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4 things you can learn from stand up comedians about public speaking

4 things you can learn from stand up comedians about public speaking

Stand up comedy seems to be so easy: you just enter the stage and start joking. There are no bullet point lists, no screens, no pauses – just the comedian speaking on and on, entertaining the audience.

Now it suddenly seems less easy, right? Well, the reality is stand up comedy is not easy at all, because you need to master a lot of skills, apart from having enough humor to make an entire audience laugh for two to three hours on end. Comedians know how to keep their audience engaged, which means you can learn a lot from these funny people about public speaking.

Learn their secrets and apply them in your daily life – you will be amazed to see how much your life will change.

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1. Work with emotions to bond with your audience

People crave to connect with other people, so take advantage of this and bond with your audience. If you watch a comedian starting his or her show, they will first share a humiliating story. Something that will make the audience supportive towards them, something that will make the audience identify with the person in front of them.

In your case, you can take advantage of the first minutes of a presentation or a meeting to share a relatable story, which will put you under your audience, but at the same time, they will relate to it. Something like a story on doing the dishes, which is something we all do.

2. Use your voice to paint an image in people’s minds

Comedians rely on their own voices to take their audiences to a different place, at a different time. They use very detailed descriptions and modulate their voice to be able to paint the image they want into their audience’s minds.

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They make sure they have a high quality microphone, which enables them to alter their voice tonality and switch from screaming to whispering. A comedian also uses the microphone as a prop.

What can you learn from this? You can use your voice to make the person in front of you imagine a completely different environment. You can use this secret when you have to convince an investor to put his money into your new project. This will work a lot better than trying to explain your project with PowerPoint drawings.

3. Body language is a powerful tool

Many comedians prefer to have a stand microphone, which gives them more freedom for gesticulation. A comedian relies a lot on body language to accompany the story and the jokes. A comedian’s gestures are always broad and take up a lot of space on the stage, filling it. This is because they have to be seen by the entire audience, but also because they are highly confident.

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You don’t have to exaggerate when you are speaking to an audience, but do use your body to complement your words. If you are not accustomed to having a microphone in your hand or standing in front of you, do practice with a similar tool, such as a broom for a standing microphone or a brush for a hand microphone.

4. Structure your speech

Comedians always pay attention to their speech’s structure, so they often return to a previous joke or mention, just before they close their show. This is intentional, as the audience is already familiar with the previous jokes, which makes them remember the speech easier. In daily life, you should use this technique to engage your audience and make sure they do remember your entire presentation, especially if it was a long one.

Next time you watch a comedian perform on stage, take a second look and try to discover his secrets, in order to put them to use in your own presentations and become a master of public speaking.

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Featured photo credit: Flickr/tie the ribbons via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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