There’s a good chance your public speaking presentation is going to contain a punch line or two. If not, you might want to consider revamping, because the device is critical. A perfectly delivered punch line serves a variety of functions. It helps you connect with the audience, emphasizes a point, and maybe, just maybe, provides a break in pace through comic relief. “But I’m not a standup comic!” you protest. Here’s a dirty little secret – you don’t have to be. Do you think famous (and now dead) comedian George Carlin just happened to be funny when he landed on stage? No, sir. The polished product was a result of long hours of preparation beforehand, and constantly honing the material.
Whether your last name is Carlin, Seinfeld, or Smith, you need to know how to deliver a punch line if you want to speak effectively in public. Here are three critical ideas to keep in mind.
Punch lines get their name from the fact that they should be delivered harder and in a slightly different voice than that in which you were previously speaking. There’s no point in even having a set-up story and punch line if the audience doesn’t catch it easily. If this means leaning slightly forward and talking more loudly into the microphone, so be it. You might also shift the tone of your voice slightly to catch the attention of those fixated on the getting to the front of the upcoming buffett line.
The best way to ruin your punch line is to rush through it, then not allow enough time for it to sink into the collective brain of your listeners. Pause just prior to delivery. The momentary silence in the room is guaranteed to make most people pay attention. Let the line settle for a few seconds. Hopefully, that time will be filled with appreciative laughter and clapping, but even if it isn’t, don’t rush helter skelter into the next idea. A good public speaker knows that his words and sentences need time to breathe. It’s not a race to see how quickly you can finish.
Find One Person
No matter how large the audience is, focus on one person when you deliver the punch line. Look him right in the eye as you drop your verbal bomb. If if the joke isn’t that funny, your personal attention will likely inspire at least that focused target to smile, laugh, or clap. Hopefully, the rest of the room will take the cue and follow suit.
Keep in mind that the single biggest punch line failure comes from rushing through the moment. As you gain more experience, waiting for the laughter will come easier. Don’t crush the reaction before it has time to develop.
The Speaking of Wealth Team
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