Don’t you hate it when you lose stuff? Things like your keys, your wallet, and for those of us getting on in years… your mind? But as a speaker, the worst thing you can lose is your audience. Yawning, fidgeting, and clock watching like children waiting for recess, the signs are all devastatingly obvious. Yet short of putting a gun to their heads or offering a million dollars to stay with you, there is a better way to keep from losing your audience: inject some humor.
Using humor in your speech or presentation has the miraculous effect of creating an immediate connection between you and your audience. After all, if you can get a laugh or a smile, people warm up to you very quickly. Humor also makes your presentation memorable. Do you remember the particulars of the last boring speech you sat through? Yeah… thought so.
But one of the best reasons to use humor in your speech is it reduces anxiety and tension in your audience. And an audience that is relaxed is one that is open and receptive to you and your message. That means more buyers, more clients and customers, and better bottom line results for you. From just your own experience, you know how much more you appreciate a presentation that uses humor versus one that doesn’t. So how come so few presenters use it? For most speakers, it comes down to a couple of things…
First, many people lack confidence to get up in front of an audience and deliver humor. They’re afraid that if they don’t deliver a laugh every few seconds, they’ll get booed off the stage. But you’re delivering a business presentation and no one expects it to be a joke fest. If they want those kind of laughs, they’ll have to hustle on down to the local comedy club. Your job is to deliver awesome content with a smile, not be the next Chris Rock or Larry the Cable Guy.
Second, most of us are taught that a business speech needs to be serious and has to follow a particular format. As a result, people get up in front of an audience and regurgitate a dull presentation, thinking they’re following ‘the rules’ of speaking (whatever those are!).
Amazingly, with a gentle shove in the right direction, you should have no trouble adding some wit and smiles to your next presentation. So just how do you inject humor into your speech? Try these three tips for starters:
Begin with an enthusiastic smile. Believe it or not, the fastest way to get your audience to smile is by starting out with one yourself. Begin your presentation with a smile and people will warm up to you faster than sunshine in the Sahara. If you have a serious look on your face and monotone in your voice, you lose before you even get started.
Use exaggeration. Probably one of the easiest ways to get that coveted audience connection is by using exaggeration. Instead of saying, “I had to rush to get to this presentation on time” try “I was in such a rush to get here that I had to be doing 450 miles an hour on the side roads.” Hilarious? No. But it puts a silly (but memorable!) picture in your audience’s mind of just how much effort you put into traveling, a picture they won’t soon forget.
Self-deprecation. That’s a fancy way of saying have some fun at your own expense. When you poke fun at your mistakes, missteps, and even personal traits, the audience will relax knowing you’re human, just like them. It’s a great way to make you that much more likeable and approachable. But be careful… don’t tear yourself down to the point where you look like a two-bit moron. Just a jab here and there and your audience will soon be your best friend.
If you’re looking for ways to keep from losing your audience, leave a lasting impression, and stand out from your competition, inject a little humor. Because if you lose your audience, you may never seen them again.