It was on Friday, March 23, 2007 that shifted my thinking forever. For several minutes I watched a speaker give a humorous speech and laughed my head off. I couldn't control myself. It seemed as if someone was tickling me and I couldn't stop giggling.
The comedian had the audience rolling on the floor, holding their sides, laughing hysterically. His timing and delivery were superb. He had us in the palm of his hands.
That was a major learning point in my life. It was then that I decided to inject humor into my messages. Prior to that day I focused on the content, lessons and points. And on techniques like gestures, eye contact and breathing.
That was about to change because humor has multiple purposes...
It serves as a bridge to accept your ideas, beliefs and opinions. It dissolves anxieties and preconceived notions about you. It puts your audience at ease. It humanizes you. And it also lowers the invisible force field between speaker and spectator creating a larger circle of oneness.
Or simply put:
It makes people laugh. They have a good time. They become more involved with your entire message. They believe you are confident and approachable. And they will shower you with praises, approvals and compliments.
I recently gave a short lesson laced with humor. I spoke about the importance of having a good mentor. There were moments when that group of fifty adults was laughing out of control. (A Code Red situation.) After it was over I reflected on five features that made my lesson wildly intoxicating.
1) Set the tone early. I began by telling a story. I didn't even get past the first sentence when I got my first laugh. I didn't say anything funny, but since I mentioned someone, whom most of the audience knew, liked, and respected, a few people couldn't help but laugh. Setting the tone early with laughter perks people up and hints that there's more funny to come.
2) Get your timing down. One of the worst taboos you can commit in comedy is rushing your lines. One of the best ways to counter this is by listening to your audience with a pause. Let them digest what you've just said. Give them the opportunity to savor you and the picture you're painting in their minds. Let them laugh out loud. When it finally dies down -- then you proceed. Patience is truly a necessity.
3) Use vocal power. In humor it's not only WHAT you say that makes people laugh -- but also HOW you say it. Portraying different voices (male, female, robot) or geographical accents (southern, Italian, Jedi Master) exponentially adds to the funny experience.
Speeding up, slowing down, growing louder, and shrinking softer, or a combination of these with well-placed pauses altogether creates the bellyaching raucous. Your vocal power builds the excitement, intensity, drama, and suspense that lead into your punch line.
4) Going big Hollywood style. Victor Borge is a master at this. One head nod, one slicing glance, or one premeditated act often erupts the crowd into gut-wrenching hysteria. And often without uttering a single word.
Since my lesson involved a female mentor, I imitated her twice telling me "not a good idea." On the third time I imitated an angry woman telling me "NO." I shrugged my shoulders, parked my hands on my hips, tapped my foot on the floor and rocked my head. That caused an eruption of laughs because everyone who knew her knew she would never say or do that.
5) Mastering the tension-release. In comedy, building up the "tension" is the science behind what makes the "release" so funny. A punch line alone is incomplete without the tension you create prior to it.
In my talk I crafted the scene, established the mentor's credentials, and told the story of how I thought I was hot stuff. This created the tension. Then I methodically began tearing myself apart through the voice of the mentor. This resulted in many tension releases. And many laughs.
But that's not all...
I included a lesson at the end to wrap things up. This was the reason behind the laughs. The lesson distinguishes the entertainer from the entertaining speaker. One makes a point of using humor -- the other uses humor to make a point.
Are you ready?
go make them laugh!
Tommy Yan helps business owners and entrepreneurs
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that you are
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