Archive for November, 2009

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Tom Antion: Add Magic to Your Presentations

There is just something about a magic trick during a public speaking engagement that grabs people. The nice thing about it is that as a public speaker who uses magic to make a point, you are not held to the high standards you would be held to if you were a professional magician.

I do some simple magic that would probably make a real magician throw up, yet I get comments from the audience that they loved my ‘illusions.’ Think about some of the points you make during your speech that might need a little extra pizazz to make them memorable.

Visit a magic shop and tell the proprietor what you want to accomplish and that your skill level is zero. Most good magic shops have literally thousands of tricks to pick from for all skill levels and all audience sizes.

Magic tricks are also a fun way to add some lightheartedness and WOW factor to your presentations. The points you make and the comedy aspect of the magic usually come from the ‘patter’ (what the magician says while doing the trick). You can even buy books of comic patter. Many magic tricks are now on video which makes them infinitely easier to learn than trying to read them from a book. An excellent tape for rope tricks is ‘Daryl’s Rope Tricks #7.’ Your local magic shop probably has it and if they don’t they can probably order it.

I really like to learn magic from videos because you can see the trick in action. Reading them from a book is OK, and very useful, but you just can’t beat video training. Two good magic videos for speakers by master magician Tom Ogden are ‘Teaching and Training with Magic’ and ‘The Magic of Creativity.’ I got these two videos from Royal Publishing & Walters Speakers Services (626) 335-8069.

Tom Antion: Quotations

Quotations are safe to use during public speaking engagements because if the quotation is not funny, it doesn’t matter since you are just reciting it. You did not write it. It can still be used to make your point.

You can use the power of the name of the person who did write it. People will be more likely to laugh or at least chuckle if a famous person made up the quotation.

If you are not sure to whom the quotation belongs, it does not matter at all. Unless I am absolutely certain who said something, I always give myself an out. I usually say ‘I BELIEVE’ it was ____________ who said. This keeps me out of trouble for attributing the quotation to the wrong person. Sometimes I say, ‘My great, great grandpappy used to say . . .;, or ‘My old aunt Maude used to say . . . ;. However, if you know for sure who said something and their name carries weight, go ahead and use it.

There are literally thousands and thousands of notable quotations available to you. Stop at any bookstore and look at quotation books. You can also look on the Internet for searchable quotation web sites. Here are just a few examples of some of my favorite quotations:

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. Winston Churchill
I am a friend of the workingman, and I would rather be his friend than be one. Clarence Darrow
I never made a mistake in my life; at least, never one that I couldn’t explain away afterward. Rudyard Kipling
Get your facts first and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain
Many of us spend half our time wishing for things we could have if we didn’t spend half our time wishing. Alexander Woollcott
He is more apt to contribute heat than light to a discussion. Woodrow Wilson
Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits. Thomas Edison
When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run. Abe Lincoln
It takes less time to do a thing right than to explain why you did it wrong. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
In the first place God made idiots; this was for practice. Then he made school boards. Mark Twain
(take out school boards and substitute anything that fits your purpose).
When you are being funny, don’t feel bad about twisting the quotations to meet your situation. Mark Twain will never say a word about it. Neither will anyone else if you introduce your quotation by saying, ‘Someone once said,’ or ‘My great, great, grandpappy used to say.’ Then change the quotation around any way that suits you.

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Tom Antion: Get Them “In Fun”

Sigmund Freud wrote:

“The most favorable condition for comic pleasure is a generally happy disposition in which one is in the mood for laughter. In happy toxic states almost everything seems comic. We laugh at the expectation of laughing, at the appearance of one who is presenting the comic material (sometimes even before he [she] attempts to make us laugh), and finally, we laugh at the recollection of having laughed.”

This concept has been termed ‘in fun’ by people that study public speaking humor. If you want your audience to laugh, they must be in fun. You, the speaker, must be in fun. The emcee or program coordinator must be in fun. The whole program should be designed in fun.

Don’t do anything to take them out of in fun. Don’t speak about controversial subjects like religion or politics and don’t make unfriendly comments to audience members. If a problem occurs which must be dealt with, find an in fun way of doing so. For instance, if I’m at a speaking engagement and someone asks me who I voted for I say, ‘I voted for the USA.’ That’s a cute way to say that I really don’t want to talk about it.

Retired National Speakers Association member and one of the greatest humorists of all time Dr. Charles Jarvis, told me about a friend of his who was excellent at speaking, but lost his audience when he forced someone to turn off a tape recorder. He was so nasty about the way he said it that the in fun audience totally turned against him.

An in fun audience is more critical for the public speaker who is there to entertain, but the concept should be in the back of every speakers mind. Your material may be controversial by nature, but that doesn’t mean that you should go out of your way to do or say things that will take the audience further out of in fun.

Also, pay close attention to the total program. One friend of mine had to present comical material just after a passionate plea went out to the audience to collect funds for starving babies. He came on stage just after the teary-eyed audience had seen slides of emaciated children. If you ever get caught in this situation, DON’T start right in with your humorous material. Start out gently with a sincere reference to what the audience has just seen. Cut most of your early speaking humor and get to your subject to ease the audience’s transition to your more lighthearted topic.

How do you put in fun into practice? One time I had a ventriloquist introduce me at an early morning meeting to wake up everyone and get them in fun. You could pass out fun snacks to the audience or put balloons on their chairs. Public  announcements and agendas can be decorated with cartoon characters. Funny props are great for putting people in fun. Do anything you can to be sure your audience knows that it’s OK to laugh.

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Tom Antion: A Toastmaster’s Nightmare!

He Should Have Used This!

Tom Antion: Toasts

Toasting is not nearly as common as it once was. However, the polished public speaker should have a few short toasts ready to go if and when the occasion arises. Here are a few fun toasts and a few touching ones too:


To your birthday, glass held high. Glad it’s you that’s older not I.

Heres to you. No matter how old you are, you don’t look it.


‘Twas the month after Christmas, and Santa had flit; Came there tidings in the mail, which read: Please remit.

Here’s to the Holly with its bright red berry. Here’s to Christmas, let’s make it merry.


Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you diet.

A full belly, a heavy purse, and a light heart.


Here’s to a friend who knows me well and likes me anyway.

May the friends of our youth be the companions of our old age.

Banquet speech ending:

Good day, good health, good cheer, good night!


Here’s to your health. You make age curious, time furious, and all of us envious.


As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never face the wrong way.

May your luck be like the capital of Ireland. Always Dublin.

New Year:

May all our troubles in the coming year be as short as our New Year’s resolutions.

In the year ahead may we treat our friends with kindness and our enemies with generosity.


Marriage is an institution, but who wants to live in an institution. Groucho Marx

May for ‘better or worse’ be far better than worse.

To close this section I would like to tell you that I feel like a loaf of bread. Wherever I go, they toast me.

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Tom Antion: Fear Of Public Speaking

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Past President of the National Speakers Association Mike McKinley always says, ‘Do not worry about minor mistakes when you are public speaking. The audience does not know your script.’

If you have lots of good material, it will make very little difference in the big scheme of things if you forget to mention something you had planned to say during your public speaking engagement. It will however make a BIG difference if you get so rattled because you left something out that you start a domino effect of additional mistakes and omissions.

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