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When Humor Fails!

Have you experienced the weird atmosphere which comes after a funny story you’ve cracked fell flat on your audience?

Or, do you have the belief that you are, simply, not funny at all?

Even the most confident speakers may falter when it comes to the skill of injecting humor adequately in their speeches. Not to worry,though, as this entry aims to offer several tips which, I hope, will guide you in adding just the right dosage of humor in the right moment so as to make your stories or punchlines work.

As the cliché saying goes, laughter is the best medicine and people today are drawn towards humor like bees to honey simply because cynicism has been ingrained in today’s culture. Thus the value-add of humor in public speaking. While, this may be the case, a lot of people out there find themselves lacking the skill sets to pull off punch lines effectively and effortlessly.

Though humor is commonly believed to be an elusive art to master, I think otherwise.

How can I avoid a humor debacle?

The great comic Jim Mendrinos once shared,

“In order to be funny, you got to first know what makes you laugh as this will give you obvious clues to what makes other people laugh.”
This means that you have to know what form of humor works for you, and what does not! Different people find different things funny and these are all common elements in your everyday life, be it in everyday conversations, quotes, books etc. Humor is ubiquitous in life!

There are many forms of humor, ranging from normal banter to exaggeration techniques.

Hence, make an effort to build a humor bank!

It will be great to start off by observing yourself and the people around you. Jot down the comical instances which occur – there has to be noteworthy ones each day! You will never know when these instances will come in handy as ammunition for your speeches. Also, be willing to watch stand up comics. Not because you are trying to be a stand up comedian when you speak - that would be inappropriate. Rather, you can see how their use timing, intonation and facial expressions to deliver humor.

On the day of your speech, get to know the audience!

As Scott Friedman of Advanced Public Speaking Institute suggests,

the more you know about the audience, the more opportunities you will have to play with them.

Understand the dynamics of the audience, as this will make it easier for you to relate to them through your language, tone and the framework of your speech. As mentioned above, different people find different things funny. So, knowing your audience allows you to cater your humor
to the intended group in mind properly – chances are that knock-knock jokes are unlikely to work for adults as opposed to primary school children!

Also, be sure to know the intention of the speech and what you intend for the audience to get out of listening to you. Time is a precious commodity these days, and implanting suggestive and timely, yet relevant humor, will be a very effective way to make your speech more memorable without having to drone on and on with examples.

Establish and maneuver your speech around this purpose, bearing in mind what works for you, as well as the target audience, in creating your stories or punch lines.

There are also potholes to avoid, so do not step into them!

1. Don’t use recycled jokes and stories, the faux pas of public speaking. As you have probably experienced this yourself while listening to speeches before, hearing familiar stories countless times before are bound to elicit groans instead of laughs.

2. Don’t laugh at your own jokes while reciting it — self-control is important! The best way to pull off a punch line is always with a straight face. This will catch the audience off guard and intensify the humorous effect.

3. Don’t give the audience too little time to savor your punch line. Let them digest and laugh before you move on! This will allow the audience to catch the subsequent stories after that.

4. Don’t ever explain your jokes or punch lines! If the audience fail to get the joke, move on. Explaining the joke will not help matters, especially when the funny moment did not, have not, and will not come. To lighten the tense mood at this instant, though, some self-effacing humor may work. (read the rest HERE)

(ht: Public Speaking Blog)


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