I am a huge fan of great stories. I love using stories when I'm speaking in front of a group - they often make the difference between an OK talk and a great one. The problem lies in finding the right stories. Obviously, personal experience stories are great, but sometimes you just need something else. And sometimes, they're tired of hearing your stories!
I read widely - mostly history - and love weaving real-life stories in, particularly telling them in a timeless manner, dropping the date in at the end to put a twist on it. People seem stunned to hear of real life people from the 1700's who dealt with the same relational quirks and petty feelings that they do. Sometimes it works with oddball characters too. I once had a group of teenagers in tears over a kid who had been picked on in Junior High, only to reveal later that it was Timothy McVeigh.
On my nightstand right now, you'll find Harvard and the Unabomber/the education of an american terrorist, and Ghost Ship/the mysterious true story of the Mary Celeste and her missing crew. I'm reading the first one because I think the more we learn about really 'bad' people, the more we realize that they're a little like the rest of us. I'm reading the second because it's an intriguing story that I'll synopsize and use later.
My latest and greatest resource for stories and odd factoids is the huge number of podcasts that are being produced daily. Taking what you hear in a 4 or 5 minute podcast and casually dropping it into a weekend talk makes you sound like a walking encyclopedia.
Here are a few that I regularly troll for stories.
This daily podcast is a 20-minute best-of from several NPR shows such as All Things Considered. All you have to say is "I was listening to NPR this week...", which technically, is true.
Published once a week or so, these are the NPR stories that people end up sitting in the driveway listening too. A recent episode told the story of a Jesuit priest who gives gang members a job in his printing press business, "Homeboy Industries". It has some killer quotes about the value of working together.
National Geographic Video
These 4 minute video clips feature stories from obscure places, like the guy who dives into Mexico City's sewers to unclog the drains of branches, trash, and sometimes, dead bodies. Two words: Bad Job. What was really weird was he used to be a teacher and was elated with his new role.
My friend Steve Sjogren got me hooked on reading his own back issues of this expensive, eggheaded print magazine, then yanked my supply (or I moved away, I forget...). Anyway, hear indepth interviews and economic theory. Even if you don't get it, you can smugly quip "I see the Economist says..." and pointy headed types in the room will suddenly respect you. Just pray they don't ask you any questions.
Obviously, I don't have time to listen to all of these podcasts every day. I currently subscribe to about 10 that I regularly dig into though. Airplanes are great for this, as are the 10 minutes in bed as you wait to drift off to sleep. Is it worth it? Oh yeah, especially when you can pull out a good story at just the right time.