If you think that great presenters are simply just born then think again as there are proven approaches they use to make their presentations funnier that are available to everyone.
Here are 12 things that lively speakers do you can incorporate into your own presentation delivery
1. Be positive
Being upbeat and positive is a key part of good presentations according to speaker Julian Treasure whose tips are on TED’s speaking preparation play-list. You have to speak in a way that people want to listen to and being negative and critical of others aren’t good ingredients for a funny presentation.
Instead spread a little sunshine, make your audience smile.
2. Pick the right topic
Sebastian Wernicke has analysed TED talks and came up with some fun recommendations such as picking the right subject (combine things like the French, coffee and happiness but avoid men, projects and architecture).
Whilst you might not have perfect freedom on the subject make sure you can frame it in a why that makes it sound exiting. If your topic sounds fun because you worked on the title then you’ve warmed the audience up for a chuckle before you start.
3. Adopt a confident posture
Lively speakers don’t cower but have confident postures. Body language is key to both how others see us and how we feel about ourselves. Taking a more confident pose doesn’t just help with how we’re perceived it will change our body chemistry and we will act with greater confidence. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy recommends the use of “power posing” to achieve this.
And getting that dose of confidence is what you need to take the risk of telling that first joke.
4. Get visual
Being visual is such a clear differentiator for lively speakers with the use of good graphics or photos. Some even dispense with slides and use just a few props or animate their talk with their hands.
The approach of text based slides being read is never done by funny presenters, it’s a real no-no. You’re wanting people to listen to you, not send them to sleep with some reading!
5. Connect with the audience
Carmine Gallo has studied the top TED speakers and written books on them and the Steve Job’s presentation techniques. He recommends that instead of reading your slides (which you won’t be able to because they’ll be pictures) you should make eye contact with the audience.
Comedians, who have always known this, often go much further and really get the audience involved. It’s obvious really because if you’re not presenting for the audience who are you presenting for?
6. Get the energy up
And there’s a lot more to learn from Comedians. Dave Nihill has compiled an in-depth list. One recommendation is to get the energy levels up if they appear to be a bit low. This can be by simply getting a round of applause going. That can be for anyone – the organisers, you, the audience, anyone!
7. Tell Stories and Jokes
Whether it’s comedians or motivational speakers they keep us hooked with their engaging stories and jokes. The more personal the stories the better as research from Princeton University shows that our brains light up when we hear stories. We also find it easier to remember stories rather than random facts.
This links well with good visuals which help you keep your story on track. The visuals can even be the joke. A business friend of mine once faked the crashing of PowerPoint as humorous way of breaking out of doing traditional slides.
8. Ease off the stats
It takes a lot of work to make stats funny and they’re a great way to switch the audience off. So get the balance between stats and stories right and the presentation will liven up. People can always look up the numbers later if they need to.
Personally, the only laugh I’ve got out of stats during a presentation was the story of how a government office (which will remain nameless) made up the stats each year because it was too hard to properly calculate them.
9. Treat it as a performance
Funny presenters, also known as comedians, treat the presentation as a performance. They don’t turn up cold with a few rushed slides of dull text to hand. They put in plenty of preparation and practice.
Performers like Peter Kay, before doing large stadium gigs, practice and refine their material on a small scale first. Working to get each element up to the right level.
Funny speakers may appear natural and off the cuff but so much of that is from honing the material and putting in serious practice. Even a quick run through with a few trusted colleagues will make a huge difference for you. They’ll at least tell you if you’re jokes don’t work.
10. Use your voice
Lively speakers don’t just shout at a rapid pace or mumble in a drawl. They vary their tone and pace to keep it lively and fun. To get the voice right Julian Treasure recommends simple voice warm up exercises to get the voice in shape. These can be really simple such as saying la-la-la for the tongue or some brrrring for the the lips.
Or you could do a Steve Balmer and just run on stage screaming!
11. Don’t go on too long
The TED guidance is 18 minutes and there’s good reason as going longer cognitively overloads the audience. As they say leave them wanting more.
Stories can only go on so long before the audience and maybe even you have forgotten what the original point was. The punchline will only be funny if people remember what the start of the joke or tale was.
12. Recognise the fear
Acknowledge fear and do it anyway. Find a way to get over the nerves and get going. Everyone feels fear and the fear of giving presentations is a pretty common one. But it is possible to get through, find a way by starting small and focusing on positive outcomes.
You could start with a joke – maybe even about your fear – to get the audience on your side.
So give yourself a real chance of making your next presentation funnier by starting off with humour.
Featured photo credit: Bill Gates TED2011/Gisela Gardino via flickr.com