10 Tips to a Captivating (and Hilarious) Presentation

Public speaking and presentations come along with most jobs, even if it’s not frequently. And it’s probably safe to say, we’ve all had to sit through a fair share of lackluster lectures and stale presentations right?  You sit at work trying to pay attention, but the boring slide shows and dull talking points put you straight to sleep.

This is such a common experience because as presenters, most people get nervous. And when you do, you end up focusing solely on content instead of engaging with your audience too. Regardless of whether you’re giving a keynote speech in front of hundreds or a simple presentation to a few coworkers, as soon as you start your heart starts racing, your palms get sweaty and your mouth runs dry. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

But one way many experts suggest you can overcome the nervousness that comes along with presenting is to use humor. So, if that’s the case, why aren’t we taking cues from comedians?  If you think about it, comedians are like professional presenters. And according to David Nihill, author of the best-selling book Do You Talk Funny?, professional comedians are among the few public speakers who wrack up Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of mastery.

So we thought it was time to pick a comedian’s brain and get 10 tips to captivating an audience and overcoming the fear of public speaking that comes with presentations. These tips are courtesy of David Nihill, who is taught How to Become a Funnier Speaker on CreativeLive.

1. Speak about what you like.

Tell the stories that you already tell around your colleagues, friends and family. Work to build them into your talk. If you don’t like what you are talking about nobody else will either. Complete this sentence: (Your Name here) is always talking about…

2. Get to the funny fast.

U.K. comedian Jimmy Carr says, “Writing comedy isn’t really about writing; it’s more about editing. It’s about what you don’t say. What are the fewest words I can get down here in order to get to the funny bit?”

3. Think fails and firsts.

“So many people ask me for help creating a funnier speech,”says Darren LaCroix. “They want to know where to ‘find funny.’ I suggest starting by looking in the mirror! Start by looking at your fails and your firsts. The first time you did something wrong. Audiences love the humility and openness.”

4. Use the Rule of 3.

This rule is a basic structure for jokes and ideas that capitalize on the way we process information. We have become proficient at pattern recognition by necessity.Three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern. This combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content.

5. Get a quick laugh.

There is always a tension in the room as the audience tries to figure out a little bit about you and decides if they want to listen to you. Getting a quick laugh can be a great way to lighten the mood.

6. Develop an opening line.

As any 100-meter sprinter knows, it’s much harder to win if you get off to a weak start. The first 30 seconds of your presentation can determine the rest of the duration as easily as the sprinter’s time off the block. The first 30 seconds will set the tone for the rest of your talk. Rehearse this 30 seconds the most.

7. Use the art of misdirection.

“The beautiful thing about a business presentation versus standup comedy is that the presentation audience can be misled into a funny line much easier,” says Cody Woods.“Due to the many boring presentations they have been subjected to, they are suspecting it less. Use this to your advantage.”

8. Start strong and finish even stronger.

Start with your second best part. Leave the best until last.

9. Don’t forget to pause.

Timing, rhythm, and pauses become really important. A proper pause can help create curiosity within an audience. Give them a chance to catch their breath, build tension, and then, BANG! You burst into the laugh line. Small changes in delivery like raising your voice at the end of a sentence have a big, big impact. Comedians say there is no substitute for stage time to improve timing. While this is true in part, what mainly happens over time is that one masters the delivery of tested stories and laugh lines.

10. Trust yourself and your material.

If you look like you know what you’re doing, people will believe it and that confidence is infectious. Remember people are fundamentally good at heart. Nobody wants to see a speaker or performer doing badly. They want to see you succeed. Give them reason to think you will.

Infuse your presentations with storytelling. Learn more.

Kate Dessa FOLLOW >

Kate Dessa has been writing about culture, creativity and entrepreneurship for over 12 years – getting her start when magazines were something you still held in your hand. When she is not writing, producing or creating you can usually find her eating. Find her across platforms @katedessa