Monday, January 12, 2009

Humor and Public Speaking

Is humor essential in public speaking? The answer is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. It appears strange! Humor has several advantages. Humor helps in breaking the tense situation. It helps in breaking the ice. It helps in bringing commotion to peace and in catching the attention of the audience quickly. It also helps in providing break to the stressed audience.

Humor, when used in wrong situations and places damages effective speaking. A few public speakers use humor as a tool to have an entry to the audience, i.e. connecting with the audience quickly. The trainers and speakers use humor as an ice breaking activity to take the audience to the actual content. Keeping the profile of the audience in mind, the speakers use humor to connect with the audience. The tools and techniques deployed differ from situation to situation. There is no fixed formula as such that a specific tool works out.

Successful speakers immediately get into the shoes of the audience by using humor. Once it is done half of the battle is won. They demonstrate to their audience that they surrendered and gradually they take their audience to the real issues and challenges and real message. They use proper pauses and pace to see that the message is carried. During the process they maintain smooth flow by lowering and raising their pitch depending on the context and content. They gradually exit the speech once they are convinced that the message is effectively conveyed. It is a mental process where the audience may not know the techniques deployed by the speakers. However at the end, it is the message that counts not humor.

The objective of any public speaking is to convey the content effectively and efficiently. In a nutshell, getting across the message to the audience is the key to successful public speaking. How the speaker gets across the point depends again on the ability of the speaker.

Human beings love to listen stories. A few speakers use some small stories to arouse interest in the audience. A few bring in anecdotes and examples to get the message across.

A few speakers use too much of humor which is not healthy as it sidetracks and sidelines the essence of the message. Successful public speakers use limited humor to quickly connect with audience. They use humor as a tool to convey the message. A few public speakers fail to realize this and resort to excessive humor thus defeating the very purpose of message. For an effective and successful public speaking it is essential to blend both entertainment and education with more emphasis on the latter.

Therefore, never confuse humor with message. It is necessary to draw a fine and thin line between both. The objective of public speaking is to drive home the message and in this process humor becomes only a means not an end. Ultimately it is the takeaways’ that last in the minds of the audience.

The End

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