Blog | March 7, 2016

Speakers At Channel Events: Read This Book, Please!

jim roddy

By Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing, RSPA

I hope every speaker I listen to at future channel conferences for the rest of my life follows the principles in the book Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker. I think tolerating dry presentations at events has taken a few years off all of our lives. Or at least it feels that way to me.

I tweet a lot when I listen to speakers, and the original reason for doing that was to keep me from falling asleep during the boring ones. It was either that or stab myself in the thigh with my pen cap to avoid nodding off.

In Do You Talk Funny?, author David Nihill does an excellent job detailing public speaking best practices along with several “how-to” lists that I guarantee I’ll review before crafting my next presentation. Many of Nihill’s principles apply to leadership communication as well, so even if you never take the stage to speak to a group, I think you’ll find value in what the book offers.

I underlined a ton of passages while reading the book and wanted to share some of the best-of-the-best with you here. I won’t get into many Nihill’s how-to tips; you’ll have to buy the book to access those.

  1. Almost every book ever written on public speaking says humor is a key part of successful talks. Yet none of them explain well how to employ it, which is about as useful as handing a MacBook Pro to a goat.
  2. The brain doesn’t pay attention to boring things. “Emotionally charged” events like laughter trigger a dopamine release, which greatly aids memory and information processing.
  3. Every one of the 10 most popular TED talks moves the humor needle.
  4. Stories are great for memory retention, but there’s another reason to tell a story: it connects you with and humanizes your brand.
  5. Whether it’s business or not, the story always needs a personal element. Make it your own.
  6. “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, or getting along with people, of getting things done.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  7. A good leader needs to know how to create a connection, and the fastest way of doing that is by making someone laugh.
  8. Employees are humans, and humans respond to humor.
  9. The more entertaining you can be, the more time you earn from your audience to be serious.
  10. Every time you think of something funny or you have an observation or something that you think will be useful, make sure you write it down. If you have a smartphone, use your notes app.
  11. Use inherently funny words. Simpsons creator Matt Groening proclaimed the word underpants to be at least 15 percent funnier than the word underwear.
  12. Use funny images and video. “Presentations have an extra advantage over most traditional stand-up comedy sets — a giant friggin’ screen that the audience is staring at the whole time you’re onstage.” – comedian Sammy Wegent
  13. “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” – Robert H. Schuller
  14. The work comes prior to the big day, not on the big day.
  15. Self-deprecating humor is a great tool to have in your back pocket, but be sure not to undermine your own credibility with too many wisecracks or humorous comments at your own expense.
  16. The best presenters go off script once they have gotten a good, scripted start. Combine stand-up, storytelling, and improv techniques.
  17. Never end on Q&A. When you are expected to do a questions-and-answers session at the end of your talk, always save a summary slide to close with, ideally with three main takeaways. Then say, “Okay I am going to take a few questions before I make my conclusion.”
  18. People like stories, but they tend to love funny stories.
  19. Presenters are expected to be entertainers.
  20. Let us rid the world of boring content one presentation at a time!

For more information and resources related to Do You Talk Funny?, visit the following web pages: