This is a painful story to relate. A few years ago I was one of four speakers at a conference of engineers. It happened to come at a time of huge stress. I was juggling too many balls - speaker, coach, writer, director and Dad. The night before the event I hadn’t slept properly for weeks and then I decided to join one of my fellow speakers for a few drinks which became a lot more drinks. I didn’t sleep.
I was helping a government NGO get their training presentations up to a decent standard so that the learning, which was honestly of national importance (even if the nation might not agree) was consistent, understood and acted on.
The brief? “We’d like them to be more energetic, more confident, funnier - just better.”
Unfortunately, the presentations were written by another team who had micro-managed them to death. Literally every second was accounted for. “12.41 – slide 27 – bullet point four…. “ - that sort thing.
Why jokes matter
“The most viewed TED speakers deliver on average one joke per minute in their keynote speeches. The best deliver two jokes per minute.” Jeremy Donovan
“The most viewed TED speakers deliver on average one joke per minute in their keynote speeches. The best deliver two jokes per minute.” Jeremey Donovan, ‘How to Deliver a TED talk’
A great speaker does not need to be famous (although it helps), they do not need to have conquered Everest in a kayak while singing the entire score of Sound of Music (but again it will help), however, more than anything their speech needs:
- To entertain and amuse – a bit like a stand-up
I remember the early Golden Nuggets cereal adverts. It featured Klondike Pete an Appalachian old-timer miner who’d shout, “Thar’s gold in them there hills!”
“We had a conference last month. 50 of us flew in.” A row of bankers turned to the Whistle-blower at the end of the line. “Two days of PowerPoint presentations. On the first day, after about 10 minutes, as another slide came up I thought, ‘I’ve got two more days of this, how do I cope!?’ Then I said to myself, ‘I’ll put a smile on my face, stare in the direction of the presenter, and think happy thoughts.’ So that’s what I did. I didn't listen to a single word… for two whole days.”
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