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Become a Better and Funnier Speaker

Lesson 5 of 15

How To Replicate Top Talks

David Nihill

Become a Better and Funnier Speaker

David Nihill

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Lesson Info

5. How To Replicate Top Talks


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 How To Watch This Class Duration:01:25
2 Class Introduction Duration:08:53
5 How To Replicate Top Talks Duration:13:41
7 How To Get Funny Fast Duration:19:40
9 Storytelling Tips Duration:18:04
11 Live Storytelling Critique Duration:27:12
12 Avoid Going Blank on Stage Duration:21:46
14 Managing Stage Fright Duration:11:08

Lesson Info

How To Replicate Top Talks

Today we're gonna do, we are really gonna do our best to hack this process, and we're gonna do it based on the premise that these guys are not outliers. So Amy Cuddy, Tim Urban that you just saw, they are not the exceptions. So some weirdo, 'cause he had way too much time on his hands, went through all the leading TED Talks and correlated them for humor, just 'cause nobody had actually done that, 'cause you have to do it manually. So all these guys were sayin', "We think humor is a key factor in talks, it is, "we don't really know how to teach it "so we'll just ignore it," which to me was like, that's kinda like somebody trainin' you for the decathlon and be like "Let's just ignore the hurdles, "everything else will go well, we'll be fine!" You can't really ignore a big section of it that the audience is becoming socially conditioned to. Alright, the cool thing about it, so when you break down these talks, these are all by researchers. So, when you look at Mary Roach there, Shawn Achor...

, Ken Robinson, they're researchers, and they're up there or funnier than all the greatest movies of all time. Any of you guys know Mary Roach's talk about female orgasm? Any of the guys? (class laughing) Not one guy? Normally there's someone smart enough to go "Me! "I love it, my favorite talk, I watch it all day every day, "post it to my online dating profile, "I'm all about the female orgasm." Not you guys, fair enough. You gave a nod originally, you're like, "Oh, I like it." [Male Class Member] I don't know about fiction. That's, oh, nice, I like it! That was a joke but it's one that's not gonna get you a date. (class laughing) Mary Roach's talk about female orgasms is fiction. Oh that'll get you in trouble, definitely not. Fantastic talk though, very, very high levels of laughter, so these are not the outliers. When we look at the top 10 TED Talks at the moment by popularity of views, every single one of them are funny. So the one thing they have in common, they're all funny. And some of them are off the charts funny, funnier than the movies, funniest movies of all time, so we're gonna try and replicate it. We're not gonna use exact comedians, we're not gonna watch comedians for the most part, because kind of being a comedian, the thought of it is scary for most people. The thought of it was certainly scary for me, that was the worst plan I've ever had to spend a year of my life, I'll tell you. It was a lot of fun, but I was like, it's pretty nerve-wracking stuff. Aspirational side, we wanna deal with TED Talks, so we're gonna do it using the 80/20 principle. And some of you will be familiar with this concept, I am a nut about it, I love it a lot, it's how I've learned a lot of things in life, or taken it from books, is pretty much the 80/20 principle. So, and in this class we're gonna very much focus on the 20 things that are gonna generate 80% of the results. So obviously this is not a super long class, we're together for a coupla hours, and I wanna save you guys, hopefully, the pain of ever takin' another public speaking class again in life. 'Cause I think there's enough in here where you can avoid that. There's no week-long seminar, there's no upsell, there's no come to David's house and hang out with him and he gives you any more wisdom. I have no more, it's gonna be in here, but I think we can do it this way, and I think this'll get you high enough level that you're not gonna hafta worry about it anymore. So very much, everything we're gonna teach you is that 20% initially, so what're those things that generate most of the results. To do it, we're always gonna start with a story to achieve this. So very much this is linked to the Jerry Seinfeld approach of where humor is in your personality, but we also do it for another coupla reasons. One, have you ever had a boss that calls you into his office in work, and he's like, "C'mere, I got a great joke for you!" And you're like, "Oh my god, get away from me now. "I need to get outta this office, "it's not going to be funny." You've already assumed in your mind based on past performances this guy is either funny or he's not. 'Cause what that person has done there is telegraph their intention to be funny. So a common question around humor is what if I say somethin' and it bombs? What if I say it and people don't react to it in a certain way? I don't wanna end up with egg on my face in a business scenario, I don't wanna be embarrassed. So we're gonna be sneaky. We're going to tell them a story, but we're gonna tell a story like a comedian would tell a story. We're gonna very intentionally delay the funny bit until the end, so that way we tell a story, if nobody laughs, what happens? Nothing, we've just told them a story. No one's ever gonna be like, "Shut up with your story! "Don't tell me that story, I've had enough of your stories!" It's not gonna happen, and it's a lot better than your pie chart or your graph, or any other metric you were gonna present beautifully. We're gonna tell 'em that story, but we're gonna manipulate it 'til the funny bit is at the end. We're also gonna do it, because when you're public speaking, if people don't remember what you said, then were you even there saying it? I am unfortunately today 'cause we're on video so somebody will see this again, but normally if you're at an event and they're not videoing it, or you're within your company and you're givin' a talk, you want people to remember what you're actually saying. Telling them a story manipulates their brain and gives 'em information in a way that they can recall. Have you ever been to a standup comedy club and seen a comedian, this happened to me lately, I went to see a guy from Chelsea Lately, one of the big stars, very funny. He did comedy for an hour and I nearly fell over myself laughin' for an hour, and then the next day I was tryin' to tell my friend about it, and I was like, "Oh, it was like a cat and it was a, uh, oh, oh, "it was great, you had to be there." And you're like, I actually can't remember, what was I even laughin' about? And I'm like, I really wanna repeat those jokes but I can't repeat them. So a lotta the guys in comedy, you'll find a lotta the really fame ones, some like my favorite like Billy Connolly, Scottish guy, you guys probably couldn't understand him too much here. Live audience, those guys'll get him, some of it, but he has a tougher accent even than my one. But he's this amazing storyteller, and I can remember his jokes like 15 years later. And I can remember them like the moment he was telling me them, and I just thought he happened to be sharin' this story with me about an old lady getting on a bus for six minutes. I never thought that like, oh, this is stuff that he's actually told everybody. He's like a slut of comedy, he's just told everybody this joke! (class laughing) Not for me at all. But it just allows you to recall that information. So if I, I don't know how many people speak Spanish here. I'm sure there's a number of our online audience. If you were trying to learn a language, so let's take two quick examples of a story combined with the 80/20 principle. If you're tryin' to learn Spanish, the word for "to fit" in Spanish is caber. And just telling you that word without any context or without you using it to actually do something, it's kinda hard to remember it. But if we break that up into a little weird kind of funny story to help manipulate your brain in a way that it likes to recall information. We take those words and we make them sound like two things more familiar to people. So I love this, the example comes from Benny Lewis, he's an Irish guy, and he didn't speak any languages when he left university and now he speaks 12 fluently. And the only other Irish person I know that did that was James Joyce, so he's in some pretty good company, and his book's very good if you ever get real into language study as well. But the point of it is, you create a wacky story for all those words and you learn languages really fast. So I didn't speak any other ones when I left school, I have studied seven now, and used the same technique. Right, I'm not sayin' it makes sense in any of those languages but we'll see today, we'll test it a little bit. So we take the word caber, and we break it up into two words that sound familiar to our brains. Cab, taxicab, now we wanna give that some detail, we wanna picture a New York taxicab pulls up onto the side of the road in New York City, the big kinda roundish shaped yellow ones that they have. And then we want a bear standin' next to the taxicab, and he's a big hairy bear, and he's trying to get into the taxicab. And now the taxi driver's in there, and he has a bit of a wacky accent. We're not sure where he's from, just 'cause I can't really impersonate it, so maybe it's eastern Europe, maybe it's Russian. But he's lookin' at the bear, he's like, "Bear, what are you doing, you cannot fit in taxicab!" Told you it was a terrible accent. But the bear's hairy bottom is hangin' out the window 'cause he doesn't fit in the taxicab. Now all of a sudden you have a weird scenario in your head where the bear does not fit in the cab, cab bear, caber is the word in Spanish for "to fit." Pretty much forever, you'll remember that word. So if you identify all the words that are the most common in a language, all of a sudden you've memorized 'em using that technique, then you start to remember them, you get real good at Spanish, right. We're gonna do the same thing with public speaking. So we wanna give them information in a way that they actually can remember it, retain it, and tell somebody else about it. 'Cause then they're doing your marketing for you. This guy shared a story with me, you remember every single detail. I've heard Jeff, for example here, tell a story before. I know every detail of that story, it just stays with me because I feel it. So we're gonna do that, that's the exact reason we're doing story. And this stuff works, too, someone I was talkin' to in the kitchen beforehand from Singapore, uh, who's from Singapore, where've you gone? Oh, there you go, I wanted to ask him did he speak Mandarin? And this became quite pertinent to me when I arrived in China. And I was really worried 'cause I didn't speak a lick of Chinese, as you would not expect Irish people to speak any Chinese for the most part, and my boss is like, "Make sure you get tax receipts or you're not gettin' "your money back for this business trip!" And I was thinkin', "Great, I don't even know how "to say hello in Chinese and now the first thing I have to learn is like, 'Can I have a tax receipt please?'" Great, so I'm trying to look this up literally in the airport. Now as it turns out, for me, I was kinda lucky. 'Cause I don't know if you notice, Irish people are very good with dirty words. Right, we're kinda known for usin' 'em occasionally, and we certainly do, and we like them. So, as luck would have it, and you test me on this one with the old Mandarin, but "I would like" in Mandarin Chinese is "wo xiang yao," and it sounds a lot like "want to shag you." Easy for me to remember with my kinda dirty Irish mind. The word for tax receipt is "fapiao," and that sounds like somethin' you might shout to somebody in traffic when they cut you off, like "Fup you!" Like alright, easy, got that one. And the word for "if it's not too much trouble" in Shanghainese is "mafan ni." Sounds like somethin' a bit sexual where I'm from, to you guys, a fashionable accessory you wear around your waist. So I literally get in this taxicab, taxi driver gets me in there, and I'm, the whole way I'm like, "Okay, try and remember, try and remember, try and remember." I'm like, "Oh, I'm not gonna use this, this is gonna end so badly." And the guy pulls over and I was just lookin' at him, I was like, "Wanna shag you fuck you my fanny?" (class laughing) And he was delighted, he's like, "Hen hao xiexie, zaijian!" I was like, "Oh my god, this works, this is really cool!" (class laughing) It's like "I might be okay in this country after all!" And there's a marked difference between me tellin' you that, because it's tough for your mind to remember that because I intentionally haven't put little details into that story to allow you to see yourself within the story. So what's the word in Spanish for "to fit?" You guys didn't speak Spanish, now you probably do. Caber. It comes real easy, right? It takes about a second and a half for your mind to process that story, but you'll be tellin' someone about the wanna shag you fapiao tax receipt thing later, and you'll be like, "I wanna shag you have sex!" And you'll get in trouble, don't blame me for that. It doesn't have as many details, so the most powerful thing you can ever do in storytelling is to allow the audience to see themselves within your story. They wanna see themselves within your story. So we're gonna get sneaky with that and facilitate it. There's a great example I wanna show you why we're gonna do this. So, if I said to you in this class, within a couple hours, we're gonna break down, replicate, and hopefully you'd feel comfortable that you could watch the most popular business talk ever in history and be like "Yeah, I kinda get it, "I think I could do that." And I think you guys'll be able to do that by the end of this course. And I wanna show you this example for this reason. It's Ken Robinson, it's the most viewed talk, TED Talk ever. It's got over 40 million views, it's really, really, funny, so I think he gets 2.9 laughs per minute, and he does a lot of it with short stories that on the face of it, have nothing to do with this talk whatsoever. So the talk is called "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" And just have a look at it, ask yourself, "Is this really anything got to do "with the talk, this little story? "Does he like telling it? "Do you think he's told it before to his friends and family, "which is something we wanna do? "And does he allow people to laugh?" So when he hits on the funny points, ask yourself, does he know where the funny points are? Does he facilitate their laughter? But we'll have a look, I think you'll like it. Nice and short. Do you think he's told it before ever? Yeah. Oh, hundred percent. Does he facilitate the laughter you think? Timing's good? I watch that and I'm like, he is tellin' this every Christmas. Like he must've been, any staff party, Christmas party, anyone in the pub. And we wanna be able to do the same sorta stuff, where we're literally gonna look to really build our talks around stories that we love telling. Now, that does a lotta things, we've learned already that helps people remember it, we don't know yet but we will do soon that that facilitates us to feel more comfortable in public speaking, 'cause you're telling your story, and if you leave out of it, what happens? Nothing, nobody knows anything about your story, for the most part, but your friends and family. So there's not as much pressure, you already know it so you don't really hafta memorize it, and you know you have those little funny bits in there at stages where you can put them, so you know it's gonna make you feel more comfortable. So we're gonna take little stories like that from our own lives, but we're gonna get sneaky with them. We're gonna structure them like a comedy writer would structure them. So we're gonna use comedy writing techniques. So I'm gonna introduce three here, and then later after the break, we're gonna get more into the stuff that makes a real little difference. But using the 80/20 principle, I think, loosely 80% of the laughs you're gonna see in any form of comedic stuff can be traced back to these three techniques. So if you're gonna take your funny videos, you're gonna tell a story, you're gonna use your funny images and your content, and you use any one of these, now you're up there with the happy dolphin squad already. Like, you will be keepin' an audience happy and engaged just with that level. We're gonna go way deeper on this, but just for now, you're already gettin' stuffed, you're like, doesn't take much effort, doesn't sound crazy, I can see it workin'. Could you picture yourself tellin' a little story like Ken's there, when we were listenin' to it? I could, I was like, I got one like that, I got a better one! But there's a nice twist in it, isn't there? And it's just very relatable and you're kinda noddin' watchin' it, and he's very intentionally structured it so the funniest bit is at the end.

Class Description

Let’s just be real for a minute: most public speakers are boring. And aside from making your day a little less fun, dull presentations are bad for business.

Audiences have become conditioned to receiving information with a dose of entertainment, and that makes humor a critical tool for any professional communicator. We want our data with a punchline these days-- witness the success of The Daily Show or the stickiness of many of President Obama’s speeches for example.

It’s not just about getting some laughs to make yourself feel good; it’s about using humor to grab and hold your audience’s interest, making your message stickier and ultimately more persuasive. In a world full of bland, dull speakers, if you stand out, you win!

The good news is that humor is a skill, which means that it can be learned by anyone. The notion that we’re “born funny” couldn’t be more false: “being funny” is just a set of easily-replicated techniques (for example, the setup followed by the punchline) that anyone can pick up with a little practice.

Whether you are preparing for a business presentation, giving a wedding toast, defending your thesis, raising money from investors, this class will take you from nervous and sweaty to stage-ready.

Bestselling author, storyteller, occasional comedian, and Irishman, David Nihill will teach you:  

  • How top business speakers are using humor
  • One Sure Fire Way to Add Funny to any content
  • How To Replicate Top TED Talks
  • Basic Comedy Writing Techniques
  • Quick ways to get funny fast
  • How To Make Boring Things Funny (with guest Sarah Cooper)
  • Storytelling Tips that everyone can use
  • Advanced Comedy Writing Techniques
  • How to critique your own stories
  • Never go blank on stage with the memory palace technique
  • Content delivery tips for all levels
  • Manage stage fright  

As an added bonus, Sarah Cooper, a writer, comedian, and creator of the satirical blog, will be joining David to teach you how to make boring subjects more entertaining.

Learn more about David Nihill from his appearance on the “Profit, Power, Pursuit Podcast”!  



I always wondered why my favorite TED talks look so effortlessly off-the-cuff while commanding my undivided attention: Laughter. David's class taught me how "The end of laughter is followed by the height of listening." Applying stand-up comedy techniques to the art of storytelling makes information much easier to retain, and hence, easier to share with others. David handily makes the case for why the comedic structure is necessary and applicable in a variety of cases, ranging from business presentations to blog posts. After learning about the joke structure and funnel, I now hear/see them in action throughout my day. He also shares specific tips on how to "memorize" talking points while remaining totally flexible to last-minute time changes (e.g. "Your 20-minute talk just got chopped to 5 minutes. Go!") David covers specifically how to start your talk, end your talk, and where precisely to position your Q&A sessions to maximize audience reaction to the speaker. He supercharges this talk with so many actionable tricks and tips. Sarah Cooper makes a guest appearance sharing 4 tips that I found especially helpful for creating funny visuals. David's heartfelt honesty about the guts it takes to "get up on stage" - the vulnerability of it - really shines through. And now, I carry my "Funny File" with me at all times. This is a truly phenomenal class, both in content and delivery. Thank you for making me laugh, David and Sarah!

Kashif Rashid

Pretty brilliant. David is hilarious so he is definitely using his techniques. Its also easier to follow the class and want more when they are funny. I think most of the presenters on Creative live should be taking this class too . Make it funny so that learning becomes "fun"-ner

Philipp @PhotoAmmon Ammon

Brilliant lecture. David managed to keep me hooked, and I am pretty sure I will do so much better on whatever public speaking I have to do next As a photographer, I know this will help improve the way I look at talking about my work, and I think these kind of skills are vital to any artist. One little thing I didn't like about this was more of a technical issue. He uses videos as examples to the content he is teaching, but none of the CL links to the videos worked. I know its probably a copyright issue, but I would rather watch bad footage of the TV in the studio than nothing at all. Especially since I can't pause the talk and find the videos. Regardless, brilliant talk. Definitely watch it!