Communication Skills, Presentation Skills

Tickling Your Audience’s Funny Bone

Blog bites:

  • Let the laughter roll
  • Tell stories, not jokes
  • Be playful

We see it far too often: someone standing in front of an audience, lazily clicking through a 30 slide PowerPoint presentation compiled on a mundane corporate template. And they wonder why we all start nodding off!

Have you ever tried to tell a joke in a presentation and had it fall flat? Or watched someone struggle to be funny in a meeting, only to leave the audience feeling awkward?

Many of us have. The question is – how can you use humour to boost audience engagement, get your message across and make a memorable impression?

So many books on communication skills say you must be funny if you want to master professional public speaking. But you don’t have to be a comedian to find the funny in your performance.

Try these four tips:

Surf the humour

Almost 20 years ago, Colin James was a keynote speaker at a conference in New Zealand. When he stepped off stage, notable speaker Glenn Capelli, approached Colin and said, “When you incite laughter or make your audience smile, don’t look shocked as though you didn’t know you were funny. And don’t cut off the laughter. Instead, surf the humour. Let it roll.”

Why should we let the laughter roll? Because it’s contagious. When you’re in a crowded cinema and people start laughing at a scene on the screen, it gives the group permission to join in.

So let the laughs flow, and the energy build and resonate around the room, hooking your audience.

Be a storyteller, not a comedian

Don’t worry about telling jokes. Instead, think about telling stories.

That’s what the world’s best comedians do best – telling truths that we all experience every day and putting a spin on them. We laugh because the story they tell is familiar and relatable.

Be playful and light

A few years ago, comedian Billy Connelly came to Sydney. Colin went along to three shows in a row, to study Connelly’s methodology and story structure.

Each night Connelly told the same stories with the same structure, and had the audience roaring with laughter. Why? Because he cued the audience up to laugh. He set the jokes up for the crowd, by laughing before the punch line.

What can we take from this? Well, we can simply be light and not too serious. Find the play in your pitch or presentation.

Where does play come from? Your voice and tonality, as well as adopting a playful energy. Find that lightness in the stories you share, and have fun with your audience.

Use humour to engage

Remember that when people are laughing, they have to be present. You can’t laugh while thinking about something else, because you are immersed in the experience of the now.

That’s why people love comedy – it brings them into the moment. When you bring laughter into the room, it allows people to be present. It creates this lovely energising effervescence, filling the room with infectious energy.

So start with being hyper-observant of your audience, find the rolling laughter and respect it, and then allow the energy to build.

In the Mastering Communication Program, The Colin James Method Facilitators invite you to play with humour and storytelling on a deeper level, to move towards mastery of communication.

The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.

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