Never Start Your Speech By Telling a Joke

Yes, welcome to the biz communication show, I’m your host Bill Lampton the biz communication guy, often with a guest on the biz communication show, but today, I’m just wanting to talk with you on my own. And I’ll do that fairly frequently. Today, I want us to look at one of the myths about speaking. And some of these myths have been around a long time. One of the challenges that I have as a speech coach, and I’ve been doing that for more than 25 years, and even farther back than that, if you go back to my teaching days at the University of Georgia when I was teaching speech communication, and one of my challenges is to help people put aside the myths about how to succeed and speaking, that they have been told, certainly by Well, meaning people. And really, I guess it’s sometimes some of those myths in the way of instructions, they might have worked well, but they don’t any longer. Today’s audiences have changed a great deal and their expectations. And therefore, we as presenters are going to have to change as well. I’m not talking about just professional speakers, although certainly this applies to them well, as well. But I’m talking about those who want to reach the executive ranks because they can stand before a group command attention, get their ideas across persuasively. And those who are already executives who want to do the same thing. So the myth that I’m going to break today is that you must start your speech by telling a joke, this is the way to liven things up. This is the way to get your audience in a good mood. This is the way to get off to a fast start. Well, I’m going to be the image breaker and tell you that is not advisable. And there are several reasons that I’ll give. And these are the same reasons that I’ve given when I’ve coached executives at Gillette Procter and Gamble Duracell a former Vietnam prisoner of war, who was becoming a professional speaker. And institutions vice president, many people that I’ve coached, I have, for one thing had to tell them that this old myth is dead. You don’t want to start your speech with a joke. And among the reasons, the first one would be that you’re not being very creative. If you start your speech with a joke. After all, if everybody else does that, or has been doing it and continues to do it, then you’re just doing the expected. And we don’t catch audiences at the outset, and keep them by doing the expected. Well, you might ask me, Well, Bill, do you do not believe in humor somewhere at the start of his speech? Yes, I do. But you don’t have to tell a joke to do it. And you can be creative. I’ll give you an illustration. I was I was teaching a government group, a group of government employs a speech class. And I told them the first day before you come back tomorrow, think of some way you can be creative to start your speech. And one lady that I really had not met the first day came in, and when she got up to give her speech, she seemed to be, I guess, to be kind about it, a very large person. But she took off her jacket, and then she took off another jacket. And then she took off another jacket and then she took off a sweater. And finally she remained fully dressed, but finally she had taken off several pieces of clothing and Her topic was on how to lose 50 pounds like I did.

Now, that’s much catchier and much more attention getting and much more creative than if she had told a joke about weight loss. So note that if you want to be unique, if you want to be creative, don’t tell a joke. Too many people are expecting that. Okay, a second reason not to give a joke. And again, this is advice that I’ve been giving people for many years, and I use it in my own professional speaking. Another reason not to start with a joke is, what if the joke flops? Haven’t you seen it happen? I hope it hasn’t happened to you. It can happen to any one of us. When a speaker tells a joke, and the joke flops, that is a very discomforting, very uncomfortable, even frightening situation. The audience gets very sympathetic, and possibly restless. Is this all this lady has is this all this gentleman has is this failure of a joke to start with. And once you lose your audience, at the very first minute by telling a joke that just doesn’t go over, then you’ve got a tough time recovering. I know you’ve been there, you’ve seen it happen. As I say, I don’t want it to happen to you. And it’s taken a risk to tell a joke. Let’s assess for a minute. What it takes to tell a joke successfully. You look at the professional comedians, and it’s like any professional that you watch doing something well, that looks so easy, but it’s not that easy. For the rest of us, the timing has to be right, the facial expressions have to be right, the tone of voice has to fit what you’re doing. I’ll give you a little bit of a confession. For many years, I’ve been a very avid golfer, and for about 15 or 20 years, I played with the same golf group as golfers will do. I love telling jokes on the golf course. And my buddies used to expect a joke. However, I found out that I could not take that skill with the group I knew I was very comfortable with comfortable with. And I couldn’t do that with a new group, a different audience. And so we need to assess what it takes. It takes a real professional to do that. So to start with a joke, you run a great risk of it flopping you losing your composure, you losing your status with the audience, and you’re having a difficult time getting it back. Okay, then a third reason not to start with a joke is that it’s very likely that they’ve already heard the joke. Why is that? Because of the internet. And doesn’t matter which social media you’re talking about. You’re going to find some jokes there. Sometimes, occasionally, sometimes quite often. So when you come to an audience and you think you’ve got a new joke, they might have heard it last week, last month or six months ago. And nothing goes over as flatly as a joke. Somebody’s already heard. Now, I’m going to give you a fourth reason as well. And this one’s very important to don’t start your speech with a joke. Because you might offend somebody. Think about it. Most jokes have a fall guy or a fall group, somebody is a victim.

Now, you might be thinking, okay, but I know my group will and the group that I’m telling the joke about nobody in here is a member of that group. Maybe not. But the people who are there might be very sympathetic to the group, very empathetic. They will be vastly offended at your joke at the expense of a group that they have great respect for. Group groups have fallen guys groups have formed groups. The only exception, of course, would be if you tell the self what because self deprecating humor. And sometimes that that’s not something you plan before your presentation, it just happens and you take advantage of it. I’ll give you an illustration. Early in my speaking career, I will, I was giving a lunch presentation by the invitation of this very fine group, and Atlanta nearby Atlanta. And my host who had invited me, had told me how he would be there to support me, to introduce me, to help me with the sale of my book that I’ve written about communication he had, he would do that afterwards. But a day or two before he texted me and said, he regretted he apologized, he couldn’t be there, because he had a business trip that was taking him out of the country. So this was not a planned joke. It was not a joke. But I did say to the audience, after someone else introduced me, I thought Joe was going to introduce me today because Joe invited me but you know, in my many years of speaking, this is first time somebody invited me speaking, and they’ve left the country. So they wouldn’t be there. Use your imagination. And you can probably find something humorous, especially beneficial if the humor is on you. Now, what are other ways you can start your speech? A good story is, is almost always something that will grab the audience’s attention and entrust. I like to put it this way when we were kids. We heard once upon a time, and our ears perked up. And we’ve never really gotten away from loving a good story. It could be a startling statistic. It could be an incident that you watched recently, it could be something from the news, it could be a sports analogy, there are many ways that you could start your speech without telling a joke. So that’s what I encourage you to do. Look at the options that I’ve given, think about them. And don’t start your speech with a joke joke, your audience will be glad and your chances for success will improve when you become creative. And when you focus on other methods for starting your speech. I invite you now to go to my YouTube channel, as you’ll see are here if you’re listening on podcast, the title of my the name of my YouTube channel is Bill Lampton PhD. If you go to my YouTube channel, you’ll be able to find many other instructional videos, you’ll find a lot of episodes of the biz communication show there, where I am hosting guests who can give you and may vital communication tips and strategies and you’ll find many of my solo instructional videos as well. So go there and when you go there, hit that subscribe button, so that you’ll see the future videos as well. Additionally, I invite you to visit my website. And since my tagline is biz communication guy, quite logically, the website is biz bi Z biz communication And when you’re on my website, you’ll see a way to sign up for my online newsletter, sign up. And you’ll get usually weekly reports and

instructions and guidelines that will boost your communication. And then of course, one other invitation I want to give you is to give me a phone call. The biz communication guy would love to talk with you to hear about your communication challenges and problems. So give me a phone call as you see 678-316-4300 Thanks very much for being with me today as we talked about starting yours speech with a joke. And I don’t mind shattering some of those myths that I was told long ago and that you’ve been told. And so I encourage you, come back. Stay with me. Share this video with your colleagues and discuss it and use this tip. Next time you’re giving a presentation of any kind. Be with me again on the biz communication Show. I’m your host Bill Lampton, the best communication guy appearing on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and podcast, so that you and I can boost our communication all the best and thank you

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