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Public Speaking Course: 

Humor Placement

Probably by now you are wondering where the best place is to include your funny material in your presentation. You weren't wondering? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway.

Most members of the audience expect you to start off your speech with a story or joke. You may want to postpone your story until the audience has resigned itself that you will be giving them a rare case of sleeping sickness and then you can surprise them with your funny speech. A good rule to remember from your public speaking course is "Don't be afraid to do the unexpected." Humor is one of the best attention getting devices to get your audience's attention.

In order to start figuring out where to put your humor, you need to
find out how much time you are required to talk. Divide that time into
equal parts. If the percentage of humor is going to be low, you might make
a funny comment each six to eight minutes. If the percentage of
humor is to be really high, you might be making a humorous comment every
minute. Going through this process tells you roughly how much humor or
other attention gaining devices you need to accomplish your goals effectively.
Planning ahead for each presentation is taught during your public speaking course.

I'm assuming by now that all the humor you have selected is totally relevant to your audience and your topic. If it is not, throw it out now and start searching for something to replace it that is relevant to your
audience. You must have fresh humor for every presentation, not canned humor, or canned speeches.

Next, you should be ready to place the humor in your program. A good public speaker doesn't make the mistake of forcing humor and other material to fit. It makes no difference if one segment goes several minutes longer than another or if you don't hit the funny bone exactly every six to eight minutes. Just use that time length as a guideline. All you have to do now is decide if you want humor in your opening and/or closing. When it comes to professional presentations, preparation will be a big factor in your ultimate success.

Finally, the third aspect has to do with 'planned spontaneity.' This term seems like an oxymoron, or contradiction in terms, doesn't it? It simply means that you use prepared remarks that appear spontaneous to the audience. During the course of a presentation, windows of
opportunity for witty remarks may come and go. They are usually related
to 'expected/unexpected' happenings during the presentation, or
questions from the audience. Let's say you are writing on the flipchart
and your marker runs out of ink. Your window of opportunity is now
open. You might jump through the window and say, 'I guess I've come to
the dry part of my presentation' Window slams shut. Everything is fine.
You look like a quick wit and a pretty cool NO ZZZZZs presenter, all of
this is part of what you will learn in my public speaking course.

What if you waited until you located a new marker to say the same
line? The window had already slammed shut 30 seconds ago and now you
are trying to jump through. You lose. The spontaneity is gone and so is
the impact (except for smashing your head into the glass). What do you
need to know in order to be sure you will be ready when a window opens?

Many situations that can happen during your presentation can be anticipated. If you are using a slide projector, the bulb might blow. You may be interrupted by a loud noise. Your
microphone might squeal, etc. Prepare comments in advance so you can
recall them immediately when needed. If you let too much time pass
between the incident and your comment, you're better off foregoing the
comment. It's too late to make it funny.

Questions (see Funny Question and Answer Sessions article on this
website) from the audience can be treated the same way. Dealing with
awkward questions with pleasant humor should be practiced while taking your public speaking course. If you've been presenting your material long enough, you can probably guess most of the questions that come up. Prepare a witty answer to each question and use it when the question arises.
Then go on and give your serious answer. Be careful when using this
technique your witty answer doesn't make the person asking the question
feel stupid.

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