"Numerous researchers have indicated that a sense of humor is one of the most significant characteristics of executives or people in leadership roles." Humor, the Magic of Genie by Jeanne Robertson
You know that old joke. What’s the way to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice...
It’s the same thing with public speaking. The more you do it the easier it will become and the better your presentation skills will get. Comedians have open mikes. And so do aspiring public speakers. In the following article by the late great comedy coach and Toastmaster member John Cantu, you’ll find resources to help you go from beginning speaker to seasoned pro.
When I am coaching my humor students, I have them put together a fifty minute talk and to construct the talk into five-minute segments or stories - or what a comedian would call a chunk.
Then I tell them to join Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a nationwide organization designed for those who want to increase and improve their speaking skills. In Toastmasters you practice speaking in a safe and comfortable environment. Think of it as a speaker’s open mike.
When you start speaking at Toastmasters meetings you’ll receive a set of ten assignments. Each assignment focuses on a different part of speaking. One assignment will focus on gestures, one will focus on vocal variety so you don’t speak in a monotone, one is on the organization of a speech, etc.
Do each assignment but use one of your five minute chunks for your material. (This is the equivalent of customizing your speech for an audience.) And since you will be using a chunk from your fifty minute talk, you will be able to practice your presentation in front of an audience with very supportive feedback.
If you go to a comedy club and people don’t laugh, you don’t know if it was because your material wasn’t good... or because they couldn’t hear you. You don’t get that feedback unless you go to Toastmasters.
And each time you do a talk at Toastmasters, you are evaluated. The members of your club will watch you and give you feedback on what worked -- and what didn’t work.
I don’t care how bad you were, nobody will tell you that you were terrible, rotten, horrible and boring. They will say you might want to speak louder because maybe they couldn’t hear you. But you will always get very positive and supportive feedback.
As soon as you’ve given four talks, you have twenty minutes worth of material. You can start expanding beyond Toastmasters into the realm of professional speaking by going to what we call the “Animal Clubs.” These are your civic and social organizations: The Elks, The Lions, The Rotarians.
These clubs are all volunteer organizations. Every one of them has a program manager, a program director, or event coordinator who has to get a speaker every week -- about 48 weeks a year. They usually don’t meet on holidays, but they are literally pulling their hair out looking for speakers.
So, if you call up and say “I am a professional speaker and I have a new talk that I am breaking in, and I talk on ‘such a such a subject’ and it has a lot of humor in it,” chance are they will say “how fast can you get here?”
With these audiences, you start to get a different type of feedback. They are not going to be as positive as the Toastmasters. They will listen and be polite but they are not there to make you feel good. They are there as a real audience member.
If you have a talk that is entertaining, you will see it in their eyes. You will see them nodding their heads. You will see them smiling and nudging people. And you may start to get laughter.
When you start to get laughter at these clubs, it is a little bit more real than Toastmasters, because they didn’t come prepared to laugh and support you.
After you’ve done your 20 minute presentation at three club, you will start to get a sense of what is working for you. You will know what always gets a laugh, what gets a laugh a couple times but not every time, and what doesn’t get a laugh at all. If something doesn’t work after three times, change it or add something new.
Now go break a leg.
Find more free speaker tips at SpeakerHumor.com. THE humor technique resources for adding humor to speeches. How YOU can be Funny without looking, feeling or sounding foolish.