Top Three Things Speakers One can learn From Stand-Up Comedians
A duck plus a platypus walked into a bar...
Starting your presentation with a joke can be a wonderful way to grab your audience's attention. But you'll find three other great lessons you can learn from stand-up comedians for making every talk, lecture, pitch, or presentation more entertaining, motivating, and memorable.
1. Afford things to go wrong. Stand-up comics write "savers," funny comebacks with the things that can go wrong. By way of example, the audience doesn't laugh if they're supposed to, someone falls asleep, the microphone fails, cell phones go off, in lieu of thirty minutes there are now only seventeen on your presentation, half the target audience has just rushed outside the room with food poisoning, etc.
Being in a position to respond to problems with a sense of humor is a wonderful trait for speakers to get. It shows the target audience you work well pressurized and don't let a handful of setbacks stop you. And, if you're able to deliver your savers as you just thought them up off-the-cuff, the target audience will be impressed by your quick wit and intellect!
The best option is to write "savers" with the specific situations that are possibly to happen when you're speaking. Imagine if you're scheduled to show a PowerPoint presentation within a hotel ballroom a great audience of 350. What are the things most likely to travel wrong? And how might you lighten the moment?
o Problem: Your computer along with the hotel's projector don't work together and you've to wait five minutes for an additional projector to be rustled up. Saver: "Okay, I'm going to be delivering my presentation using shadow puppets. Note how the rabbit has been very profitable this season..."
o Problem: Every time you press your wireless laser device to toward the next slide, your laptop brings up the task bar and the previous slide. Saver: "What you do not know is that every time this occurs, a rat somewhere has fed a piece of cheese."
o Problem: The microphone squeals each and every time you move more than four feet. Saver: "You think that is bad? You should hear how are you affected when I go through security with the airport!"
o Problem: Only twenty people display. Saver: "I don't know about you, even so prefer small audiences. We get a better chance to get to know one other. This lady in the front row, for example - I notice you she's married, stayed up past too far last night, and wishes she hadn't worn her 3" heels today."
o Problem: As a consequence of lateness of other sessions getting out, half the group comes in during the middle of your presentation. Saver: "To recap, Kendall got pregnant with Greenlee's baby only to find out Ryan wasn't the dad..."
o Problem: You save ten mins for questions there are none. Saver: "Okay, We have some questions. Exactly why are we here? Where do socks go if they get lost in the dryer? And once does the afternoon snack arrive?"
2. Apply the rules of comedy in your presentation. Comedians truly realize the rules for making things funnier. These rules also apply oftentimes to presentations of all types.
o Rule #1: Your material ought to be universal; meaning everybody in the room should be able to see the material, the context, along with the emotions behind both. In case you are speaking to a room stuffed with accountants and all you retain using references to quantum physics, you're violating the rule of universality. No wonder the audience's eyes are glazed over like so many donuts. Other things that cause problems with universality include:
- Gender - You're a woman and your audience is mainly male (or vice-versa),
- Age - You will be 50 and most of your audience has something pierced (or vice-versa),
- Culture - You're from America and you are speaking to an international audience (or vice-versa), or
- Region - You're in the Midwest and you're audience was in New York (or vice- versa).
As a consequence, it is very important it is to know (to the extent possible) the demographics of those to whom you will be speaking and to make certain your references click with him or her.
When I was speaking regularly in Texas, I did a joke I often used that trusted the audience knowing that from the Lone Star state, the educational method is divided into Independent School Districts. I might say, "My family was dysfunctional, the kids attended a co-dependent school district." I learned that when not in Texas, I either were required to preface th joke as I did here, or tell just one more. Then, when I moved the gray and rainy Pacific Northwest, I had a similar situation. Often when I have early morning audiences from the dead of winter in Oregon or Washington, I would say something like: "It's okay. We have S.A.D. too. Sleepy Attitude Disorder." This can be much funnier the location where the audience knows S.A.D. is short for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
o Rules #2: Be as specific and visual as you possibly can. The better you can create a photo, the more engaged the target audience will be in your presentation. It is not an office, it's a 7-foot x 7-foot cubicle wedged between the women's bathroom along with the elevator. It's not a car, it's an orange Yugo without having front door and a bumpersticker saying "Honk if you see things falling off."
The problem with not being specific is each audience member sets out to paint his or her own picture also it can take you too long to reel it well in so that you're all on a single page again.
o Rule #3: When managing topics that are still painful to your audience (recent tragic events, lay-offs at the job, new management, budget cuts, etc.), use exaggeration with your examples to keep things in perspective. Here's a sample: "Things have been really stressful at the job, what with the new CEO, the alterations in our job description, along with the dress code that will require everyone to wear prison uniforms on Wednesdays." While the 1st two items can be true, the third one will relieve the pressure by letting the audience laugh.
There is usually a basic rule in comedy that Comedy = Tragedy plus Time. If you're not enough time has passed, comedians substitute Exaggeration for Time. Both provide distance in the sensitive issue and perspective. In the event you exaggerate enough, no look like you're managing the real issue along with the audience may be more receptive in your message. There's a classic joke letter that made the rounds over the internet a few years ago in which a teenage daughter writes to her mother that she's just discovered she's pregnant by her boyfriend who's got decided to have a sex change operation, even if she has his name tattooed to be with her thigh. At the end of the letter, she admits to earning it all up because she just needed a handful of bucks to pay the rent. The exaggeration makes all the truth seem more acceptable in contrast.
o Rule #4: KISS (Make it simple, stupid.) Make your presentation only given that it needs to be. Avoid complex ideas that need more thought as opposed to audience will have time for; those are better discussed in breakout sessions or meetings. There's nothing worse than an hour-long speech with only ten mins of "stuff" in it.
I once heard a speaker spend almost twenty minutes trying to describe the diagram he previously on a single slide. When your slides are that complicated, they're better left to handouts as an alternative to presentations. Instead of considering your presentation a way to showcase your intellect (unless you're in a MENSA meeting), consider the simplicity of Show and Tell a means to approach your presentation. I myself usually forgo PowerPoint presentations, overheads, or slides instead of props and hats. I am able to make the same points as well as in a way that is not only simpler, but more memorable. Boost the comfort, if my point is 67% of Americans feel that our country has become ruder in the past five years, might you remember that better if I illustrated it that has a pie chart or did slightly comedy bit in which I pretend to often be a salesclerk talking on her phone while running the register?
o Rule #5: It happened today (or with the latest, yesterday.) Use present tense verbs to supply your presentation feeling of being topical and urgent. Americans are an instantaneous gratification, attention-deficit society. Whether or not this feels like you're presenting old news, it's likely you'll get tuned out quickly, unless, obviously, you're delivering a speech on Celebrities of your Greco-Roman Empire.
Here's an example of how you can increase the audience's interest by changing the tense of your verbs. Let's say you're comparing the firm of your company how to five year's ago. When talking about the past, you could say: "Five year's ago we were wondering if we would ever succeed in selling our spray bottle fans. Then Jolene comes in (notice change in verb tense) and she's using a hot flash so we all look at each other and bingo, could just the market for our product."
3. When depending on humor in your presentation, please take a cue from the tried-and-true comedy writing formulas which are easiest for non-comedians to utilize. By using professional joke-writing techniques, you'll be able to tailor jokes to your topic and the audience just like a pro. The joke styles which are easiest include:
o Cliché jokes. You are able to write this type of joke through taking a cliché or advertising slogan and alter the ending. By way of example, if you were speaking to several veterinary dentists: "You can lead a horse to water, but the truth is can't make him floss." For brain surgeons, "No brain, no gain." For home brewers, "Just brew it!" For pet shop owners, "A bird from the hand is messier than two from the bush."
o Definition jokes. These take words and acronyms and redefine them to ensure there is still some truth, however it is twisted in a funny way. By way of example, "I haven't gained weight. I've experienced personal growth." That's a redefinition of your concept of "personal growth." Or "My eye doctor said I had Presbyopia. I told him which was impossible, I'm Lutheran." This joke is is determined by the audience knowing that Presbyopia is far-sightedness and is correct best with middle-aged audiences or those who work in the eye care industry. This is an example of something that might universality for all audiences.
A fantastic way to throw some personalized humor to your presentation is to make acronym of the group or even an acronym the group often uses and redefine just what it stands for. Again, everything's usually funnier once they retain a bit of truth. By way of example, IBM could symbolize "Irate Bingo Mamas," but it doesn't have much relevance to your real IBM. On the flip side, "Itty Bitty Machines" does. While OCO might symbolize Oregon Credit Organization, when you say it means "Overworked Chocoholics Organization," chances are there'll be plenty of truth because as well.
o List of three jokes. This can be one of the most commonly used joke styles of all; it's a list in which the initial two things go together along with the third is unexpected. By way of example: "The only things you can do to prevent lay-offs this season are put a freeze on hiring, lower raises, and trace Rumplestilskin and have him spin our shredded documents into gold." Or: "Most of your children in home-school programs are intelligent, independent, and try to eat their own lunch."
o Top Lists. You're undoubtedly informed about Top 10 lists from David Letterman, but the truth is don't have to have ten items available, it can be top 5 or top 7, etc. This is an efficient way to use humor, only if done visually. Research shows that the human mind has trouble remembering more than three things within a list, so once you got to #4, the majority of the audience will have forgotten just what it was a list of. Put your best list on slides, overheads, or even a flip chart. Here's a sample:
Top 5 Ways for Speakers to live Awake While Speaking
5. Eat jalapeno anchovy pizza immediately ahead of your speech.
4. Place boa constrictor with your underwear
3. Velcro your eyelids open
2. Set your beeper to travel off every 5 minutes in vibrator mode
1. Hire a German shepherd to goose via behind
By using some of these tips because you write your next presentation, you're sure to kill - that's comedy talk for "blow the area away."
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(C) 2006 Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant