I was doing a taped interview with a very experienced speaker
last week and I told him about the way I structure my
introduction for a talk. This speaker had more than 20 years
speaking experience. Here’s what he told me, “I’ve never heard of
this technique and I’m going to implement it immediately.”

Think about how you would feel if you delivered one of your best
humorous opening lines and the audience sat there stone faced. It
wouldn’t really make you look or feel that good would it?

That NEVER happens to me because of the following technique: I
put a piece of “test humor” in my introduction. This is a simple,
and mildly humorous line. (I want it to be simple so the
introducer doesn’t mess up the delivery of the line.) During the
introduction I position myself so I can watch the reaction of the
audience when the humorous line is delivered.

When you have seen the same piece of humor delivered by many
different introducers in many settings you get a good feel for
the range of reactions different audiences give to the line.

By doing this, I am able to see if the audience is “in fun” which
means are they in the mood to laugh? If the audience chuckles or
outright laughs, I know that I can deliver a humorous line and at
least get a chuckle out of the audience. If they just sit there
when the test humor is delivered, I go into a straight content
oriented opening.

The use of this technique guarantees that I will never look poor
or uncomfortable during the critical opening moments of a speech.
If they’re ready to have fun, then so am I. If they’re not ready
to have fun, then I give them their content while sizing them up.

Maybe they want to get to know me a little before they trust me
enough to go along with my humor. Maybe they want to see if I
know what I’m talking about before they “respect me” enough to go
along with my humor. This is what “warming up the audience is all

The experienced speaker I mentioned above attempted to warm up
the audience by forcing humorous lines upon them. If they weren’t
ready to laugh, then the speaker had to dig out from a hole he
dug for himself.

In some case the audience may never be ready to laugh for many
different reasons. They might be tired. The time of day might be
bad. They might have gotten some really bad news, It might be
mandatory that they attend when they want to be out golfing. If
you try to force humor to an audience that is not ready to laugh,
you will look, very, very bad.

Use test humor in your introduction to find out if they are ready
to laugh BEFORE you hit the stage..

Visit http://www.antion.com/humor/speakerhumor/intro.htm and pick
a few lines.

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Filed under: public speaking

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