Public Speaking:
Laws of Humor

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by Scott Friedman

Law #1
You Do Not Have To Use Humor, Unless You Want To Get Paid People will pay more to be entertained than to be educated.

Two Trends in Public Speaking:

  • Immediate application
  • More entertainment

Incorporate the 3 Es:

  1. Educate
  2. Enlighten
  3. Entertain

Law #2
Know Thy Audience
The more you know about the audience, the more opportunities you will have to play with them.

Ways to Learn About Your Audience:

  • Pre-program questionnaire:
  • The fastest way to know the inside humor of an organization is to ask. Ask about the characters in the group.
  • Read their annual report, past newsletters, copy of the program, web site address, Hoovers
  • Attend meetings and field trips before you speak. Find humor hot buttons.

Law #3
The Shortest Distance Between You And The Audience Is A Good Laugh

Eliminate all barriers between you and your audience. Create the illusion of control. Approach the audience as though everyone came to have a good time. The purpose is not to control them, but to ask, 'What is it we have in common?'

Four Effective Humorous Openings Public Speaking:

  • Self-effacing Humor Creates a bond with the audience.
  • Physical surroundings If it is on the mind of the audience, you must mention it.
  • Tap into "Inside Humor." Comment on what everyone is chuckling about. All of a sudden you are one of them. You immediately gain respect because you did your homework. Always check with person you are going to poke fun at.
  • Current events: What is happening in that particular city, around the nation, or worldwide? **The purpose of your opening is to loosen up the audience and invite them to listen.

Law #4

Your Success As A Speaker Will Be In Direct Proportion To The Amount Of Original Material You Use

The harder you are to duplicate, the more in demand you will be. Personal stories are always best, because they give the audience a chance to get to know you. Vulnerability is your greatest strength.

Law #5

If You Can't Find Funny Material, Change Your Glasses

Where to find humor:

  • Observe life. Life is filled with funny examples if you look through the eyes of humor. Life is just one long anecdote waiting to be told.
  • Go to the library
  • Humor cassettes
  • Comedy clubs
  • Become an avid reader of magazines and periodicals
  • Radio and television
  • Hear as many speakers as you possibly can
  • Surround yourself with funny people and those capable of making others laugh and feel good about themselves
  • Subscribe to speaker's services
  • Humor writers
  • Software: Idea Fisher and Internet resources
  • Make up your own Start a humor diary.

Law #6

Great Humor Is Not Written; It Is Rewritten

'The most common mistake in using humor is people give up too soon.' - Gene Peret

5 steps to writing original material:

  1. Recall experiences from your past that are embarrassing, unusual, or funny.
  2. Tell the story to friends. Make a note where they laugh.
  3. Re-write. Eliminate unnecessary words and shorten. Put the biggest laugh at the end. A really good story explodes into the punchline, which is nothing more than the unexpected truth that twists reality slightly. In humor, less is more.
  4. When you're comfortable, start telling it from the platform. The pause will dramatically improve your timing and rhythm.
  5. Add laugh lines. Keep editing. Tape every speech, then go through it. Try to find and increase the laugh lines. Get a Humor Buddy to brainstorm with.

Law #7

Spontaneity Is Always Better The Second Time Around

Accidents do happen. When accidents take place, the audience becomes ill-at-ease. Any comment will break the tension. Being prepared is the key to rehearsed spontaneity. Before making a remark, pause and look up like you are searching for something to say. The audience will think you are creating the humor on the spot.

  • Beeper goes off: Time to take my pill!
  • Ambulance or any siren: Gotta go, my ride is here!

Law #8
If They Dont Laugh, It Was not Meant To Be Funny

All humor must apply to your speech. Relevance reduces resistance. When taking advantage of humor of the moment, be ready with a comeback line.

Comeback lines:

  • Some jokes I do just for me.
  • I would now like you to bow your heads and join with me in silent prayer for that last joke that just died.
  • That is the last time I buy a joke from (key member of the organization)

Law #9

The Richest Laugh Is At No One's Expense

You lose respect and credibility when you offend someone in your audience. Listen through the ears of the audience. When in doubt, leave it out. The reason you use humor is to enhance your message. If your humor offends, then it interferes with what you have to say.

Law #10
You Are Your Own Best Style

You need to uncover the style you already have and use it, rather than use someone else's style. Select material carefully so that it compliments your style. If your humor is too much different from your own personality, it appears awkward and incongruent. Be yourself!

Scott Friedman,CSP, Motivational Humorist Author of Using Humor For A Change

Sned Email to Scott:

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