Gerry Thompson: Humour defuses anxiety and engages audiences

Gerry Thompson, who runs Positive Comedy Training
Gerry Thompson, who runs Positive Comedy Training

Humour is an essential part of effective communication - a powerful, tool that can add impact to your message, engage your audience and increase your confidence. It can help you diffuse anxiety and deal with tough situations. 
Leading professionals know this.

1: Look at things differently Humour and comedy are all about bringing an unexpected perspective to subject matter when everyone else is looking at conventionally.

2: Punchlines

Employ the classic set-up- and-punchline structure used by stand-up comedians. Use pauses to enhance the effect – comic timing.

3: Other tricks of the trade

Also employ other devices used by comedians, such as story and anecdote, exaggeration, or giving an unusual twist to common clichés.

4: The rule of three

Remember that lists of three items are funnier than two or four.

5: I’m not funny

Don’t buy into the idea of “I’m just not funny”. Everyone can be funny – it’s just that some people haven’t yet learned how to use that latent ability.

6: Deprecation

Make yourself the butt of your humour rather than someone else.

7: Repertoire

As stand-up comedians do, build up a repertoire of anecdotes and humorous segments relating to your subject area, which you can repeatedly use, and steadily refine your delivery.

8: Ad-libbing

You may also wish to develop your capability in spontaneous humour, in addition to using pre-planned and practiced content.

9: Managing risk

Practice your humour in low key settings where not too much is riding on how well your material goes down, and whether anyone laughs – like down the pub with mates.

10: Appropriateness

Be very mindful of appropriateness of your material for a particular audience and context. Keep a part of your mind on monitoring alert, to prevent you saying something inadvisable.

Examples of humour being used in an effective way to make serious points: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity and http://www.ted.com/talks/rory_sutherland_perspective_is_everything

For more about presentation and public speaking skills see positivecomedy.com

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