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Public Speaking: Get There Early and Make Them Laugh

Posted in Marketing Tips

Last week a client asked me for ideas on how to begin his CLE presentation before a state bar group. We talked about humor as an ice breaker, if he was comfortable with that. After that call, I ran across a post by Tom Antion at Great Public Speaking blog about showing up early and listening to the other speakers who are presenting ahead of you. 

Antion was suggesting this tactic as a way to avoid embarrassment and being able to play off of other speakers at the conference. You don’t want to end up talking about a subject that has already been covered or at least touched upon, and you come across as being clueless as to what has already transpired at the event. That’s a bad.

And by referring to something that one or more speakers said before you shows that you’re connected to the conference, as well as to the other speakers. That’s a good.

By doing that, Antion gives us an example of how he was able to turn an earlier speaker’s comments into a humorous ice breaker for himself. Here’s what he wrote:


“Example: Superstar speaker Ted Nicholas said that advances in health care and longevity would soon allow people to live to be 120 years old. He said he was going to throw a $10,000.00 seminar on his 120th birthday. I came on and said that not only was I going to throw a $10,000.00 seminar on my 120th birthday, but that I was going to give the audience members a big discount if they gave me a deposit today. — Everyone cracked up.”

  • Tom,
    I think the advice of using humor in presentations is good and your example of a gentle joke it helpful.
    My caution, however, is if people take this kind of advice too far I think they can put themselves at risk. On the one hand, trying too hard to be funny can feel like shtick. On the other hand, the humor (as in your example) needs to be gentle. Not everyone shares similar senses of humor and jokes can easily be taken too far and become offensive.
    I agree with your advice. It’s just important that people be thoughtful with it.