Book: Do You Talk Funny?

do_yo_talk_funny“Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits To Become A Better (And Funnier) Public Speaker” by David Nihill

  • “Laughter triggers a dopamine release, which aids memory and information processing. It’s like a mental post-it note that tells your brain, remember this.”
  • “Humor is proven to increase the likelihood that your pitch or presentation will be successful, whether you’re pitching to one person or speaking to thousands.” It also “lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message.”
#1 Start with a Story
  • “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
  • “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell. In the social media age, your company must build the best product you can because customers will talk about your products and services on social media platforms and in real life. Products need stories to provide context and human emotion. They provide the beginning, middle and end.” –Seth Godin
  • “People don’t invest in your business or product. They invest in you and your story. If you want people to remember what you say, tell a compelling story.”
  • Have a hero/protagonist. Decide who will be the central character of the story. Often people remember the characters more than the story itself.”
  • Describe what your hero is up against. What challenges does the character have to overcome? What do they want and what is stopping them from getting it? This is your story’s source of tension.”
  • Build in a specific transcending emotion. You need something that breaks down barriers; love, lust, greed, passion, and loss are perfect.”
  • Include a clear lesson or transformation. Make sure your characters move towards their goal/objective/solving a problem.”
  • Add twists and turns to the story. Try not to make it predictable for the listener. Introduce a question or challenge and don’t be too quick to solve it.”
  • Make it believable. It is essential that your story allows the listener to suspend their disbelief, listening to what you are saying rather than questioning the truth of your words.”
  • Have a clear incident that makes the story really take off. Often referred to as the Inciting Incident”
  • Know where you want to end up (the punch line) from the outset. The last line should be the first line you write. Then work backwards towards your inciting incident and set up.”
  • Quickly build in a hook to grab your audience’s attention and draw them into the story. This is especially important in light of today’s ever-decreasing attention spans. “
  • Reference your opening lines/setup in the conclusion of your story. This is referred to as the Bookend Technique and it will give your story a feeling of completion or symmetry.”
  • Frame your story within a three-act structure: 1 Setup (Beginning), 2 Confrontation (Middle), and 3 Resolution (End). The hook and inciting incident usually happen within the first act.”
  • “A story should make people care by including personal experience that the audience can relate to themselves and to their own lives. The most powerful stories are not about the storyteller, they are about the person who is hearing the story.”
  • “In his book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, Carmine Gallo reminds us, ‘The funny thing about humor is that you don’t need to tell a joke to get a laugh.’ It can be enough to simply not take yourself too seriously—or to be willing to be brutally honest.”
  • “As a good storyteller, you need to be totally human. Be vulnerable, embrace embarrassment and vocalize failure before success.”
  • Be forewarned: Stories are told, not read. We love how the storyteller connects with the audience when there is no PAGE between them! Please know your story “by heart” but not by rote memorization. No notes, paper or cheat sheets allowed on stage.”
  • Have some stakes. Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? “
  • Start in the action. Have a great first line that sets up the stakes or grabs attention.”‘
  • Steer clear of meandering endings. They kill a story! Your last line should be clear in your head before you start. “
  • Know your story well enough so you can have fun! “
#2 Add Humor — Find the Funny
  • “The only way to learn where your laugh lines are is through trial and error, but when you hit upon one you will remember it.”
  • “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, or getting along with people, of getting things done,” said Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • “Humor is not about one-liners or being able to tell jokes. It’s about accepting things about yourself that can’t be changed and finding the humor in situations around you. Things happen on a daily basis that are really funny, but people often let the funny stuff get away, either because they don’t notice it as funny, or they don’t make it a priority to look for it.”
  • “We need to identify the key funny part in our stories and get there as quickly and effectively as possible.”
  • “Standup comedians, top TED speakers, and even Presidents tend to follow the same joke format for this: 1) Set-up, 2) Punch line, and then 3) Taglines.”
  • “The Setup establishes the premise of the joke by providing the audience with the necessary background information. It should use as few words as possible.”
  • “The punch line, this is essentially the laugh line. The set-up leads the audience in one direction and the punch line surprises them by suddenly going off in a different direction. That twist, that element of surprise, is a punch line’s chief ingredient.”
  • “Taglines are optional. They are essentially additional punch lines delivered after the initial punch line. Sometimes they build on the original joke and sometimes they add a twist and surprising new direction.”
  • “Remember: Always keep the punch line in mind.”
#3 Write Funny
  • “Very few comedians I met over the last year were what I would describe as naturally funny. Many were in fact the complete opposite, like Ryan. The natural gifts weren’t there but the skill certainly was—and it was clear that they developed their skill through practice, particularly in writing. Over time, these unfunny people learned how to write better and better.”
  • “By working in local references—whether it’s simply referencing certain affluent areas, calling upon local sporting rivalries, or recognizing challenges or issues pertaining to specific parts of town—you demonstrate that you have a special understanding and interest in their location.”
  • “Every good comedian makes sure he or she sets set up a joke by painting a picture so the audience can relate to the experience. … to write as if you are describing something to a blind person.”
  • “When you’re crafting a story or a joke, you want to leave people with something to remember. “
  • “This is where you go back (call back) and reference items that have had a good reaction or response from the crowd. This can be one of your jokes that worked, or a joke from a previous presenter that got a big laugh. “
  • “Callbacks are rarely funny to read but always effective in the moment as they are all about a shared experience between the audience and the speaker. As a rule of thumb, don’t callback to a joke more than three times and definitely don’t callback to something that wasn’t funny in the first place.”
  • “Creating material that relates to topics that are current in the mind of those in our audience is another easy way to get a laugh.”
  • “Celebrities, politicians and sporting teams are normally easy and acceptable targets. This also gives the illusion of spontaneity due to the short preparation time-scale if something just happened. Don’t go overboard though. Keep media references to less than 10% of your total content. “
  • “Conversational interaction between two characters gives us the chance to bring the scene to life on stage and put the audience directly into the action. If you can do different voices or different accents or speak another language, it’s a great way to incorporate your skills and show them off while writing them into your stories. “
  • “You never want to write, “I was walking and I saw.” It should be “I’m walking and I see.” Even if the event happened many, many years ago, you want the audience to be living that moment with you as if it’s happening right now. “
  • “Believe it or not, some words are funnier than others and can be amusing without any given context. “
  • “In The Sunshine Boys, Neil Simon quips, “Words with a ‘K’ in it are funny. Alka-Seltzer is funny. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. All with a ‘K.’ L’s are not funny. M’s are not funny.” The Simpsons creator Matt Groening proclaimed the word “underpants” to be at least 15% funnier than the word underwear.”
  • “When I told jokes in certain sequences, I noticed they were always most effective when I reworked them into groups of 3. It seemed that audiences were trained to laugh on the third item. So, if I made one quick joke, and a second quick joke, the laugh would always be biggest on the third one. If I remove any of these elements (leaving only two) or added extra ones (creating 4 or 5) the bit is never as effective. It’s strange, but true.”
  • “There is always a more creative way to introduce your idea. If you are worried about clever writing or your delivery, using videos and images can be a great way of taking the pressure off while bringing the laugh levels up. A little effort here can go a long way.”
#4 Rehearsed Spontaneity: Learning Comedy by Playing Banjo for an Empty Room
  • “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” ― Robert H. Schuller
  • “Don’t force your opinions on your audience either; people don’t like being told how to think.”
  • “To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.” —Joshua Foer
  • Memory Palace
    “1. Decide on a blueprint for your palace. A memory palace can be a purely imagined place but it’s often easier to base it upon a place that exists in the real world, one that you are familiar with. The house you grew up in, the apartment you’re currently living in, and your office are all great examples.”
    2. Define a route through this palace. It’s essential that you follow a specific route and a specific order through your palace so you’ll log items in the order you want to speak about them.”
    3. Identify specific storage locations in your palace and along your route. This will give you defined places to store your information.”
    4. Memorize the memory palace. The best way to do this is by drawing out a blueprint so you can visualize it brought to life on paper and then, create a memory in your mind.”
    5. Place things to be remembered in your palace. For example, if part of your presentation consists of talking about Ireland or a particular Irish guy you met (like me), do your best to create this person in as much detail as you can. This essentially, burns an image in your mind that makes it easy to recall that element. The more humorous and absurd the better.”
    6. Explore your palace and see everything you have created. Visualize everything you have created and commit it to memory in your mind. Take a few moments to do this. These essentially become your practice run-throughs, in which you walk through the house and, along the way, encounter all the different memory points or key item topics for your presentation that you want to remember. If you go blank at any moment stop, and picture where you are in your memory palace.”
    “the 5 Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”

#5 Delivery

  • “According to a recent Financial Times article by Lucy Kellaway, self-deprecation can ‘disarm others, make them forget you are scarily powerful, and lull them into liking you,’ but it only works if you’re already in a position of power and authority.”

#6 Control the Audience

  • “As a speaker, you can control how much the audience member speaks with the type of questions you ask. If you’re trying to engage the audience members and you want them to talk for a longer periods of time, ask open leading questions. Use words like How, Who, When, What, Why, and Where in order to elicit a response greater than one word. They generally require some further explanation. If you want to appear to be engaging an audience member, but don’t want them to speak that much, ask a closed question, questions that tend to solicit Yes or No or one-word answers.”
  • To calm the noise in the room: “ask the audience to clap if they can hear you. Once a few begin to clap, then keep it going until those who were talking shut up and join in. They will. Like birds flocking together, people naturally behave as a group. They will assume you said something interesting worthy of applause, fear they missed something awesome and join in.”
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