Speaker Alert: Make Me Laugh — Or Else

by drjim on October 27, 2009

Audiences Who Laugh Remember What You Say

Make Your Audiences Laugh And They’ll Remember What You Say

Stop. How funny was the last speech that you gave? What – you were talking about how best to diversify a 401k basket of investments in order to incorporate more foreign exchange funds & there’s nothing funny about that? Wrong. You’re not trying hard enough. Stop being not funny.

Learn To Be Funny From A Politician

Every speech counts. Especially if you are trying to get elected. If there was any group of speakers who needed to find a way to get people to remember them & their message, it would be politicians. They have three goals every time they give a speech:

  • Promote their policies
  • Boost their accomplishments while minimizing their opponents
  • Impress people with their moral upstanding character & leadership skills

Politicians know that humor is a powerful speaking tool. They use it to both make a point as well as to illustrate that point for their (or your) audience.

In the end, it’s all about getting votes. You’re probably not running for anything right now, but why waste a speech?

Why Humor Is So Powerful When You Are Speaking

Every speech that you give is your next chance to change the world. Adding humor to your speaking style isn’t something that you can put off until “sometime”, you’ve got to do it right now.

The reason that humor works so well comes down to five basic “levers” that every audience has. Gene Perret who won several Emmys for his work in television has spent a lot of time researching what these levers do to an audience:

  • Humor Makes You More Likable: I don’t care how much of a jerk you are in real life, if you start to work more humor into your speeches your audiences will start to like you better than your family does. Perret points out that it’s really hard to laugh with a person if you don’t like them – make your audience laugh and they’ll love you forever.
  • Build Credibility Using Humor: Who are you to talk to anyone about anything? Somewhat amazingly, audiences associate the ability to be funny with wisdom. When you can joke with your audience about 401k plans, they’ll settle back and say to themselves “gosh, if he can joke about this stuff then he must know it really well”. Whether or not you really do know it really doesn’t matter any more after this.
  • Get Respect Using Humor: Some of the worst speeches that I’ve ever had to sit through were ones where the speaker was too full of himself / herself. I quickly tuned them out – I don’t have time for blowhards. When you kid around with your audience you’re telling them “I’m one of you”. When they understand that you “get” them, you will have hooked them and they’ll pay attention to you for the rest of your speech.
  • Make People Want To Listen Using Humor: When you say something funny, people laugh. If they’re not listening, then they miss out. Nobody likes to miss out on something that’s funny. When you work humor into your speeches and people start to laugh, then all of those other people who are busy reading email and sending text messages will start to look around and wonder what they are missing out on. Very quickly those iPhones and Blackberry’s will go away and you’ll have their attention.
  • Make People Remember What You Say Using Humor: Stay home if you are going to give a speech that nobody is going to remember. Why bother? What humor does is it creates the possibility that people will remember the joke, and if they do then there’s just a chance that they might remember what your point was that you made the joke about.

Final Thoughts

Stop wasting my time. If you want to get up there and give a dry, lifeless speech that has no humor in it then you may as well stay at home and just send me an email with your main points.

If, however, you want me to walk away thinking that you know what you are talking about and remembering what you said, then that’s another story. The only way that that’s going to happen is if you start to work some humor into your speech. No, you don’t have to turn into a stand-up comedian; however, you do need to make me crack a smile or at least chuckle. Get me to do that and you’ve spent your time well.

Do you think that there is any type of speech that can’t have humor added to it? (Hint: eulogies are great candidates for humor so don’t even bring that up)

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When I come to hear you speak, no matter if it’s at a departmental project status report or at a local restaurant or even if it was at a convention, the worst thing that you can do is to waste my time. What are you going to do about this?

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