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You’re So Funny

Posted on June 12, 2012 and read 1,668 times

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michaelweiss Youre So FunnyMichael Weiss
Managing Director
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“You’re so funny; you should be a stand up comic.”

How many times have you heard that? Just because you’re funny in casual conversation or are able to recite Spicoli quotes in the perfect timber does not mean you can get up on stage and make an audience laugh for a 15-minute set. Ask any comic and they will tell you, it’s harder than it looks. Louis CK’s first stand up experience was two minutes; it went so badly he stayed away from the stage for two years. Marc Maron, another veteran comic once said, “I got two laughs my first time out – but that was enough to have me come back”.  Guy Winch, Ph.D. said it perfectly in his Psychology Today column, The Squeaky Wheel:

When stand-up comedy is done well, it looks effortless. The comic appears to be hanging out, casually relaying stories or making observations that just happen to have hilarious punch lines.  We imagine this is how great comics are in real life-people who tell stories that just come out funny. It couldn’t be farther from the truth…

It’s the same with presenting. Some of the greatest orators make it look so easy. They look so at home on stage. Believe me, 90% of them have prepared and are working off a script. You may be a great leader and command the conference room during team meetings, but can you engage an audience for 45 minutes? Just because you work for a creative agency that puts out witty, eye-catching, cutting-edge campaigns does not mean you are ready to keynote at AdTech.

As a speaker coach I often ask my clients two questions:

  1. Why do you want to speak?
  2. Where do you want to speak?

Why Do You Want To Speak?

Really – why do you want to do this in the first place? Are you doing it for yourself or the audience? Many speakers simply want to be on stage – and that’s okay. They are there because they want people to listen to them; they seek a little fame. Other speakers are there solely for the audience; they want to educate and inspire them. And of course there are many who are there for both reasons. I urge you to ask yourself why you want to get up on stage and for all intents and purposes, entertain the audience. After you answer that, ask yourself this: Do I have an interesting story? Or better yet; am I able to engage an audience with what I have to say?

How many times have you sat at a conference and were completely bored with the speaker on the stage? How many times have you walked out? As I have said before, not everyone can be a speaker.

If you want to get up on stage and speak, take the time to ask yourself why you want to do it. To entertain? To inform? To inspire? Once you know the reason, you will be able to craft a talk that will support it.

Where Do You Want To Speak?

There are a lot of places to speak. Where do you want to do it? TED? Conference Keynote? Conference Session? Do you want to be on a panel? Do you want to lead a workshop? Do you want to be in front of 10 people or 1,000? These are important questions that will help you figure out the best places to tell your story. There is a TEDx conference every day somewhere near you; there are conferences happening every day and everywhere. Search them out and figure which venue fits your need.

It’s important to be as honest as you can when figuring out Why and Where you want to speak. Some speakers, when starting out, will speak anywhere, anytime. Some are pickier. I, for one, focus on two types: Keynotes and Workshops. I love workshops! The audience is there to learn and get engaged. With a lively group, workshops can be a lot of fun. I also love to entertain, so giving talks to large audiences satisfies my need to perform and inspire. One thing I will not do is pay to speak – anymore. This is extremely common and many people do it. I did it for years. I had to. It was critical for me because it offered me the opportunity to get in front of specific audiences and to boost my speaking career. But now I no longer need to do it – thankfully!

In the end, it’s up to you Why and Where you want to speak. By examining this you will figure out Who you want to speak to and What you want to say.






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