Excerpt from “Punchline Your Bottom Line: 76 Ways to Get Any Business Audience Laughing” by David Glickman.
Those who have the most success in getting an audience laughing strive to have the three ingredients necessary for this recipe. They are:
Good improvisational skills.
By good material, I mean “planned” or “written” material that is funny. Material that you have worked on, created, prepared, or even purchased. Material that is well written and when delivered well, will get laughs.
Good delivery is the vehicle through which the good material is successful. You must inherently feel the timing in a funny piece of material. You must know which word to punch in a punchline. You must be able to show an appropriate range of emotion in your voice. Without the ability to give good comic delivery, the best-written piece of humor will just fall flat.
Additionally, you must be able to think quickly on your feet. You need to have the ability to go outside of your script, and come up with a funny ad-lib when something out of the ordinary happens during your program.
This recipe requires all three ingredients. Two out of the three will not cut it. If you have good material and good delivery, but can’t ad-lib your way out of a paper bag, you will fail. It also doesn’t matter how good your material is, or how adeptly you can ad-lib, if your delivery is horrendous. We’ve all seen people try to tell a joke and botch it terribly. Business audiences are too savvy to put up with poor delivery.
And the one ingredient that many speakers don’t realize they must have, too, is the skill of improvisation. You can have the greatest speech in the world, with a delivery that wins you awards every time. But if you can’t “think funny” when it counts, you can count yourself out. Unexpected stuff happens in front of audiences, and you have to be able to display the same wit you’ve been showing up to now in your program, or you lose credibility instantly.
Luckily, there are ways to help you get better at all three of these ingredients. Most major cities offer classes in improvisational comedy. This is a great way to leam how to think quickly and be funny on your feet.
As far as humorous material, there are plenty of comedy and humor writers available to help you. (I’m one of them—feel free to contact me!) Many of these same writers can help coach you on delivery, too.
So make sure you’ve included all three ingredients in your recipe before you step up to the microphone. You’ll get a much better “taste” of how to get any business audience laughing.