A Critical Attribute For Getting Audience Laughs During A Presentation

body language for public speakingOne of the things that you will surely find when looking for any type of public speaking tips on adding humor to speeches or presentations is that…

The emphasis tends to be on what you want or have to say and not so much about how you say and express what you want to say to an audience.

More specifically, I am talking about the words and sentences that have been written down to be memorized and spit back out to an audience.

What would you say if I told you that the literal words that you use during a presentation are actually the SMALLEST part of bigger picture when it comes to engaging your audience and generating laughter as a result.

The reason that I say that is because it’s gestures, head movements, facial expressions and voice inflection/tone variations that make up most of a person’s power when it comes to verbal communication.

And that includes adding humor to any presentation.

Let me expound what I am talking about and then I will talk about what you should be wary of in the way of public speaking tips about when it comes to body language.

Here are some questions that you might want to consider as you move forward:

  1. What are some examples of non-verbal cues that can help add humor to a presentation or speech?
  2. Why do gestures, head movements, facial expressions, and voice inflection/tone variations have more power in engaging an audience and generating laughter compared to the actual words used during a presentation?
  3. Can you provide some tips or strategies for incorporating non-verbal cues and humor into a presentation or speech?

The Parts Of Verbal Communication

Before I start down this road, I want to clarify something about the term body language.

I am not a fan of the term body language because it is somewhat misleading in its scope.

It tends to point to using hand gestures, torso or head positioning, leg movements, etc. when in reality, it encompasses ALL nonverbal communication which also includes:

  • Macro and micro facial expressions
  • Voice inflection and tone changes

However for ease of communication I will be using the term body language to encompass ALL aspects of communication that does not include the actual words being spoken.

If verbal communication were a car, then the actual words used would be the steering wheel and body language and all that encompasses would be the rest of the car.

Despite its small size in comparison to the rest of a car, you can’t drive a car without a steering wheel. Likewise, you can have a steering wheel in hand but you won’t get very far without the rest of the car to use it with.

Just like there is a necessary synergy between a steering wheel and the rest of the car, there is also a necessary synergy between the actual words a person uses and the way they express what it is they have to say.

The largest part of that equation is the body language.

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Common sense would dictate that when it comes to public speaking – and particularly when adding humor to a presentation or speech – there should be a great emphasis on the role of body language in the process – right from the beginning.

Well, just like when it comes to producing a stand-up routine, that is NOT the case.

Let me explain the issues with how information about speeches and presentations is presented by most resources online relative to body language and how this leads to people flopping in a big way in front of audiences.

The Problem With The “Standard” Approach

When it comes to preparing any type of speech or presentation, the primary focus tends to always be focused on producing actual words and sentences that will be used FIRST.

This is usually accomplished using a writing process that:

  • Is designed for consumption by an individual reader.
  • Doesn’t consider body language at all which results in many more words than needed for the spoken word.
  • Incorporates words that we neither use or need when communicating verbally.

Then, the body language part, while critically important from the start, is simply “tacked on” after the fact. As a matter of fact…

Depending upon the resource you find, you are basically told that you need to “learn” the “power” body language processes to use (gestures, facial expressions, voice inflection and tone variations).

What you are basically being peddled is acting processes for public speaking.

From my perspective, this is a method to sell someone something that they already have and don’t need.

Here’s why I say that…

It literally takes a person DECADES to develop the personality and sense of humor that they have.

It also takes a person DECADES to develop the synergy between the words that they use when they talk and the way they naturally incorporate all the body language attributes to verbally express themselves effectively.

So you tell me…

Why does someone have to “learn” special hand gestures, facial expressions, and voice techniques that already took you DECADES to develop and already work for you?

The reason is simple – there’s no money in explaining to someone that they already have most of what they need already dialed in.

Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly things that can be learned when it comes to pointing out body language distractions that need to be eliminated or emphasizing something could be done that is simply missing.

But when you start to get into the realm of teaching people to use particular facial expressions that are not actually natural for a person to use for example…

That tends to be just like trying to teach someone who is right handed to use their left hand when there’s no need for it.

The problem is actually deeper than that I’m afraid when it comes to public speaking.

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More Issues

Have you ever talked with someone and knew that they were lying or hiding something from you because the words that they used didn’t seem to match up with what their body language was telling you?

This has happened to everyone. The reason we can detect things like this about a person is because what they are literally saying doesn’t line up with their body language.

People can manipulate words. But body language is so expansive and communicative itself that it is very difficult to alter without extensive training to do so.

What happens when a person’s words don’t match what they are saying is called body language misalignment.

When the words you say match the body language that you are using to express those words, it’s called body language alignment.

If you attempt to teach someone a facial expression or some other body language attribute that is NOT natural for a person, it will automatically cause a body language misalignment.

And make no mistake — audiences can pick that sort of thing up in a heartbeat and it has a direct impact on how they respond to or connect with a presenter.

Some Considerations  And Suggestions

Here are some considerations and suggestions that you may want to contemplate with regard to body language and giving a speech or presentation whether you decide to add humor to it or not:

When you are producing your speech or presentation materials, write it down the way you will say and express it to an audience instead of writing it for someone to read.

You should always rehearse your presentation OUT LOUD (with the associated natural body language) and not just memorize all or part of it in your head.

If you will do this, you will be able to incorporate your natural way of expressing yourself using the body language that already fits you like a glove.

You should video and review every presentation or speech that you give until you are satisfied with your results. You should look for anything that may be distracting or that you can change yourself without having to “learn” some new body language “tactic” that is not how you actually roll when you talk.

If you want to learn acting to improve your speeches or presentations, that is 100% your choice. Just be aware that you will be adding an additional layer of difficulty and it can take a long time to be proficient at it.

And when it comes to adding funny humor to speeches and presentations…

Your natural body language in alignment is one of the big secrets for getting big audience laughs when you speak.

Steve Roye is one of the world's foremost experts in the field of spoken word comedy development and delivery for stand-up comedians and public speaking professionals alike. For details about Steve's diverse background and extensive experience, click here.

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