They say that laughter is the cure for many ills, and I believe that it is.
Rapport is achieved by good eye contact, the warmth of your voice allied to your personality, audience involvement and gentle humour.
Well, the idea is not only valid for singers, actors and other performers. It's just as valid when you begin to develop your personality as a public speaker.
If you read any speaking textbook on to how to be a creative speaker, one golden rule is to open with a joke. And hey - Do you know what? That is not actually a hard and fast rule and from my perspective, it's not the best way of getting off to a flying start.
Humour is the type of thing that works just as well about a minute into your presentation, halfway through or just about anywhere when you feel that the audience is with you.
The fact is that when you begin to speak to an audience, they are probably listening to you. Most people are at least curious about you and what you have to offer and will take interest in you if for no other reason than you are a new person up there.
While it is certainly not a shocking idea to open with humour, the time your audience needs a joke is when you have launched into your discussion and you look out to nodding heads or drifting eyes and you know that you are talking, but most importantly, nobody is listening. A little laughter will bring them back on track.
The biggest problem with a lot of public speaking situations is that you may be presenting ideas to your audience. While an concept is a commendable thing, people have difficulties staying focused on pure concepts for very long. That is why most good public speakers use illustrations,anecdotes and analogies to keep the audience focused on your subject matter. Visual imagery enduringly works well. Our unique style is enhanced with a sprinkling of judicious humour.
Humour has a immediate impact on the human psychology that produces the listener to connect with the speaker in a unique way. To put that more simply, using humour in your presentation makes people like you. And when they like they are more receptive to you, and they want to hear what you have to say. There is just no getting around the fact that people will accept your ideas presented with humour, far more readily than if your talk is a dry presentation of subject matter, even if it is important material.
But what if you don't know how to use humour? Of course, you can for example, just them tell a joke. But canned jokes are just that, attempts to use someone else's humour. They do work, if it's a fantastic joke, but if the humour is not relevant to what you want to say, or to you as a speaker, it will not score with the audience. The best humour is to make self-deprecating remarks as you go along. Sincere humility is priceless; there are lots of opportunities by setting yourself up for a fall. For example, if this topic was part of your speech, you might say...
"You know it's easy to get tongue-tied and bumble around up here trying to use humour. But you folks won't make a mess of it like I've already demonstrated"
That isn't even a very good joke. But because it is highly relevant, it is self-deprecating and it's a light moment in the presentation, it will probably get a chuckle. A gentle laugh is a just reward. The point is that you are a speaker, not a trained comdeian. Humour that is too wild and designed to bring belly is actually distracting. You only want small asides that are of a funny nature to maintain your audience on track.
Listen to good speakers you admire and pay particular attention of how they seem to slip in and out of humour effortlessly and how amazingly that builds rapport with the audience. It will take some practise to get good at using humour. But it will improve your presentation style enormously.
And that's the whole idea, isn't it?
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The College of Public Speaking delivers superb courses and workshops throughout the UK. Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking is one of our most popular offerings. For more information on the College of Public Speaking please following the links: Voice Coaching London Elocution Lessons London
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