"Numerous researchers have indicated that a sense of humor is one of the most significant characteristics of executives or people in leadership roles." Humor, the Magic of Genie by Jeanne Robertson
Excerpted from Cantu’s Comedy Wit & Humor Wisdom (soon to be republished)
You have to have more than just humor in your talk. You have to give the audience permission to laugh at it. Read this excerpt from Cantu’s Comedy Wit & Humor Wisdom on how to get a good introduction. Then when you are ready to give introductions get John's eBook and read Part 2 and 3.
This article barely touches the surface of getting and giving good introductions. I could write a 10-120 page special report on the ins and outs of introductions. (Hmmmm. A possible new product?)
I believe it was Woody Allen who said, "A comedian needs two things for a good introduction. The audience must know he is funny and the audience must know it is okay to laugh." Now that may seem like a tautology but there is a world of truth in that statement.
Early in my career, when you could count the number of comedians in San Francisco on the fingers of both hands, I invited about a half dozen friends to the Coffee Gallery in San Francisco's North Beach district where the 70's/80s San Francisco comedy renaissance started.
My friends comprised about half the house and we comedians (myself and the six other comics) played to silence. I was stunned. Afterwards, I went over to my friends' table and asked, "Were we really that bad?" One person said, "No, some of the comics were actually quite funny." (I took particular notice of the "some of the comics were" instead of "you were" phrasing) but I asked "Why didn't any of you laugh?" Someone replied "Well, no one else was laughing." They knew we were funny. They didn't know it was okay to laugh.
And when you are not necessarily known as a comedian or humorist, it is VERY IMPORTANT for the audience to be told you are funny. Recently I chatted with a friend of mine who gave a presentation to a nonprofit group of business oriented people. I couldn't attend so afterwards I asked him, "How did it go?" He replied "Well it took a while for them to come around. I think I have some funny stuff but it took them a while to start laughing at my funny stuff."
I was 95% sure I knew why they hadn't laughed all the way thru his presentation. I said, "How were you introduced?" He said "Well the person said, 'Our speaker has been a member of our organization for two years. He is an experienced business person with ten years in the area of sales and he is going to talk about sales techniques. Let's welcome Stan Salesmaster.'"
I said "The audience wasn't told you were going to talk about sales AND be funny. They have to be told it is okay to laugh. Your introducer should have said something like, "You are going to hear some great information about client prospecting told in an entertaining and sometimes funny manner. Please welcome Stan Salesmaster."
People have to know you're funny and that it is okay to laugh.
So with that in mind here are some overall tips for:
Getting Good Introductions:
And you can use an underline to indicate the stressed syllable if that is appropriate. Underlining is not a standard protocol. If you decide to use it, remember you have to tell you introducer what that means.
So, if you have been speaking for a while and you have been wondering why material you think is funny doesn't get the laughter you desire, check the introductions you have been getting and make sure the audience is being told you are funny and that it is okay to laugh.
Finally, there are two problems that you might run into (actually there are many problems you could run into but time and space forbids them being dealt with here). If you are known as a humorist, there is a chance that the local jokester of the group that has booked you will volunteer or be volunteered to introduce you. And you might wind up being the victim of someone's ego. (Someone who wants to show the big shot speaker/performer 'Hey I'm as funny as you.' And your introducer takes it upon himself to do his material to show you how funny they are.)
It is as bad as it sounds because there is no graceful way to tell them to shut up, introduce you, get off the stage and out of your way.
Now sometimes, you get sabotaged out of ignorance. Neophytes who introduce you sometimes think, 'Oh, Sammy Speaker is funny - gee I guess I SHOULD be funny too.' This is even more painful. At least the jokester often does have a modicum of humor - he is just doing it on your dime.
But the unfunny person. Ouch.
The best you can do is to try to talk to the introducer in advance and emphasize that your introduction is written to help the audience follow the topic and try to impress upon them the importance of reading it verbatim. Be tactful, but firm. The non-funny person will often be relieved to discover she doesn't have to "match wits."
But realize that once in a while your introducer has told "Mom," "Dad," "Brother," "Sister," "Aunt," "Uncle," friends, and colleagues: "Guess who's gonna introduce Big Speaker from Big Town at our event?" And he isn't gonna miss the opportunity to perform for his, (in his mind), enchanted audience.
It will be excruciating. But - - - SH*T HAPPENS. You smile. You are gracious. You give your presentation. You leave smiling. You get on with your life.
As long as the check clears the bank it was an acceptable booking. If it was a freebie - you got real life experience.