It can be difficult to keep your audience engaged during business presentations. How do comedians keep their audiences engaged? Some of us are naturally funny. Others think that being funny is a gift from birth that only the chosen few are blessed with, and that the rest of us should stay far, far away from trying to make people laugh. The fact is, being funny is a skill like anything else, like driving a car, learning a new language, or learning presentation techniques.
Comedians spend years crafting and honing their content and delivery, making them one of the few public speakers that clock up Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours that he says make a master.
Performers learn a lot the hard way. there’s just no other way to do it. You can practice, practice, and practice until the cows come home but at the end of the day you have to get up in front of a real audience to test it out.
Here are a few interesting presentation techniques from the world of comedy to help speakers in the business world master the art of keeping audiences engaged.
Rock It From The Start
Everyone knows that getting off to a good start sets the tone for the rest of your journey. When you’re practicing your speech or presentation, the first 30 seconds will make or break you.
Psychologist Jennice Vilhauer does this effectively in her TEDTalk “Why you don’t get what you want…” If you don’t engage people and give them a reason to listen in the first 30 seconds, you’ll have a pretty tough time getting them back.
A killer start to your presentation will set the tone for the rest of your talk and keep your audience engaged. So practice this, hone it, and know it until you can do it in your sleep.
Know Your Timing
When you’re practicing, breakdown the sections of your content.
- First 30 seconds
- Numbers of key areas
- Wrap up
Time yourself so you know how long each takes and how much time the whole presentation will be and when in doubt, keep it short. you will keep your audience engaged, and they will thank you for it.
Don’t Wait To Work The Room – keep you audience engaged from the get go!
Comedians are clever at working the room. They ‘cast’ someone in the audience so they have instant familiarity with the room. Introduce yourself to people as they come into the room; don’t wait to find common ground with your audience until you start your talk.
Break the ice with them from the outset, greet them as they come in, have a bit of banter with them. You’ll automatically have back story with them when you start your presentation.
Warm Up First
All performers warm up and do something to get them in the ‘zone’ as TEDTalk presenter Julien Treasure talks about here. Stretch your arms up over your head before you step onto the stage, take some deep breaths, loosen up your muscles or do some articulation exercises. Whatever you do, do something. This will help calm any nerves and also get your body and mind focused on the task at hand.
Whenever you get the chance to present or speak in front of an audience, always film or video yourself. Always. It’s so easy now to do it now with phones and tablets. Get a friend or someone you know will be there to video you so you can watch it back and see exactly what you’re doing and sounding like. Performers and comedians love this because it gives them instant feedback on everything they’re doing and how they are keeping audiences engaged.
No one feels comfortable around people who seem like they’re perfect all the time. We connect with people we trust, who feel familiar to us. Really funny material comes from comedians who know it’s not necessarily about making people laugh; it’s about making people think, it’s about showing them that you know what it’s like to be human. The audience finds something in you that resonates with them. Comedian and writer Ricky Gervais talks brilliantly about this here.
As a public speaker, take heed of some of these techniques from comedians and see if they help in your performance. Comedians face the toughest audiences in the world so they know what they’re talking about.
Remember, good preparation and practice will pay off in dividends when it comes to getting up in front of an audience and delivering the goods.
Great communicating is learned; no one is born a great speaker.
Remember that you’re a human being in a room full of human beings and every audience loves to see people succeed.
They want you to be great! It makes their job of listening so much easier.
Contact us for details on how we can help you to engage your audiences and deliver memorable presentations
t – +353 1 9696056
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ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.