When you’re trying to hone your speaking and presentation skills, it’s always a good idea to turn to the pros as examples. But who would you consider to be great presenters? You’ll find that stand-up comedians are great at public speaking and have great tips and methods that can be used to make your presentations memorable.
Tell a Story
What makes people remember things we say? Storytelling is a primal technique we have used for centuries to make the audience remember events and people. The idea here is to get people to feel an emotion, so that a connection is made with what you’re saying. Comedians do a great job of this, which is done through funny stories. Of course, you can switch things up and use stories that are heartwarming or shocking, depending on your audience and the message you’re trying to convey.
Practice Looking Spontaneous
You don’t want your presentation to seem rehearsed, so you’ll need to do like the pros do and practice spontaneity. You can do this by practicing your stories out loud and recording them, then replaying them back. You could also go to events like Toastmasters or watch speakers bureau videos to see examples and get feedback. Comedians put in many hours to make their shows feel unrehearsed.
Practice Giving a Strong Delivery
The delivery of your presentation should be strong, in order to keep your audience’s attention throughout your speech. For starters, you want to make sure that you are visible to your audience — after all, seeing believes and it helps to gain their trust as well. Some of the ways you can make your delivery stronger is to use hand gestures, step towards your audience to add emphasis to a point or punchline, or raise your voice at the end of a sentence to make a bigger impact that engages your audience.
Find the Funny Part of Your Joke
When trying to amuse a crowd, your best bet is to get straight to the funny part. A famous quote from Shakespeare is “brevity is levity.” This means that you should get to the joke or punchline as quickly as possible without taking away from the point of your story. Some presenters can use this at the beginning of their speech or midway to keep the interest of the audience. It should be a quick one- or two-sentence joke, no longer than a paragraph. If it’s too long, you may drag it out, which can kill the humor.
Use the Three-Part Joke Structure
Jokes have a three-part system: the intro, the punchline and the taglines, which are additional joke lines. The idea of this setup is to trick your audience into believing they know where your joke is heading, but then the punchline throws them off and surprises them. There are different ways you can set up your joke, such as with metaphors or tricky words that sound alike or are the same, but have different meanings. Just make sure that the punchline reveals the true meaning of what you are trying to say. Try to surprise your audience with new information that they didn’t know was coming.
Use Populars Technique for Writing Comedies
One commonly used comedy writing technique is the Rule of Three, which is when information is presented in groups of three. This creates a small pattern that is easy to remember and digest by any audience. Another method you can use is called the bookend. This is when you close your presentation with the same story or punch that you began with. You’ll find this to be a popular technique that is used in sitcoms, comedy shows, movies and great books. The final method is to repeat your takeaways. You’ll notice comedians like Chris Rock will repeat takeaways throughout the show, so that you remember them. Even Steve Jobs used this technique when he presented the iPod for the first time. His repeated takeaway was “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
Start Your Presentation Strong
You don’t want to slowly build up your presentation. The first 30 seconds of your presentation is in fact one of the most important parts of your speech. This is what will capture your audience’s undivided attention, or they will simply brush you off and have small chit chat with those seated next to them. The beginning of your presentation should have your second-best joke and the best joke should be saved for last. During the first 30 seconds, make sure to make eye contact with your audience and smile, to make them like you. It’s hard to make people laugh when they don’t like you.
With these comedian tricks and tips, hopefully you can make your presentation one that is humorous, memorable and impactful.
About the Author: Norah Abraham has been a freelance writer since 2005. A University of Boston graduate, she loves public speaking and motivates people in her own comic style.
photo credit: TheeErin via photopin cc