Introducing my new Speaker Page.
My public speaking career spans 40 years, and I’ve been telling some of the same jokes since 1980. On a positive note, many people in the audience can’t remember my original jokes, or they don’t care if I’ve told them several times. They only want to laugh again because the world is far too crabby.
During a lull in a busy schedule of events, I’m organizing some speaking engagements for next year. My talented web designer, Rena McDaniel, of The Blogging 911, has redesigned my Speaker Page, and I’m delighted with the results. Interested event planners can view the page and find audio/visual clips, testimonials, and photos from past speeches. I’m ready for more gigs because preparing for a speech keeps the cobwebs out of my brain. Being on stage in front of laughing people is my favorite anti-aging routine.
Because I need to develop new material, I’m sharing my usual opening lines that are guaranteed to provoke laughter from a willing audience. I’ve even seen these anecdotes produce a faint smile from the most negative curmudgeons.
“It’s such a busy time of year. I’ve had company for weeks! I finally took my aunt to the airport this morning, but now I’m feeling guilty. Her plane doesn’t leave until next week.”
I often begin humorous speeches with that joke because it always provokes laughter from the audience. Why? First, people can identify with being busy and dealing with house guests. Second, there is an unexpected twist at the end. You can substitute aunt with mother-in-law, depending upon the strength of your marriage and assuming she’s not in the audience.
No one says, “Oh, you shouldn’t have said that!” The audience knows I’m joking, but they laugh anyway because it’s a funny scenario. After they stop laughing, I immediately add a second image.
“My sweet aunt was sick last year, so I visited her. She was in bed, and as we talked I munched on peanuts in a bowl on her nightstand. I noticed that I had eaten all the peanuts so I offered to buy more. She said, ‘Oh, Elaine, I can’t eat peanuts because they hurt my teeth. I just suck off the chocolate and put them back in the bowl.”
That story also guarantees a laugh. Why? Because the audience can see my aunt sick in bed and feels tender support for my visit. Then the silly image of her sucking off the chocolate hits their funny bone. For added emphasis, I use a southern drawl for my aunt’s voice. It’s all in great fun and causes the group to relax and prepare for my speech. Without a humorous introduction, it would take more time to connect with the listeners.
A well-timed, original joke can be the beginning of a wonderful relationship between a speaker and an audience, and between friends. Caveat: don’t read jokes, and don’t tell them if you’re not comfortable with public speaking. Rehearse the stories out loud so you get the timing and phrasing correct. A well-delivered punch line can be a golden experience as the audience reacts and instantly loves you. Conversely, a dull, lifeless and insecure presentation is painful for everyone. Make sure the joke is not on you.
I’ve enjoyed speaking at several national conferences, including the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, the BAM Bloggers at Midlife Conference, the Type-A Parents Conference, and the Idaho Writers Guild annual writing conference. At all the presentations, I bring my bag of finger puppets and new anecdotes along with books to sell. Apparently, people want and need to be happy. I’ll do my part to facilitate a few chuckles and provoke boisterous laughter because there are too many grouchy people getting all the attention.
For public speaking engagements, I include my three top tips for adding humor to your life:
1. Switch off the news. Balance your intake of madness and mayhem with funny shows, movies, books and silly friends.
2. Avoid crabby people.Unless you’re a paid clinical psychiatrist, don’t try to solve everyone’s problems. Listen, be kind, and go hang out with those who like to laugh.
3. Practice laughter. Read daily positive, humorous affirmations and focus on all the good stories. Print a photograph of you laughing and attach it to a visible place in your home or car. If you don’t have a photo, stage one. You’ll like how you look.
Laughter is good for the body and soul. And, a sense of humor provides a great way to make and keep friends. As the American Author and Humorist Mark Twain said, “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.”
Go forth, cause laughter, and enjoy the show. You’ll look young and vibrant.