Presentations: Putting Humor Into Presentations : Speaking
There’s a saying among professional speakers. You don’t have to put humor in your speeches, but then you don’t have to make any money either.
With that in mind, consider Dale Irvin. Dale makes you laugh. And he can make you a better speaker. (You can look him up on YouTube and see his weekly video funnies.)
Having watched him for more than 10 years, I can say he is flat good.
His signature presentation goes like this. He attends a convention and watches the earlier speakers. He takes a few notes and then – without rehearsal – steps before the audience and delivers an often outrageous funny biting monologue playing off what the speakers said. The entire conference is fair game for his comedy routine. No canned jokes, just original stuff created on the spot. This man is quick!
I cannot capture his talent in a column; you have to see it. But let me relate a small bit I borrowed from his website.
Dale once appeared after motivational superstar Tony Robbins. Dale said, “Now earlier today, Tony Robbins told us he once knew a woman who was scared of snakes. So to help her get over her fear of snakes, he brings her up on stage and gives her a… snake! Well, Tony, I haven’t told anybody this, but, Ferraris scare the heck out of me!”
Dale makes you feel good, and, when mixed with messages, can teach. I believe being a successful comedian is a gift and darned near unteachable, nevertheless most of us can add humor to dry presentations. I asked him for tips to entertain as well as educate audiences.
1. Tell your own funny stories – Don’t use a joke book; look for the humor in your experiences. One bonus – you’ll never worry about repeating someone else’s funny story.
2. Observe rather than see – To find humor, don’t just see events – observe them. For example, while watching speakers he will parody, Dale listens carefully for the incongruous, highly unusual, errors, or comments that can be twisted. Dale says, for instance, if at a dinner meeting you and your seatmates can’t recognize the food on your plates, then make an offhand comment about the meal in your speech. It will almost certainly get a laugh. That’s observational humor.
3. Write down everything – When you see or think of something funny, record it before you forget. Dale writes his humor word for word before delivering it. While he admits he has been funny since childhood, he believes hard work and observation lead to success.
4. Exaggerate – Twist ideas up, down, inside, and out to make them funny. Dale’s Friday Funnies (available at www.daleirvin.com) once included this example – “The newest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine is out this week with tips to spark up your sex life. One of the tips is to blindfold each other in bed. This is stupid. If you are both blindfolded, how are you supposed to find each other? Somehow calling out ‘Marco’ doesn’t seem that enticing.”
Also use exaggeration to add punch lines and sharp conclusions to stories that would otherwise dribble off.
5. Deliver with confidence. Tell your humor with self-assurance. One benefit is that even if some audience members don’t get it, they may laugh anyway because they figure it must be their fault. Get self-confidence by rehearsing repeatedly.
6. Make fun of what people say, not the people. Only satirize what comes out of people’s mouths, not their appearance or behavior. Then you will be 100% safe. Dale once refused to play off a serious speaker. The presenter had told a horrific personal tragedy that put the audience in tears. Dale then told the crowd, “If you think I am going to say something funny, I’m not.” The crowd applauded.
6. Not everyone has the potential to be funny. While some say humor is mandatory in speeches, Dale says don’t try to be funny if you are not comfortable with it. You can’t fake it. Furthermore, some topics simply don’t lend themselves. Dale says, “If you’re holding a meeting of nuclear physicists, you might have a tough time being funny while talking about the future of cold fusion.”
7. Dale’s best idea? He said, “Avoid failure, hire me!”