What do you do when you are giving a talk and there is an obvious distraction in the room? Humor to the rescue!
The first thing to remember is that humor is a natural thing to use when something happens that everyone notices. If everyone is thinking it, then it is a natural candidate for humor.
The second thing to realize is that humor can acknowledge a distraction and then set it aside so you can move on.
Last winter, I gave a talk in a meeting room that was much too cold. It was in the low 40s outdoors, and it seemed that the air conditioning was running full blast in the meeting room. Everybody was thinking about and talking about the frigid room temperature. During the winter season I always carry a down jacket in my car for emergencies. So, before the talk began, I made a trip to the car to retrieve the jacket. After I was introduced, I briskly walked to the front of the room wearing my jacket and looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy. My opening lines were: “I am wearing this jacketâ¦because it’s coolâ¦ In fact it’s freezing. Fortunately, I always carry a down jacket in my car in case I have to change a tire. Or in case I have to give a speech!”
The lines got great laughs. Together, thru laughter, we acknowledged the uncomfortable environment. And we moved forward.
At another event, we were distracted by a loud dance band playing for a wedding reception on the other side of a temporary wall dividing the banquet room. Included in my opening remarks: I am sure you appreciate how, at great expense, we have arranged for live music to accompany my talk. Acknowledge with humor. Then forget about it.
At a humor workshop, a woman in the audience could not stop laughing. Of course this was a wonderful distraction! I continued to speak but was twice interrupted by her laughing. We all started to laugh at her laughter. My remark: “I am going to hire her to come to my next program!” A great line to acknowledge what everyone was noticing.
At a summer convention in Palm Springs everybody was complaining about the 114 degree outdoor temperature. The air conditioning in the meeting room was having a hard time keeping the room cool. One of my opening remarks: “I just heard from the committee planning next year’s convention. They have arranged for a meeting location with a more comfortable climate. Next year’s meeting will be held on the surface of the sun.” A silly exaggeration, but people were ready to and wanting to laugh at the extremely hot conditions.
At another convention I was scheduled to present a breakout session immediately following a general session keynote by Anthony Robbins. I anticipated that my low-key, laid-back style contrasted to over-the-top, high-energy style of Anthony Robbins, might be a distraction to some people. So I opened with: “I am working on a new introduction to my demo video. How does this sound? Spoke on the same program as Anthony Robbins. Or better yet, how about this. Had Anthony Robbins as his warm-up act! Meeting planners always want to spice up their convention programs with variety. They follow a serious speaker with a humor speaker. They follow a male speaker with a female speaker. They follow a dynamic, high-energy speakerâ¦with a Norwegian. So here I am.”
The humor worked. It acknowledged that I am not Anthony Robbins. It got a solid audience response. And we moved on with my program.
When you are the speaker, things will happen that will steal the attention of the audience. Noises, climate issues, interruptions and other distractions will happen which will be obvious not only to you but also to members of your audience. Knowing that this offers you a humor opportunity on a silver platter, you begin to look for ideas and connections to make a humorous observation click. Just the fact that everyone is thinking about the same thing makes it easier to construct a joke that will hit the target. It will be easier than you think. Sometimes just mentioning what people are thinking is enough to get a laugh.
So the next time you are speaking and faced with something that is on the minds of everyone in the audience, harvest the humor that is ripe for the picking. It will eliminate a distraction and get your talk off to a great start.
Copyright 2005 by John Kinde
By John Kinde, Motivational Humorist from Las Vegas, NV.
(702) 263-4363 www.humorpower.com