At Ease

The humor must be comfortable for the speaker and every joke must make a relevant point. Gene Perret describes what he calls the sandwich technique. The top line tells the audience the point you wish to make. Then, in the middle, a humorous one-liner or juicy anecdote is added which illustrates the point. Finally, the bottom line is reached by summarizing the point in different words.

Here are just a few do's and don'ts.

Your client must believe in the importance of your material, because this chemistry affects the audience. If the speaker doesn't care, why should they? Encourage your client to go slowly, but not so slowly it drags. Pauses make the speech sound more impromptu.

If you can, have the speaker tell a story on himself. The audience will appreciate that, despite his title, age, or reputation, he's still "a regular guy." That's what people mean when they say "He's got a sense of humor."

I certainly appreciate your inviting me to speak today. I sort of feel like Raquel Welch's new husband on their wedding night. I know what's expected of me. I'm just not sure I've got the ability to make it interesting.

Perret frequently tells stories in which one of his children's remarks gets the big laugh. Then, he ends up with a delightful humanizing comment, "As a comedy writer, I hate kids who get bigger laughs than their fathers."

Use a prop if it aids communication. Funny props work well, like charts, books, pictures, and posters. The prop also serves as a security blanket. And don't be afraid to let the speaker ham it up, but only if it fits her persona. For example, when a joke bombs, encourage her to take a file card off the podium and dramatically fling it back over her shoulder. In reverse, if a joke gets a big laugh, she should pick up a card, obviously give it a big kiss, then put it in her pocket and pat it fondly.

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