Being Funny When You Speak is No Laughing Matter
In a scene that’s been repeated far too often, John was ready to speak. To calm his nerves and try to make the audience like him, he told an old joke about a traveling salesman.
As you might expect, the joke fell flat. And so did the rest of his speech.
John was a victim of bad advice. Well-meaning friends suggested – as have many people for years – that when John has to speak to a group, he should tell a joke to begin. They mistakenly believed that a quick one-liner would give the audience a good laugh and it would “loosen them up.”
This may have worked at one time, but is very bad advice today.
There are several reasons, the biggest of which are these:
One. Far too many speakers equate jokes with humor. It’s true that the best and highest paid speakers incorporate humor into their talks. However, their humor is based on stories, and not jokes.
Two. Many jokes often do not relate to the subject matter of the speech. Even if you do get laughs, the audience is left to wonder “what does this have to do with the speech?” They may also ask, “are you trying to be a comedian?
This hurts your credibility. The entertainment landscape today is filled with opportunities to listen to comics on cable TV, the Internet, or satellite radio. They don’t want jokes; they want a message that can improve their lives.
Three. If your joke bombs, you immediately put yourself into a hole which is difficult to climb out of. For reasons previously mentioned, your credibility can be hurt.
Consider this – if a story does not get a laugh, but still relates to your main point, there’s no harm done. The story is still relevant. If the audience does laugh, it’s a bonus. If they don’t, no problem. Your point to still made.
Four. Audiences today are much more sophisticated. Typically, they want to listen to speakers that have one specific idea they can take away, and that’s it. If they want to be entertained by one liners, they can go to the aforementioned entertainment outlets.
Please don’t take away the message from this post that humor is not important. It is vitally important, and in fact, has proven to be an excellent tool to improve the retention of your message.
If you want people to laugh and walk away with a message, your best bet is stories. Your life is filled with relevant and valuable stories – if, for example, you have kids, you have plenty of humorous material. If you work in a corporation, you have more than enough humorous material to work with. You simply need to mine your experiences, then craft and test your stories.
The next time you’re inclined to tell jokes in your presentations, please heed this advice – DON’T! Leave the joke-telling to the professionals. Share humorous stories that relate to your point and you’ll be remembered for all the right reasons.
RECOMMENDED RESOURCE OF THE WEEK
‘THE Book on Storytelling.’ Learn how the best speakers, storytellers and presenters develop and deliver stories that immediately grab audience attention, keep them on the edge of their seats, and inspire them to act of their message. This step-by-step ‘playbook’ will give you the skills that save you time, money and frustration, and, help you become better known in your industry.