Secrets of Public Speaking No. 2 :: Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Thursday, July 28, 2016

If one of your goals from giving a talk is to have people learn something, it's best to make them laugh. Scientific studies have been done on this: when people laugh during a presentation, they remember more of what was said.

There’s actually a proven formula you can use: you want people to laugh at least once every seven minutes. So for a 30 minute presentation, you'll tell four jokes or share four insights in a funny way — this can include videos.

I personally follow the seven minute rule for larger laughs and then, because I have a dry sense of humor, tend to sprinkle “throw away comments” in between. These tend to be less broad and some people in the room will get them and some won’t. A word of caution here: be very careful with sarcasm. Even if it's clear to you that you're being sarcastic, it doesn't always translate well in large group settings and often comes across as arrogant instead.

Laughter is also bonding. It makes the people in the room feel like they’re in something together. Selfishly, it also feels good for you as a speaker. When you’re on stage, it’s motivating to hear people laughing because it shows audience interaction and helps remind you that at least some of what you’re saying is landing.

When writing humorous content (and never, ever plagiarize jokes, especially from Twitter or Instagram — people make a living from this, so stealing does matter and copyright still applies), know who is in the room. Something funny in the tech start-up scene will not necessarily be funny to a group of caterers or stationery designers.

Laughter is the best medicine. It's also — assuming the rest of your content is good — one of the best ways to get hired again.

Originally published January 2015

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