“I’m not funny…” is the number one reason I hear for people trying to avoid standing in front of people and speaking. “I mean I can be funny when I’m with my friends, but I’m not funny on stage…”
There is no doubt about it, being funny is a great tool to connect with people and create a light uplifting enjoyable talk. But… the good news is you don’t have to “be funny”, to “be funny” for your audience.
You see, being funny is never where you start from. Being honest, telling your stories and creating a connection is where you start from. this is the key to engaging an audience. If it’s there, funny comes later.
Interestingly when I coached four of the presenters for the Next Radio Conference in September, only ONE of them stood out as being naturally funny, but ALL FOUR presentations had people laughing.
By using me as a coach for their talks, my clients are able to find the funny lines if they exist. More often than not the jokes appear like bubbles rising to the top once the speech is discussed, designed, written and rehearsed. I’m gonna stick my neck out and say: 90% of making someone laugh is in the delivery of a line. And the reaction of laughter, doesn’t come because you told a joke, it’s a reaction of surprise and familiarity in a story you told.
So rest assured, the pressure of being funny is felt by everyone, being funny isn’t the key to creating an engaging talk, and you will only know if there is funny in your talk once you’ve written it. Use a trusted friend, associate or coach to help you hear what it is you are trying to say, and if the funny stands out they’ll be able to find it for you.
I’ve been saying “Show Don’t Tell” in a lot of my sessions recently. It’s one of the fundamentals in “performing” your content and drawing in your listener.
The ideology I use is taught in novel writing. The lesson is that you give the reader the opportunity to add their imagination to the story. Instead of the author writing “She laughed nervously” – which tells the reader exactly what is going on, the ‘Show Don’t Tell’ version is “Her cheeks flushed as she laughed”.
A good author then allows you, as the reader, the space to put your thoughts and pictures into the book, to read betwen the lines, meaning you’re able to engage with the content at a personal level.
How then does this translate to presenting?
Often it’s how you go about explaining your content.
Imagine you are using an audio clip from an interview. You set it up by giving it context…
“Tom Odell was in yesterday and we asked him what he thought of the Euros…. Here’s what he said” <Play Clip>
At a basic level, you don’t need the “here’s what he said”. It is fine to say:
“Tom Odell was in yesterday and we asked him what he thought of the Euros…<play clip>”
One step further might get you to a more interesting place
“Up next is the new song from Tom Odell – He’s a big football fan, how’s he feeling about the Euros? <PAUSE FOR A BEAT> <Play clip>”
In an “On Stage” context you can also think about how you are using your slides to show what you are talking about rather than telling your audience what you are saying. You and I both know we shouldn’t write up bullet points on the powerpoint word for word, but when we get to it it’s difficult to find images. We’ve all done it: the bullet points find their way back in. Unfortunately it is a sure fire way to get your audience to glaze over.
Of all examples of the “Show Don’t Tell” technique in presenting content, my favourite has to be the first 60 seconds of this.