One afternoon a few weeks ago, I walked into my local whole foods store to pick up some organic fruits and vegetables that I was going to use for dinner that night. Organic fruits and vegetables are grown by farmers who grow their crops – only using pure and natural methods and without the usage of harmful pesticides.
Just as fruits and vegetables that are grown organically and naturally, not only taste better but are also much healthier for your body -likewise, inserting only natural “organic” humor into your speech is not only much healthier for your speech, but will also keep it from self destructing on you!
Many speakers today, begin their speeches by warming up their audiences with a “classic joke”, and sometimes they will also go off on tangents right in the middle of their speech to tell a joke. Not only is doing this, “unnatural” to your speech and which takes away from your message, but it can also be extremely dangerous.
Has the following scenario ever happened to you?
You’re looking forward to sharing a great message with your audience, but before you start, you decide to warm up your audience by telling a joke. You have great intentions – So you go ahead and tell your joke thinking that you are going to get a laugh. But what if you don’t? What will you do when you get no reaction – and the only reaction you get is stunned silence? Perhaps you didn’t say the punch line right. Perhaps you picked the wrong joke for this particular audience. So in essence, you didn’t warm up your audience – you actually cooled them down! In fact they are now ice-cold!
Comedians have a name for this unfortunate situation. They call this “bombing”. When you “bomb” at any point in your speech especially in the beginning, you will loose your audience and you might possibly be spending your entire time struggling to get them back and many speakers who “bomb” never do get their audience back. When you know you “bombed” and your audience knows you “bombed”, it is extremely hard to recover from this kind of situation. Even if you do recover, all your energy will have been wasted trying to to do just that! It is not a place where you want to be.
“Organic Humor”- A better way
Most speakers look for ways of how they can “insert” humor into their presentations. They try to squeeze humor “unnaturally” into their speeches. They try to find a joke that somehow correlates to their speech and audience and they “insert it” at various points in their speech. As I had mentioned earlier, this kind of humor can be extremely “dangerous” to your speech. This is obviously not what you want to do.
Look for the Humor that is already in Your Speech
Instead of inserting humor, you should be looking how you can uncover humor in your presentations. When you look for the humor that is already in your presentation, you will be far ahead of what most speakers do. How to “look for” and uncover the “natural humor” that is already within your speech, will be discussed in a future blog post.
As the saying goes, “seeing is believing”, so to illustrate why you and should only use humor that is natural and organic to your speech, I have included below, two separate (30 second) video clips of a 7 minute speech that I gave. These videos are a continuation of the video that was shown in commandment number one. You will see me use a “laugh line” that I start my speech off with. I gave this speech to two entirely different audiences. One gave me the laugh and the other did not.
“Organic Humor” With hardly any audience reaction
“Organic Humor” With Huge audience reaction
It wasn’t about the size of the audience
One audience included many people who were in their 40s, 50s, and 60s and the other audience was mostly comprised of people in their 20s and 30s. One audience got the “laugh line” and the other – for the most part did not (except for a few chuckles here and there). One audience gave me a huge laugh and the other did not – And it had nothing to do with the size of the audience.
The size of the audience was not the issue here. In-fact the audience where the laugh was negligible, was twice as large as the audience that gave me the huge laugh. However, the fact that I didn’t receive the laugh from the younger audience, did not deter me from moving on in my speech because the humor was “naturally” occurring to my speech. However, if this was a “classic joke that I started with, and for whatever reason I got no response from the audience, I would have “bombed” and that would have been the end of my speech.
But since I used “organic humor” that was natural to my speech – whether the audience laughed or didn’t, made no difference to my speech and I simply moved on. So the next time you give a speech make sure that your humor is naturally occurring and “organic” to your speech. Don’t ever insert your humor – uncover it! Because it is there!
If you ever have to give a presentation, whether it is for 60 seconds or 60 minutes, you need to make your message stick. What use is a message that gets thrown back into the ether once your audience goes home and can not remember or recall what you said to them a week, or even a month after you spoke to them. You want to not only impact your audience while you are speaking to them, but also long afterwards.
Create a Phrase or Slogan
So how do you do this? You do this by creating a phrase or slogan that basically sums up your entire message and which lingers in the ears of your audience members – even long after you leave the speaking platform. This is the first part of the World Class Speaking PARTS formula that we use to coach speakers when they are creating their message. The phrase must be 10 words or less. The reason for this is because anything longer that 10 words will be difficult for people to remember. In addition, If the phrase, as you will soon see, has a bit of a rhyme, it will add to its ability to be remembered.
Okay, so now perhaps you might be thinking, “How on earth can I sum up an entire speech in one phrase?” I will be honest with you, coming up with the right phrase will not be easy, in fact, it will take some effort, but when you do, you will be well rewarded. When you anchor your message to your audience, you will be rewarded handsomely by not only being remembered by your audience, but by the people that brought you in to speak – and you will be called back time and time again.
How I Created My Slogan
It was 7:00am on Thursday March 18 2010. I had attended my weekly BNI meeting in Westfield New Jersey, where I give my usual educational networking tip of the day. BNI is an international referral organization where business owners get together to network, develop relationships and give referrals to each other.
Aside from my position in the chapter as the educational coordinator, my specialty there is also as a public speaking coach, keynote speaker, and presentations skills trainer. The education that I gave that morning was about the need to meet with the people in our BNI chapter – not just in the chapter at the weekly meetings, but also outside of the weekly meeting in order to develop the relationship, so that an atmosphere of trust and likability is developed.
I started the education that morning by talking about a study that the founder of BNI Dr. Ivan Misner and BNI had conducted over a 6 month period where they had polled close to 2,350 business owners, sales people and professionals from both retail and service industries. The poll included people from countries across the world. People from the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and the United kingdom had participated in this poll.
What Dr. Misner and his group at BNI had found, was that more that 80 percent of the respondents preferred receiving more business through networking groups or an introduction of some sort. So in other words, they wanted to receive referrals. In BNI they have a term for setting up times to meet with other members of the chapter to get to know one another and develop friendships that leads to the giving and receiving of referrals. They call this form of getting together, a “Dance Card.”
So as I was doing my educational that morning, and after telling my fellow BNI members about the conclusion of Dr. Misner’s study, “that most business owners would rather receive their business through word of mouth and referrals”, I turned to my group of 38 members and said, ” I have been here for close to 8 months, and guess how many dance cards I have had? Five. That’s it!” and upon hearing that, many people in my chapter wanted to stone me! This was obviously not a good thing! I was not setting a very good example of developing relationships.
However, I purposely put my ego on the line for the sake of making a point. In my public speaking skills workshops, I talk about how, when you self deprecate, you enhance your connection with your audience. So in order to bring the point home to my fellow BNI members that morning, I had to make an example out of myself, so I could connect with my audience and drive my point home to them.
So, after members of my chapter were done having their laugh at my expense, I then paused and made my point. I said, ” and guess whom I was receiving all my referrals from? That’s right. The ones whom I had been doing the dance cards with” and then I said ” If you want to advance in the referrals that you receive. If you want to advance in your business – you gotta dance. “If You Want to Advance, You Gotta Dance” – my slogan was created.
Claudia, the area director of our BNI chapter just happened to been sitting in on the meeting that morning, and she walked up to me after the meeting and said, “Lewis, wow! I really like that slogan, “If you want to advance you gotta dance” -That was a great slogan you had created.” I thanked her and left the meeting to start my day.
Testing Your Slogan for The “Stick Factor”
One week later, The following Thursday morning, I was again sitting at my BNI meeting where I did my educational tip of the day. We then had our usual 90 minute meeting where each member of the chapter does their 60 second commercial on their business, followed by two presentations from our members, which is then followed by a referral go-around where everyone in the chapter starts handing out referrals to one another.
So when it came my turn, I decided to do something interesting. I handed out some referrals and then decided to test the waters and see if my phrase that I had created the week prior, did indeed get anchored with the audience. I turned to my audience and said, “I am free after this morning’s meeting, So If anyone has time to kill I would be happy to meet up with you – because if you remember what I said last week, “If you want to advance…” I paused, and let the audience do the rest. Amazingly they said “You Gotta Dance!” My phrase had worked! It stuck with them. It passed the Stick Test!
Creating phrases and slogans are not easy, but if you really take the time to think about your speech, you will eventually come up with the proper phrase or slogan for your message. You will not only have a great message but you will have created a phrase that is like glue that will connect your message with your audience even long after you leave the speaking platform. Because when they remember your phrase, they will remember your message.
Humor is essential to every speaker. Speakers who don’t use humor in their presentations will eventually have trouble connecting with their audience and for that matter, will probably not get hired very much. So why is humor so important? Because humor connects! It’s as simple as that. It has been proven, that when people laugh and are in good spirits, they are at their best “emotional state” to receive the message of the speaker.
Never start your speech with a Joke
Most speakers start off their speeches with a classic joke. These speakers all have great intentions. They want to captivate the attention of the audience, make them laugh and then go directly into their speech. Unfortunately, all of these speakers are completely misguided. Starting off your speech with a classic joke, will not only NOT captivate your audience, but can also be extremely risky (This will be the topic of Commandment number two).
One of the golden rules of public speaking, is to come out with a “Bang” you want to come out “punching”. You have 7 seconds to captivate the attention of your audience and your audience spends the next 23 seconds deciding whether they should tune in or out of your presentation. If your boring and not captivating – your done! Speakers who start out with a joke are on the right track, thinking that they want to captivate their audience at the beginning of their speech, but they are misguided in the “thinking” that telling a joke will captivate their audience.
The Psychology of Captivating
The art of captivating an audience and starting your speech with a “bang” is to go where the audience least expects you to be. When you give the audience the unexpected, you have in essence captivated them. However, after years and years of listening to speakers who starts off with jokes, audiences of today, have been conditioned to “expect” speakers to start with a joke and when that is the case, you no longer are giving the audience the “unexpected.”
So How Do You Start Your Speech with a Bang?
There are a number of ways to start your speech that will captivate your audience. One of the best ways to do this is by going directly into a story. Just like people love to watch a great movie with a great plot, people also love to hear a good story. When you learn how tell a story with a built in “message” you will not only connect with, but you will also captivate your audience.
Another good way to start your speech is by asking a question. When you ask your audience a question, you force them to think and when your audience is thinking, they are involved in your speech. Take a look at the following video clip. This is the first 23 seconds of a 7 minute humorous speech that I gave. You will see me start off – first, by asking a question and then going directly into a story. You can hear the the entire speech by clicking on the video on the home page of my web site. with each additional commandment that I will be posting on my blog.
On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your “fear” level when it comes to public speaking? If it is anything above a 3 (as it was for me) then read on. If it is 3 or less and you are wondering why you are still nervous – You should know that it is actually a good thing to be a bit nervous – Being somewhat nervous, actually makes you perform better and keeps you more focused and alert while you are speaking.
So why is it that we are panic stricken when we are called up to give a public talk? Whether you are asked for your opinion at you company’s board meeting, being asked to give a toast at your best friends wedding or even asked to give a eulogy at a relative’s funeral, just the “idea” of public speaking, drives us to run miles away from the speaking platform.
In fact, it was Jerry Seinfeld who once said that, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” Believe me, I know that what Jerry Seinfeld had said rings to be very true; because up until about 10 years ago, it was I who would have rather been in the casket than have to give the eulogy. So why is it that many people rank the fear of public speaking greater than the fear of death?
The relationship between embarrassment and death
One evening a few years ago, I was browsing through the Judaic section in Barnes & Noble and I came across a chapter from “The Ethics of our Fathers.” And I was reading through chapter three and what was written in verse 11 just jumped out at me. It stated that “When one humiliates their friend in public, they will have no share in the next world.” So I wondered -why does the Judaic scripture go so far as to talk about punishment for a person who embarrasses and humiliates another in public? Because it also stated that when someone humiliates another in public, it is as if he had spilled their blood!
So In other words, when you are humiliated in public, you “feel” as if you are “dying.” We all can remember those moments when we related an embarrassing moment to a friend and we said “I was so embarrassed, the blood rushed to my face and I felt like I was dying.” So after Leaving Barns & Noble later that evening, I came to the realization as to why people put fear of public speaking and death in the same category. My realization was this; we are panic stricken when we think of giving a talk in public because we “FEAR” that we will become embarrassed or humiliated.
Is fear of humiliation holding you back from public speaking?
Are you staying away from the speaking platform because you fear being humiliated or embarrassed in front of your peers, friends or family. You see, as I said earlier, I would have rather jumped off a bridge than have to give a talk in front of an audience. It sounds crazy, but that is where I was up until about 10 years ago. Whenever people asked me to say something at a family or social event, I would often run the other way. But sometimes I had been put on the spot, and with nowhere to run, I had no choice. You name it, I had it – no matter what the size of the audience was, I had trembling hands, sweaty palms, a palpitating heart rate and yes, I also had the frog in my throat! So how did I conquer my fear? And better yet, how can you conquer yours? Read on.
There are three kinds of confidence:
1. Performance confidence
2. Rehearsal confidence
3. Acceptance confidence
Performance confidence is just that. You have done something so many times that you have absolutely no problem doing it again and again because you have the “belief” in yourself that you can do it. Take driving a car for example. Did you get into your car this morning and wonder whether you can drive or not. I would guess that you didn’t even think twice about it! Because you have done it so many times, that driving actually became second nature to you. This is performance confidence. Performance confidence is great, however, it is not what you want to aim for when you are new to public speaking and your nervousness and anxiety is off the charts, as it was for me.
Rehearsal confidence is the increase in your confidence as you practice something and in our case it would be a speech or presentation. So the more your practice, the greater the confidence you will have in yourself. Rehearsal confidence is very good to have, but when you are just starting out and working to decrease your anxiety with public speaking, you need to be very aware of your rehearsal/action ratio. This is the ratio of your practice time versus how long you wait until you will actually do your presentation.
When I first started out in public speaking, my rehearsal/action ratio was out of whack. I suffered from something called “pre-mature performance confidence syndrome”, which basically trapped me in a cycle of never ending practice. Since I had so much fear of public speaking, I always wanted to make sure that I was “prefect” and wanting to be perfect led me to always practice, practice and still practice some more.
My practicing put me in a never ending cycle, which ultimately kept me trapped in “practice mode” with very little “stage time” in front of live audiences. So remember, that when you first start out in public speaking, you want to initially stay away from the desire for performance and rehearsal confidence and you want to totally embrace “acceptance confidence.”
By embracing the third kind of confidence called “acceptance confidence” You will start on the road to bringing whatever your fear level is, down to a 3, 2 or even a 1. Acceptance comes with the understanding that you will get more comfortable with public speaking as you do it more. In fact, in an amazing little documentary called Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld had this to say about getting more comfortable on stage: “You’re never really comfortable. Even though you may think you are… you really aren’t.” But in time, Seinfeld says, “you learn how to open, how to sustain, how to pace…” and you will get more comfortable.
Remember, as I mentioned earlier, you never want to totally get rid of your nervousness and this is what I think Jerry Seinfeld was really saying when he said “You’re never really comfortable”, because being a bit nervous will actually make you more focused and alert.
So what is acceptance confidence? Acceptance confidence is having the courage to do something without any reservations about what the outcome might be. It is the confidence in knowing that everything in life is a learning experience. It is in the knowing that we humans are “fallible beings” and do often make mistakes.
When we were born we accepted the fact that we didn’t know how to walk (well I guess we didn’t have a choice anyway!) But if we never took any risks by wobbling and falling on our face, and then brushing and dusting ourselves off and then trying to walk yet again – we would not be walking today! So being courageous is part of being human. Being Courageous is part of our DNA, but somewhere along the way, “fear” started to creep in somehow and started wearing away on our courageousness.
Always keep “Acceptance Confidence” near to your heart
I recently competed in a humorous speech contest in front of a very large audience and even though at my level of skill, where I can “tap” into my performance and rehearsal confidence, I still often choose to tap into “acceptance confidence.” Why? Because every so often “fear” has a tendency to want to pay me a visit when I least expect it to. So for me, after I have done all of my rehearsing, I still choose to embrace “acceptance confidence” and accept whatever comes my way.
When you embrace “acceptance confidence” you eradicate the anxiety associated with wanting to be perfect and wanting to “win.” You turn your energy into wanting to share your important message with the audience and enjoying the energy exchange with your audience. Embracing “acceptance confidence” also allows you to be in the moment. Dan Millman couldn’t have said it any better in his famous and profound book – “Way of the Peaceful warrior” and in it he said, “The journey is what brings us happiness – not the destination.” So enjoy the Journey my friend!