The skills you learn during your public speaking course should also
include using audience gags which are simply offbeat jokes that occur
unexpectedly during your speaking engagement. Dr. Joel Goodman, from
the Humor Project, does an audience gag where a telephone rings during
his speech. He answers the phone that was hidden in the lectern and
pretends to talk to his mother. The same joke would be called a running
gag if the phone rang at several other times during the program.
Here are some audience gags that I have used over the years during
Ten Wanted Men
I staged a gag at a seminar one time that was loads of fun and took
less than one minute to complete. Concentrating on having a good effect
and not on the amount of time spent is what you will learn in your public
speaking course. Before the program, I picked out about 10 fun-loving
audience members to help me. I gave them secret instructions that were
to be carried out on a certain cue during the program. To start the
gag, I had my assistant interrupt the seminar to give me an important
note. The note read (I used a serious expression):
"It appears that someone is in attendance today with another man's wife.
There is a large and irate man on his way here right now. If you want
out, there is a backstage door you can use to escape quickly."
At this point, 10 men jumped up out of their seats and hauled themselves
out the door. Once they realized what was happening, several women jumped
up and ran out too. It was great fun and the gag sure woke up everyone
who had a heavy lunch.
Stone the Speaker
When I really want to focus attention on an important point, i use this
gag. Either before the program or at a break, I recruit audience members
who are sitting near the front. I give each one a piece of crumpled
paper and instruct them to throw it at me when they hear a certain word.
Unique ways of getting and keeping the audiences attention is vital
to having good public speaking skills.
Some presenters tell me that is the dumbest thing they ever heard and
that they would never do it in a professional presentation. They say
that until they understand the rationale behind it. I use this gag when
I want to focus attention on an important point. Guess who is riveted
on what I say until they hear the key word? Of course, all the recruits
with the crumpled paper. Then, after they throw the paper and I make
a big reaction, the rest of the crowd is totally focused in their effort
to see what is going on. That is when I make my key point. I have virtually
guaranteed the attention of each audience member. And keeping the attention
of the audience is crucial when using your skills learned in your public
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