Watch a standup comic. Watch lots of standup comics.
Even the bad ones are probably better than most when it comes to public speaking. A professional comedian has got one of the toughest jobs on the planet. They have to stand up there, fully exposed, and try to make people laugh with nothing more than stories. People expect them to be funny. People expect to be entertained. And even if the comic is funny but not quite as funny as the audience expects, it’s still considered a bomb.
When’s the last time anybody expected your business presentation to be entertaining? In most cases, people just hope you don’t suck so they can stay awake long enough to get back to whatever work they were supposed to be doing.
There’s no secret to getting better at presenting. Learn to craft a good speech with a strong point. Practice with lots of feedback. And if necessary, have a couple of well designed slides to support your point. In the meantime, let’s just improve you as a conversationalist first. Watch comedians. Find one that really resonates with you and watch all their stuff. What makes comedians fantastic speakers is because they are fantastic conversationalists. And what makes them fantastic conversationalists is because they are fantastic story tellers. Here are a couple of PG-rated Louis CK clips. (His best stuff is not PG though…)
Here’s one with Conan (had to replace original clip – ignore the 3 guys commentating).
Listen to Louis set it up. He brings up the mundane just enough for you to agree. Then he releases with a series of joke-rants. Louis CK is the best at setting up jokes this way. Mundane contrasted with exaggerated and absurd yet true observations.
The single best way to improve your ability to speak and present is to improve your ability to tell stories. A joke is just a short story with a funny release after you’ve built up some tension. A joke works because it depends on timing. Watching and studying comedians absolutely improves your ability to tell stories because it improves your ability to lead your listener on a journey. Whenever you’re presenting, you must have a definite goal. Whether it’s convincing people to buy life insurance or buy underwater mine detectors, the best way to deliver a listener to that goal is with a good story. Stories are comfortable and memorable. Stories have heroes (your listener), villains (the world without your product) and resolutions (buying your product). If told well, it can get transmitted in the form of an anecdote. If you’re selling something, the listener often recalls analogies and metaphors from your story, to jog her memory about your pitch.
If you do nothing else to improve your public speaking and presentation skills, then at least watch lots comedians do their thing.
You’ll be a better presenter and you’ll learn what Mitch Hedberg thinks about fishing shows…
P.S Please go to Youtube and look up ‘Louis CK broke” It’s some of his best stuff.