We live in a very challenging business and economic environment. The people who earn the most money and get the most prestige are the speakers who are experts in their field. That’s because clients want to deal with the best of the best.  Often at the end of public speaking presentation, a Q and A (question and answer) period will be scheduled to allow the audience to get greater detail on the topic or key concepts.

Of course, giving a persuasive presentation will cement your credentials with your audience. However, giving an excellent, off the cuff, Q & A — can truly enhance your excellence in the hearts and minds of your listeners for months — even years, to come.

Remember: This is your time to shine as they say. Nothing is scripted –you are in the here and now — and there is no hiding from your audience or fan base. 

While it is impossible to prepare for the unknown questions the audience may raise, the public speaker, trainer or consultant, can prepare for the question and answer period by researching the topic thoroughly. (You are an expert in your field, are you not?)

As with the ability to connect with the audience during the presentation, the key to difficult questions is honesty, directness and keeping in touch with the real performance level of the session.

Here are three things to remember:

1) Rephrase the question asked, to be sure that the question has been accurately understood. This can reduce confusing, rambling or imprecise questions and allows the speaker time to regroup and approach the answer.

2) Understand that one of the roles the speaker brings to the presentation is that of a teacher. In the answer, the speaker must think about the learning application of the answer and the question asker’s point of view.

3) Questions, in general are not asked to be difficult or to make a fool of the speaker, but to cement the concepts in the mind of the audience. Keeping this perspective in mind will make the speaker more patient and more thoughtful in their approach to the answer.

Often when a speaker has raised controversial or provocative concepts, cognitive dissonance occurs.

This is a disruption in the paradigms that govern the listener’s previous thinking pattern, making it impossible for them to continue in that pattern

As you can imagine this creates discomfort for some audience members as long held beliefs are questioned.  Questions raised in this state of mind may seem “hostile” or “angry” but they’re part of the process of integrating new information into existing thinking rationale.

Often difficult questions arise because the speech did not structure the concepts and topic in such a way that the audience knew what material would be presented, or didn’t have a clear review at the end of each concept.

The old army method of “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and the then tell them what you told them” will structure the concepts to improve clarity and accuracy in the minds of the audience

Reinvention Guy’s Take-Away-Tip: Don’t expect perfection. No one knows all the answers, there is no harm in saying that you are unaware of the answer, that you will research that and provide the answer or offer to return an answer at a future time by email or other method.   Don’t be fake. The audience knows when you are bluffing; the connection breaks if they detect deception or puffery. If you don’t know, don’t pretend. 

  • Remember the power of the pregnant pause
  • Regroup, breathe and think carefully before answering difficult questions

Make no mistake: Words have power; the speaker has stepped into the role of the expert. Reply by saying you don’t want to give the wrong answer — so you’ll do some research and get back to the person who asked the question. Then offer to exchange contact information.

This will resonate strongly with your audience and make the speaker responsible for the power of their answers and for the power of their message. Take pride and look forward to giving smart, succinct, and strong answers to questions brought up by your audience and you will reap the benefits big time.

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Before Peter J. Fogel reinvented himself from a successful stand-up comic into an in-demand Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Freelance Advertising Copywriter/Problem solver, he worked on many TV shows, including Married With Children, Hope and Faith, and Whoopi to name just a few!

He has appeared on NBC, CBS, FOX, HBO, and PBS. When not corporate training or giving motivational speeches, Peter is the star of Steve Solomon’s hit one-man show, My Mother’s Italian… My Father’s Jewish… and I’m Home for the Holidays (the therapy continues…) Fogel is also the author of the critically acclaimed book Reboot your Career: 27 Ways to Reinvent Yourself in the Workplace (If You Still Have a Job!) For an autographed copy and to receive over $200 worth of FREE Bonuses, please visit www.rebootyourcareernow.com.

Interested in public speaking, then please sign up for Peter’s FREE 7 Days to MORE Effective Public Speaking E-course(a $125 value) and get FREE Mp3 downloads at www.publicspeaklikeapro.com www.peterfogel.com

Regardless of their expertise, (beginner or pro) it is challenge every speaker has to overcome. I am talking of course of how to use the right amount of humor to keep your audience totally engaged with you.

Perhaps you have tried a humorous story or presented some humorous jokes only to have your audience stare back at you with that deer-in-the-headlight-look.

Frustrating, right? Well, you’re not alone, so don’t be discouraged. Writing and developing the right humorous material is a skill anyone can learn if you have a funny bone. Learning this vital skill can undoubtedly help you deliver your humorous speeches to the right audience and hit it out of the ballpark (or any other sports metaphor you can think of.)

One important caveat you should take to heart: Before venturing to write and deliver your own sense of humor — fit your comedic material to your important message or content, not the other way around.

Doing a joke or theme that has nothing to do with your message or content will NOT work. It’s a disconnect with your audience who will think, “Why did they tell that joke, it doesn’t make sense?

That said, I’ve outlines some ideas for you to use that’ll help you compose humorous jokes that your fan base will enjoy.

Know Your Audience – Right off the bat, you should do your due diligence and really know the type of audience you will be in front of so you can deliver a successful presentation, speech or seminar. One sure-fire way it so your audiences age bracket and general interests for you to hit a homerun with your humorous jokes. Is your material really applicable for them. In other words, is your audience going to understand your joke’s content? Or , will they find the material offensive?

For instance, in politics I find fault with both parties. If I want to get edgy, I can write material for both groups. However, know this: If you’re performing for democrats you should poke fun of Republicans and vice a versa. Rule of thumb: find a common enemy and your audiences will undoubtedly laugh at your humorous material.

2. Stick to the Theme – Common sense dictates that different occasions require different kinds of humorous speeches. Even if you think the humorous speech is funny, when it goes out of context, delete or edit it properly. Do a questionable joke or use questionable material will invariably become very risky especially when you just blurted out an epic punch line, which was followed by hearty laughter from the audience.

In comedy, you are judged from joke to joke. Wrong joke, and your sudden laughter will instantly die down and it could affect your next humorous speech or joke on that given topic..

3. Drop the Introductions – Once you are introduced as the speaker of the night, there’s no need to keep saying introductions like “this is going to make you laugh till you drop.” It’s very important to show
that it’s funny, do NOT tell your audience they will laugh at it. Remember, the most potent humorous joke are spoken to your audience that get to the point of what you’re trying to say.

4. Don’t Make Fun of The Audience – If you are in front of teenage crowds, you can make fun of senior citizens. If your audience is middle-aged people, you can make fun of young adults. But never make fun of your audience. In order to be a sought-out speaker (or comedian) be sensitive with audiences emotions. If you break this rule, you will have trouble risking your audiences’ approval. Of Course, your material can’t please everybody, but your goal is to create the material that has the most impact on winning every audience over.

5 Rehearse – Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes prefer. You must rehearse your material especially if you’re a beginning speaker or humorist. Gather some friends, family or foes you know and practice telling your humorous jokes to them. Afterwards, ask them to give honest feedbacks about your performance. Listen to what they have to say. Accept any criticisms about your punch lines and take time to alter them if needed. Work on the delivery of humorous speeches to be familiar with how it must be spoken, what is the right facial expression, what accent to use and if there’s a need for additional physical actions.

Take A-way: When your humorous speeches hit their target, your audience will feel more relaxed at your presence. You’ll be able to get their undivided attention and capture their interest. They’ll listen to every humorous speech you convey more eager anticipation. Disappoint them? And you can lose them. Thankfully, once the tension is released, you’ll be able to be more comfortable with the audience. When this happens, you’ll notice how smoothly you can deliver your humorous speeches like a real pro without even pausing to think of what to say next.

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Before Peter reinvented himself from a successful stand-up comic into an in-demand speaker, freelance advertising copywriter/problem solver, he worked on many TV shows, including Married With Children, Hope and Faith, and Whoopi.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed book If Not Now… Then When?: Stories and Strategies of People Over 40 Who Have Successfully Reinvented Themselves. For info on his book and to sign up for Peter’s FREE Reinvent This! E-zine and get his 4-in-1 Total Success Reinvention Package (a $75 value). Visit www.reinventyourselfnow.com/reboot-your-career/

If you’re interested in public speaking, please sign up for Peter’s FREE 7 Days to MORE Effective Public Speaking e-course (a $125 value) and get FREE Mp3 downloads at www.publicspeaklikeapro.com.

I always tell my Public Speaking Coaching Clients that it is a hell of a lot easier to be speaker who uses humor in your presentations — than it is to become a comedian who has to be funny for a straight forty-five to sixty minutes.

Why is that? Because the bar is lower for you. A comic must get a certain amount of laughs per minute (and is constantly judge) a speaker does not. You see, the beauty of public speaking is that all you have to do is add just the right amount of humor to cement your important message into the hearts and minds of your listeners for optimal effect.

As in any craft, it’s important to know the rules to “Creating the Funny” out of thin air. You cannot just blurt out humorous jokes and expect your audience to burst into laughter especially if what you were
discussing moments ago was serious. That would be a disconnect and confuse your listeners.

There are at least two fundamental rules to know when creating humorous speeches. Yes, these
rules can be broken, but the most part every speaker (newbie or veteran) should adhere to them in some form or another.

1) The Truth is Always Funny: Humorous speeches should be based in reality. When the content is obviously trapped in fiction and fantasy, most people won’t buy it. Audiences can sense when something rings untrue.

2) Unexpected Twist – Never telegraph where you are going with your humorous story or speech. The more unexpected surprise you can bring to your humorous speech, the bigger the laughs you will create.

As a general rule, its best that your audience be involved or can relate to your story or situation. Again, as I have stated in other articles, your job as a speaker or humorist when crafting a humorous story is to make sure it cements your message or content. Telling a story out of context will only confuse your audience.

Your best bet in creating a humorous speech is to have your story true (or based on a true event). For instance, if you are weaving a tale that didn’t happen to you but to someone else, then you should paint a vivid picture in the audiences mind so they can feel totally engaged as to what happened to the other person. In addition, the audience should know what your relationship was with that person (and why it is important to even tell this tale.

For instance; “This is what happened to my father who was my best friend and the single most important influence in my life…!”

See the difference? Audiences can relate to that third person type of story-telling. Hopefully, most audiences smile when they think of their father and the influence they had in their lives. (Not me, of course, but that is whole different story.)

Getting back to the business at hand, your best bet is to humorous stories of every like missing a bus… a plane… standing in long lines… stupid people that infuriate you. Craft that story and tell it to reinforce a message or content you are delivering.

I live for finding every day craziness and telling my tale to my eager audiences. On the flipside, invented stories are easily detected by your listeners and will not give you a ROIL (return-of-Infectious-laughter), so please try to avoid them.

As you proceed on your journey to delivering humorous speeches, consider studying some simple yet effective steps below:

  • Be Expressive – It’s essential that a public speaker be a enthusiastic storyteller. You have to
    make sure that every funny situation sounds real. Make the audience feel the emotions of the story until they grasp the content of the situation.
  • Keep It Simple – Being a professional speaker doesn’t require you to use heavy languages or
    vocabularies. In order to make sure that every person in the crowd to understand the humorous speeches, you have to make use of lighter words. This is to make them comprehend what is funny in the situation and why did it become humorous.
  • Exaggerate your Actions – Tell the story as if you are telling the tale the first time. Be excited and passionate about it, but don’t rush it and get to the punch-line so quickly. Like a fine wine, let it air out and savor the moment. An effective way to slow down and let your audience take in your humorous speech is to exaggerate your gestures. Not only are you making people laugh with your funny remarks, but you’re also able to add more fun using your whole body to show the absurdity of the situation you are telling. This heightens the story. Don’t mug, but let it come naturally.
  • Get Your Groove On– When creating humorous speeches, there are certain segments of the story that must be emphasized, while other words must be pronounced slowly. At one point, you get faster, at another point you must pause-and-breathe. Thankfully, changing your rhythm helps keep your audience engaged and makes sure they do not know where you are going with your humorous story or anecdote. Remember: you want to create the unexpected. The moment your audience knows what is happening next, you will lose the element of surprise.
  • Record Yourself – Pros do it to improve and so should you. Taping (either video or audio) will show you how to enhance your presentation. Doing so allow you check your pronunciation, grammar and overall delivery — plus show you how to improve.

Listen to your voice and ask yourself: Are the words clearly spoken? Is the punch-line properly emphasized? Were you able to deliver all the humorous speeches the way they you wanted? Did the audience laugh? Can you improve upon the delivery and punch-line?

Take-Away: The important thing in creating humorous speeches is sharing the experience with your audience in a way that stays with them after the presentation is over. A good story for a speaker is to blend the humor and pathos together so it makes a more powerful impact. This is why story telling is such an important skill for the professional speaker.

No matter how much you like the story or humorous speech you are delivering, remember this: The final decision as to whether it works will be up to the audience. They are the judge and jury of whether your story hit the mark. Now go forth and be funny! Any quick questions? Then don’t hesitate to contact me at peterfogelspeaks@yahoo.com

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Before Peter reinvented himself from a successful stand-up comic into an in-demand speaker, freelance advertising copywriter/problem solver, he worked on many TV shows, including Married With Children, Hope and Faith, and Whoopi.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed book If Not Now… Then When?: Stories and Strategies of People Over 40 Who Have Successfully Reinvented Themselves. For info on his book and to sign up for his FREE Reinvent This! E-zine and get his 4-in-1 Total Success Reinvention Package (a $75 value). Go to www.reinventyourselfnow.com/reboot-your-career/

If you’re interested in public speaking, please sign up for Peter’s FREE 7 Days to MORE Effective Public Speaking e-course (a $125 value) and get FREE Mp3 downloads at www.publicspeaklikeapro.com.