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Speaking Funny

Ten Tips on Using Humor Effectively in Your Presentations
© by
Fran Capo
 

My 20 year career as a stand-up comedian has taught me first hand, how to succeed with any kind of audience. When I moved into professional speaking, I quickly discovered the great advantage of professional speaking over comedy. In speaking you don't have to be funny! But if you are, you are considered a sensation. Knowledge and humor is a powerful mixture, and in speaking its a win-win situation.

Unlike a comedian, there is very little risk involved if a speaker bombs with a joke. If you "bomb" as a comedian you risk never getting booked again. If your humor fails as a professional speaker, simply continue with the presentation. No one however likes to hear a round of silence instead of one of  laughter. Here are some tried and true methods to give your humor the best chance to succeed on the platform.

#1 - You don't have to be a comedian to be funny. Anyone can tell a joke. Find your comic persona. What type of humor are you most comfortable with? Some speakers are better at one liners, some at observational humor, others excel at story telling. Timing is essential. The closer you stick to your natural timing, the more success you will have.

#2 - Know your audience! Are they blue or white collar? Liberal or conservative? What do they have in common? Are there regional sensibilities? The nature of your audience determines the type of humor. A colleague of mine jokingly yelled out "Last call at the bar!" Only to discover most of his audience were Alcoholics Anonymous members!

#3- Localize and personalize your materials. Audiences love to be included. Tailor your humorous anecdote. Make it seem as if it just happened. They will think you are incredibly talented. Mark Twain said, "The best improvisation is rehearsed for 48 hours." It is better to say "On my way here from Newark Airport" than "A month ago when I was in Dallas. " Personalize humor from a joke book or speaker's file. The audience wants to relate to you, and you want to relate to them.

#4 - Be prepared with a few "What IF" lines. IF the mike malfunctions, IF the lights go out, IF a fire alarm sounds, IF, IF, IF. Have stock joke answers that you will use in these situations.

#5 - There are many ways to speak funny. Make enlargements of relevant funny cartoons. Use props. Have silly pledges or awards. You are only limited by your imagination.

#6 - Humor is important because it keeps your audience interested. Your job is to impart information. Humor keeps a audience tuned into your message. The more attentive they are, the more they will retain.

#7 - Space out the humor. The beginning, middle and end of a speech are the strategic places for a joke. You want to start with a laugh to warm them up, throw some humor in the middle to keep them interested, and end with a laugh so they will have a nice, warm feeling.

#8 - Practice telling the joke on unsuspecting friends. Just like with your speech, practice your jokes and delivery. Don't tell someone you are going to tell them a joke, just work it into a conversation and watch their reaction. If they laugh, you know you have a winner on your hands and you've mastered the joke.

#9- Do not telegraph the end of the joke - surprise them. Suspense is the key in any good joke. If someone feels they know the punch line, the joke is a let down. The listener should be waiting to find out what the punch line is. 

#10 - Be yourself and have a good time. If the audience sees you are really enjoying being on stage, your enthusiasm will be contagious. If you are having a good time, then your audience will too. 

Follow these simple steps, and remember to always leave them laughing!

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