Humor Presentation Skills — Natural Delivery

Making others laugh is more than just the right words.  It’s not just what you say.  It’s also HOW you say it and what you DO while you’re saying it.  As a speaker, performer, humorist or comedian you become a delivery vehicle for your humor. 

And what you DO while you are speaking extends far beyond the gestures you use to drive home the funny lines.  What you DO includes all the subtle movements that define your being. The posture that tells people who you are.  Not only that, bad posture and movement, over time, wears on you like rain and wind on the face of a cliff.  How you use your body affects your emotions and your physical well being.  As a humorous speaker your body that communicate either a person filled with stiffness and tension or a someone with a natural and relaxed presence. Your posture and movement either enhances your humor or it blocks it.

The future of speaking lies in a natural connected delivery.  A speaker or entertainer who switches into “speaker mode” at the start of a talk is performing in the style of the past.  Natural delivery is the future. And to achieve natural delivery is NOT natural.  Unfortunately we’re carrying a load of bad habits.  We don’t do what is natural.  We do what is habitual. 

We need to unlearn the old and set ways of behaving to make room for more natural posture and movement.  That’s part of what the Alexander Technique is about. 

An excellent overview of the Alexander Technique is provided in Body Learning by Michael Gelb.  The book is very enlightening and highly recommended.  One of the examples in the book is about learning to juggle.  To unlearn bad habits, we need to learn to let go of the startle response.  It creates a posture caused by tension.  If you juggle while tense (anticipating that you’re going to drop a ball) you are more likely to drop a ball because of the bad use of your body.  But if you can relax and know that dropping a ball is normal and natural, your new use of body will make it more likely that you will NOT drop a ball.  It’s much better explained in the book.  You need to get it.

The parallel with speaking is that our old posture is often shaped by the stress and tension of our life.  When we speak to make an audience laugh, we may have internalized a fear of rejection which holds us back from a relaxed speaking position.  An Alexander coach guides us to relearn how to move, how to stand, how to sit.  A forty-five minute private lesson is an amazing experience.  The feeling of being totally free and relaxed in your movement is an energizing experience. 

A typical lesson with my Alexander teacher included a study of my posture while lying down.  We would also practice sitting, standing, and sitting again.  I would be coached in my standing posture, my head and neck position.  With a light touch he would move my shoulders, my head, my chest.  I would practice walking and get feedback on my stride and arm swing.  This description of a class is in the most simple of terms.  The complexities and subtleties of coaching someone could only be properly explained by a certified teacher.  It’s a terrific experience.  Highly recommended.  It will move you to a new level of poise and professionalism.

Who studies the Alexander Technique?  Speakers, comedians, actors, musicians.  In fact, anyone interested in significantly improving their appearance and poise would benefit greatly.  Leaders in the business world, teachers, sales people and other professionals.  Many actors have had extensive Alexander Technique training (Patrick Stewart and Robin Williams being two of them).  When you’re at a concert, watch the first violinist take his or her chair.  It will probably be done with great poise and confidence.  The chances are good that you’re watching a professional musician who has studied the Alexander Technique.

How would you find more information on the Alexander Technique?  Start by getting the book, Body Learning by Michael Gelb.  Next, find a local Alexander Technique teacher.  Call your a local theatre group, the Drama Department of your local college or high school.  Ask if they know of someone locally who is a certified Alexander Technique teacher.  Or search for an Alexander Teacher online.  Maybe you would enjoy attending an inspiring Alexander Workshop in Malibu, California,  December 27, 2006 – January 1, 2007.  If you take action to add the Alexander experience to your life, it will set you ahead of your peers.  They won’t be doing it.