100 Hours of Humo(u)r – Hour 93: Humor Tip for Public Speakers: The Silent Rubber Band

By Dave Fox

100hours-logo5I’ve been writing a lot about humor writing. Now I want to address a couple of tricks and a common pitfall when sprinkling humor into public speaking. This hour, we’ll start with two of the tricks.

Let’s say you’re giving a speech — not necessarily a comedic speech. In talks on serious topics, an occasional light dusting of comedy is one of the most effective ways to keep your audience engaged. So you outline your talk, sketch out some notes, and hopefully have time to practice. If adding jokes into serious presentations is new for you, an out-loud dress rehearsal for your favorite wall or mirror will make a huge difference when you go “live.” You need to hear and feel your delivery, particularly on the punch lines, and test them with different intonations.

You’ve probably heard before about comedic “timing.” That’s particularly important to practice. There are two key moments when you need to pause.

The first is right before your punch line. It doesn’t need to be a long pause. A split-second of hesitation before going in for the zinger can have a powerful, subconscious effect. In that sliver of time, their minds engorge with tension as they anticipate the punch line’s surprise — the tension and surprise that lie at the root of physiological laughter responses. That pause, that micro-silence, is like stretching a rubber band before you shoot it. When you release the tension, laughs will fly farther.

There’s one other time, in adding jokes to a speech, when pausing is critical. I’ll talk about that next hour.

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Published on Tuesday, March 5, 2013

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