The 5 Commandments of Effectively Using Humor in Any Presentation

I couldn’t believe I was going to open my presentation with that joke. Me, of all people! Yet, there I was. With my heart pounding in anticipation… I was about to bound onto the platform and speak in front of over 250 people. Not only that, I was going to open my presentation with a bit I had just come up with!

Before I continue, you need to know the back-story. I was asked to emcee AWAI’s 2009 FastTrack to Success Bootcamp Awards Ceremony.

Prior to that event, Michael Masterson was giving an important presentation to attendees on the “peer review” process. In a nutshell, it is a rating system used to improve a sales letter. The goal is to boost the headline, lead, and transitions so the copy snaps, crackles, and pops off the page.

As I wandered around the room during Michael’s presentation, I couldn’t help but notice that some attendees were struggling to grasp exactly how the peer review should be done.

When Michael’s presentation ended, we broke for lunch. Thirty minutes later, the Awards Ceremony started. I took the microphone, and with a straight face, said to the attendees:

“News Flash: Michael Masterson is proud to announce that, four minutes ago, he created a brand-new rating system for copywriters. It’s called ‘The Peer Review Within the Peer Review’!” (Audience LAUGHS.)

“After you give your rating… the group then rates your rating. That’s right, folks… the rating never ends.

“When it’s all over, you will be so confused – you’ll most likely leave the industry. (HUGE burst of laughter – a cathartic release – and applause from the audience.) I had struck comedic gold.

Humor should play an important role in every speech you give. Why? Because an audience will forgive anything – except a boring presentation. And you – yes, you – can get laughs. Simply follow the five commandments of effectively using humor.

Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Know Thy Audience.

In writing a marketing promotion, you have to know your audience’s wants, needs, desires, and their shared pain. Same thing with giving a speech.

My opening riff at the Awards Ceremony was the right joke… for the right audience… at the right time. It struck a comedic nerve with them. Nowhere else could it have had the same impact.

Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Never Tell an UNTESTED Joke (or Humorous Story) at the Beginning of a Speech.

Yes, I opened my Bootcamp presentation with a brand-new joke – and I took a chance by doing it. It’s usually better to position a new joke/humorous story later in your presentation, after your audience is warmed up. Because if the bit falls flat, you will have to worry about getting them back on your side. Not a good way to get started.

But, as I said, this was exactly the right joke at the right time for the right audience. And there’s something else I didn’t tell you: I had tested that joke on two people during the lunch break. And it got a huge laugh. So I felt pretty sure it would work.

Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Choose Thy Target Appropriately.

In today’s politically correct world, you must carefully pick your premises and punch lines. Depending on the venue, stay away from religion, politics, the disabled, and any blue material. Best to stick with subjects that everyone in your audience can relate to, without being insulted.

When in doubt, leave it out. For tried-and-true laughs, do your homework and discover who your audience’s competition or common enemy is. Then really make fun of that target… and prepare yourself for laughs and applause.

Warning: Never, EVER make fun of the person who is signing your check. (Trust me on this one!)

Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Be Self-Effacing, NOT Self-Deprecating.
Some comedians have built careers on making themselves the butt of the joke. Self-deprecating humor, as it is called, puts the audience in a position of superiority. That’s why, for example, they always laugh at fat jokes made by fat comedians.

But keep in mind that you’re not a nightclub comic. When you’re speaking in a corporate or a business environment, you want the respect that comes with being an expert. So you don’t want to make yourself look like an idiot. But you can – and should – use humor in a humble way that points out some of your minor flaws. It will endear you to your audience and help you bond with them.

Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Take Control of Thy Speaking Environment.

Humor works best when there’s intimacy in the room. Arrive at your venue early, and take control. Make sure the room is cool. The colder, the better. This will help your audience stay attentive and focused on you.

Most important, make sure the seats are as close to the stage as possible. Too much distance between you and your audience, and the power of what you’re saying will be greatly diminished.

I once gave a presentation on a stage with a huge buffet table right in front of it. (Out of my control.) I knew this was going to be a distraction to my audience, so I took advantage of it. I said, “You know, folks, I’ve never spoken in front of rising steam before!” My audience approved of this self-effacing humor – where I acknowledged the obvious – with a hearty laugh. Once you get some experience and get your speaking chops, you, too, will discover how easy it is to exploit “humor nuggets” like these.

Learning how to write and present humor is just like any other craft. All it takes is following a set of steps that anyone can master.

In other words… you don’t have to be a comedian to get big laughs as a speaker!

I Got A Better Deal – The Art Of Negotiation

A good business person needs good strategies for negotiating a better deal when making transactions, regardless of which side of the bargaining table you are on. We all want to learn how to be more successful, and one of those ways is by negotiating a better deal in financial matters. This skill is necessary in order to be a success in life or business. Negotiation skills can make or break you in any deal, so it is important to understand how to use this art and skill effectively.

I am offering 4 tips to negotiating a better deal, which is one where both parties feel happy about the situation and felt they got most or all of what they wanted. It is possible for both sides to feel as if they accomplished something, without anyone being hurt. These strategies could be used to negotiate a better price on a new car, home, boat, close a sale, or get a new salary.

4 Tips To Negotiating A Better Deal

#1: Let Them Do The Talking
If you let them open the negotiations, you will able to let the other party set the opening bid. Why? Think about this scenario: you find an item you wish to purchase through a classified ad, and the item is listed as “Make Offer”. You arrive to have a look at it, and think it is worth $500 to you. You ask what the other party would like to get for the item, and they say “around $350″. Had you offered $500 right away, you would have lost $150. This way, you can probably negotiate the item down to $300 or $325, and get a bargain, and the other party is fairly happy as well. If they start the bidding too low, or too high, depending on which end of the sale you are on, you will also know what they had in mind for the final price, which gives you a chance to work with that or end it earlier. It is important to know what they want, and what you want, and get as close as possible to a solid middle ground, which can be done using this technique.

#2. Don’t Let Your Ego Win
Negotiating a deal should be a win for both parties, at least in their own minds. If you let your ego run the show, you will most likely lose. Turn this around, and let their ego win. Let them know that they are great at negotiations, as many people take pride in their negotiating skills. Give them kudos for their skills, and let them feel better about themselves. Use this to your advantage, and let them think they are winning. They will be more willing to concede a point or two in your favor if they feel they are ‘winning’.

#3. Information Is Your Friend
If you don’t know a lot about what you are negotiating, you will likely lose. When buying a car, knowing the price listed on the web and at other dealers will certainly work in your favor. If you are trying to negotiate a job, know what the going rate is in your region. If you don’t know what you are talking about, you cannot come from a position of strength. Knowledge is power, and power is money, so if you have one, you can get the other. Without knowledge or power, you will lose.

#4. Be Ready To Give And Take
If you are not willing to concede on any points, you have no bargaining power. In a job negotiation, or any negotiation for that matter, you should throw in some points that you don’t really want, so you can concede them during the negotiating process. If you do get them, then that is a bonus, but if you have to sacrifice them, you really won’t care much. This can be a key point in negotiating a good deal – make sure you ask for more than you want, then give in until you get what you wanted to begin with or slightly more. This enables both parties to feel as if they have won. For example, in a job negotiation, tell them you also want your own dedicated parking space, or something similar. Then if the other party balks at that, let it go in favor of something else, and you won’t have to give up something you really wanted.

I hope these tips to negotiating a better deal will help you the next time you buy, sell, or negotiate for a job.

Negotiating a deal is a great way to get more for less. If you are willing to work at it, you can learn this skill and get ahead of the game.

Negotiating with Co-negotiators or Against a Negotiating Team Requires Good Team Building Skills

Negotiations are comprised of small groups of people struggling to accomplish a mission. Such groups can be viewed as teams. Teams are management challenges. When viewed collectively, the two opposing negotiating forces actually comprise a potential team populated by competing forces. This discord threatens the team environment.

If you are expanding your team, you are adding the management challenge of having to manage the people on your team. You assume responsibility for your team’s preparation, pre-engagement research and the role each co-negotiator will play. You need most importantly to establish a global goal for the team and strategy for the pending session. If you are part of a negotiating team but not the team leader, make sure you know the team’s goals and objectives. If they are not clear, ask for clarification. Success is being part of a winning team; not knowing why your team failed. Worse yet is to not know why!
If the other side brings in a team of negotiators, You need to take steps to engage and manage their team.

If you are facing a team of negotiators, welcome the opportunity as a management challenge. Apply basic team building tactics to begin to merger the two teams:

- Welcome the other team to the negotiation.

- Observe the other team’s pecking order and note who your prime opponent defers to, if anyone. This may tell you who the real decision maker is.

- Don’t assume the primary speaker is the actual team leader or decision maker.

- Pepper random members of the other team to uncover latent leaders or issues that need to be addressed.
Interview each new member of the team as to their role, qualifications and specific area of expertise.

- Establish your role as the overall discussion leader stating clearly and concisely the objective of the day’s discussions.

- Look for areas of disagreement or conflict between the other team members. Typically non-verbal communications reveal such discord.

- Take time to fully debrief the other team, individually, before launching into the issues of the day.

Negotiating is small group management challenge. Seek to engage and involve the other team as part of the collective team. This will predictably come as a surprise to them. Confusing your opponent is often a viable negotiating tactic.

The group is dysfunctional at the start. Their are conflicting goals and objectives. You can establish an informal leadership role if you are able to establish a common goal for the collective group. This is not as hard as it sounds. You have all invested the time and money to attend the meeting. That presumes a common goal. Try to find a way to establish that goal as the primary purpose of the meeting in a fashion that addresses the needs of both sides.