!” The book then proceeds to give him advice as if it were a real person. 

Get inside their heads – We connect with other people by being able to relate with what they’re thinking and experiencing. So tell us what the characters were thinking in the crazy moments. But say something different than what everyone might expect. 

For instance let’s pretend you’re telling a story about a bicycle accident you once had during one of your first jobs. As the bike is falling over tell us what you were thinking. Except what we would expect to hear is “this is going to hurt” so instead say “wow this is really going to enhance my resume!”

Remember you’re not a stand up comedian so no one expects you to be. Which actually very much works in your favor because people won’t be expecting you to be funny in a business environment – and that makes it easier to pull off. So instead of starting with trying to write jokes, just tell stories. 

When speaking you don’t want to “lie” and just outright make things up because that’s dishonest. But you also don’t want to just tell what happened in plain detail because that’s boring. Both are a disservice to your audience. 

Instead, use what is commonly referred to as a “license to embellish.” Which simply means to highlight and play up the most salient features of the story. 

This will give your stories more life, more color, and more laughs.  

P.S. For more on the psychology of why we laugh and how to become a funnier person check out my book “How to be funny to make more money.

The #1 Greatest Secret Technique of World Championship Winning Speeches and Presenters

What if I told you there was one distinctive secret of world champion presentations that separates them from all others?

Well there most certainly is…

I don’t talk about it much anymore these days, but a big part of how I started my speaking career was by competing in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

It’s a contest where 25,000 contestants compete over 9 months for the chance to be called the World Champion of Public Speaking.

I joined Toastmasters in October 2005 when I was 22 years old and I saw the World Championship as a way to establish some credibility for myself in the world of professional speaking.

Over the next 2 years, I did 304 speeches for free, received over 2,200 evaluations, watched over 3,000 hours of film, read dozens of books and took dozens of courses in the art of speaking.

In August of 2006, I made it to the World Championships: the top 10 speakers in the world. That year though, I lost.

But in August of 2007, however, I made it back to the World Championship and that was the year that I…well I lost again but I lost higher!

As Jerry Seinfeld would say, I was “the #1 loser.” Because in 2007 I became the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking First Runner Up. In other words, I came in second place in the world just after my 24th birthday.

But after all of that relentless study, I realized that there was 1 primary secret between the winning speeches and everyone else.

To this day, I’ve noticed the same to be true on the professional speaking circuit and in all of the presentations we see at various companies.

Here’s the secret…

Most people take a 9-minute speech and try to cram it into 7 minutes (the maximum amount of allowable time in a Toastmasters competition).

The champions take a 4-minute speech and they deliver it in 6.

Champions realize that less is more.

They allow time for pauses.

They allow time for laughter.

They allow time for spontaneous connection with the audience.

And that is true for any presenter – whether it’s a CEO at a company meeting, an entrepreneur at a pitch meeting to investors, a salesperson trying to demonstrate the benefits of a product to a prospect, or a professional speaker speaking to an audience.

You have to allow time for space and margin and connection.

It is one of the most challenging but important disciplines of professional speaking.

Most people can’t do it.

Most people instead try to say everything they know in the short amount of time they have alloted.

Don’t do that.

Be concise.

As Mark Twain once said, “brevity is the essence of wisdom.”

And remember as James C. Humes wrote…

There are 66 words in the Lord’s Prayer…most people can recite it.

There are 179 words in the 10 Commandments…most people know a few.

There are 282 words in the Gettysburg Address…most people would at least recognize it.

And then there are 26,911 words in the United States Government’s regulation on the sale of cabbage!

And nobody cares!

Less is more.

Ryan Avery, World Champion Speaking Tips on the Daily Discipline Podcast with Rory Vaden Episode 54

Ryan AveryAt age 25, Ryan Avery became the youngest Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking in history; competing against more than 30,000 people from 116 countries to claim the 2012 World Championship title. He is the cofounder of Avery Today, Inc. and managing partner at How to Be a Speaker, LLC where he helps professionals succeed at work by improving their communication skills. He speaks more than 50 times a year to global clients that span emerging professionals, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers and college students.

Interview Highlights:

· At 25 he won the world championship of public speaking. Hear what he has to say @averytoday #TIConv14 #NSA14

· The exercise that @Toastmasters champion @averytoday went through that immediately rid his fear of speaking #TIConv14 #NSA14

· @Toastmasters World Champion @averytoday shares his best idea to make your speeches instantly better #TIConv14 #NSA14

· Watch out for these common speaking mistakes from @Toastmasters World Champion @averytoday #TIConv14 #NSA14

· I chat with the youngest person ever to with the @Toastmasters World Champion @averytoday #TIConv14 #NSA14

Other Show Highlights:

· 5 Biggest mistakes I made in the first 5 years of my speaking career #TIConv14 #NSA14

· If you’re like me, you might be doing these things wrong in your business #TIConv14 #NSA14

· The 1 biggest difference between championship speeches and others #TIConv14 #NSA14

· A special “Public Speaking” episode of #DailyDiscipline podcast this week from Kuala Lampur #TIConv14 #NSA14

The Daily Discipline Podcast is a weekly podcast that Rory hosts every Monday, which is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts and has listeners from all around the world. The show shares “insights and inspiration for movers and shakers in the world of business”™. Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews one very special expert guest and thought leader every week. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

WSMV “4 O’Clock Focus: Author advises facing life’s challenges head on”

A Nashville man says “taking the stairs,” or avoiding life’s shortcuts, is the secret to success. And his book about that very subject is already becoming a worldwide best seller.

Rory Vaden has spent the past two years literally taking the stairs everywhere from the Empire State Building to the CN Tower in Toronto.

But he is not just doing this for his health. Vaden is trying to make a profound point that he hopes will change people’s lives.

“Taking the stairs is a mindset,” he said. “It’s a simple metaphor that represents choosing the hard right over the easy wrong.”

In his book titled Take the Stairs, Vaden shares seven key steps to achieving true success. But at the root of all of them is one thing – self discipline.

“When we indulge in spending on credit, eating whatever we want, and saying whatever we feel like. When we chose the escalators of the world, what happens is procrastination and indulgence become these creditors that charge us interest and make things worse in the long term,” Vaden said.

On top of his desk is a dream board, and beneath it is a calendar jam-packed with the activities and things that must be completed in order to make those dreams possible. He says taking the stairs helps you do more than avoid the bad. Those sacrifices will even help rearrange the outcome of your future…

Click here to read the full article at!

Dr. Oz from Oprah radio interviews Rory Vaden about Toastmasters, Southwestern, and Take the Stairs!

Two-time Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking Finalist, Co-Founder of Success Starts Now! (Southwestern Training), and creator of the Take The Stairs World Tour, Rory Vaden, was recently contacted by Oprah Radio and Dr. Oz.

Rory went to meet Dr. Oz and his wife Lisa in New York to be interviewed on their Oprah Radio show discussing one of their common pastimes; Toastmasters International. In talking about the speech contest Rory briefly shares about his experience working with The Southwestern Company internship program while in college. They also discussed Rory’s newest venture and mission Take the Stairs and the importance of living life with self-discipline to over 1 million listeners.

You can tune in to the Dr. Oz Show on XM 156 or Sirius 195. But you can click below to hear the 9-minute interview from Dr. Oz and his wife Lisa with Rory Vaden.

To listen to the interview, click below:


See you in the stairwell,

Rory Vaden
Take the stairs – Success means doing what others won’t.

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