There are many occasions when you can find yourself
speaking to an audience. These can range from report
to club members to a formal talk or lecture at a professional
gathering. Whatever the occasion you want information
be of interest and remembered.
Humor can help you achieve both goals. Now this is
not the same as giving humorous talk. That is a most
difficult speech to deliver effectively, requiring
a special talent and skill. These tips have to do
with the use of humor in your presentations, whatever
these may be, to help make your points clear and remembered.
Everything that said in my previous article, Humor
- Tips for Using it in Everyday Conversation, also
applies to using humor in speeches. But public or
platform speaking at is sometimes called does have
some additional considerations. Almost every professional
speechwriter agrees on what the important ones are.
You are speaking to present an idea or discuss a
subject. Use only those jokes or bits of humor that
help you do that. A funny story that has nothing to
do with your subject won't help you or your audience.
Often a person is inclined to begin a presentation
with a joke or humorous story. Your are immediately
on shaky ground when you do. You have, in effect,
a stand-alone bit of humor. It may or may not get
the laugh you want. If the audience does not laugh,
then you've lost that moment of initial interest audiences
always give a speaker.
One way to overcome this risk is making sure your
opening story has a point so strong that even if the
laugh does not come, you can continue immediately
focusing on the point of your story.
With humor you can actually make a point three times.
You make your statement, follow it with your joke
to highlight or illustrate what you just said, then
you restate your original point. Three times you made
your point: Your statement, the illustrative joke,
a restatement. The listener, in recalling the humor
at a future time, also recalls the point associated
One comedy-writing technique to help you fit a story
to your subject is called "Switching." You can change
either the build up or the punch line for it to fit
your subject matter.
Example of changing the build up:
Neighbor: Do you like your new sister, Tommy?
Tommy: Oh yes, but there are lots of things we
Friend: I hear your mother married again. Do you
like your new father?
Tommy: He's all right, but there's lots of things
we needed more.
Example of changing the punch line:
Desperate panhandler: Lady, I haven't eaten in
Rich lady: Young man, you must learn to force yourself.
Panhandler: Lady, I haven't eaten in four days.
Can you help me.
Rich Lady: Certainly. I recommend The Ritz, a wonderful
restaurant on 14th Street.
Take time to practice switching jokes. Beside being
fun, it will expand your story file.
Try to personalize and localize your stories. Instead
of saying "a man" and "a city" give the man and the
city names that the audience recognizes. If you can
use their locale and people in the audience, so much
the better. Work yourself into the joke as though
you saw it happen, and if you can become the fall
guy, better still. They'll love you for it.
When your joke has quotes, deliver them in the style
of the jokes above. Do not say, "He's all right,"
said Tommy, "But there's lots of things we needed
more". That's OK in writing, but in speaking it slows
down the story.
With a practice you can make amusing stories funny
ones. (c) Cy Eberhart 2006
As a hospital chaplain Cy Eberhart, (now retired)
was a firsthand witness to the entire spectrum of
human emotions: personal successes and failures; the
deepest despairs and the great peaks of joy. Two questions
remained foremost in his mind: How was it that some
could find inner strengths that brought courage and
hope and others could not? What was to be learned
from these experiences that would have a positive
and creative effect for daily, routine living?
His lectures, writings, workshops, book In
the Presence of Humor and his living-history performances
of America's famed humorist Will
Rogers offers some of the answers.
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