Want to Connect With Our Audience: Make Them Laugh

Earlier this year I spent three days in Las Vegas participating in the National Speakers Association Laugh Lab conference entitled “How to be funnier…even if you’re not that funny now.”

Now I consider myself a pretty funny guy, but I’m always thinking of ways to incorporate more humor in my presentations. Why? Think about the presentations you’ve attended where you actually enjoyed yourself. Where you laughed a little – or a lot. You remember them, don’t you? More importantly, you probably remember at least one important thing the speaker was trying to communicate with you.

Humor does that. It connects you with your audience and your audience with you. That connection helps your audience absorb – and more often retain – the information you’re trying to communicate. There was an Ohio University journalism professor named Mel Helitzer who said if we can open students’ mouths with laughter this will allow us to spoon in knowledge. I’ve embraced that philosophy as an instructor and speaker, and I can tell you – Mel was right.

At the Laugh Lab, I met people from all around the United States including an Emmy award-winning comedy writer, stand-up comedians, motivational speakers, dentists, life coaches, authors, a PhD in psychology, engineers, and even accountants like me. We all had different backgrounds and experiences and different reasons for attending the conference, but at the core, we were all there for one reason – to learn more about humor and how it can make us better at what we do.

As I was traveling back to Columbus, I thought of four things that I could do to enhance my upcoming accounting and auditing update presentation based on what I learned at the Laugh Lab.

  1. Redefining frustrations. Like most of us, we tend to rely on PowerPoint to get our message across. You may not know this, but PowerPoint is actually a Greek term meaning “you are getting very sleepy.” This is a method called redefining frustrations where you take a topic like PowerPoint and talk about what frustrates you about this topic. You can strategically place these “redefining frustrations” throughout your presentation at points where you think your audience may be glazing over quicker than a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
  2. Use anagrams. An anagram, according to dictionary.com, is a word, phrase or sentence formed from another by rearranging its letters. For example, if we took the word DOG and rearranged it, we could come up with the word GOD. There’s a website,http://www.anagramgenius.com, where you can plug in any word phrase or sentence and instantly create an anagram. I plugged and lease accounting and the anagram that I got was “Clean-cut, agonies.”
  3. Comparison humor. This is where you take a topic and either compare the topic before and after OR take two topics and compare them to each other. For example, this economy is really scary; it has really changed my goals. Before, I used to save money, now I print money.  Or, men and women have different ideas of what they want in a relationship.  Women want a commitment and men want the remote control.
  4. Rule of three’s.  This is where you take a topic and list three things about your topic BUT the third on is the funny one.  For example, it’s scary how being broke can just happened. There are three signs that you’re broke. One is you can’t get money out of an ATM, two is your banker won’t return your phone calls, and the third is twitter is too expensive.

Try one or two – or all four – of these techniques in your next presentation and get your audience laughing! There’s no better way to help them stay focused, alert and engaged. And better yet – they’ll remember what you’re trying to communicate with them. So go ahead. Make them laugh and spoon in that knowledge.