Archive for September, 2009

Gap Analysis — Add Impact to Your Programs

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I had dinner on with my good friend Peter Pizor.  I was sharing some of my notes from an NSA Convention.  We talked about Giovanni Livera’s concept of adding Audience Impact Moments.  AIMs are those elements you can add to a presentation to add impact, texture and WOW to a performance:  Stories, Juggling, Humor, Poetry, Cartoons, Music, Dance, Gymnastics, Magic, Sound Effects, etc.  The audience at the convention brainstormed a list of over 40 such elements.  You could probably come up with dozens that we never thought of.

I told Peter I had a process which would help prioritize our efforts to most effectively add these elements to our talks.  It’s a process I taught in my Time Management Workshops 15 years ago.  Since Peter is one of the smartest guys I know, and has PhD, I asked him if my process was fresh thinking or old news.  He told me that the process was known in the business and economics world as Gap Analysis.  Since I do have an MBA, I most likely learned the technique back in the stone age and had internalized the process, totally forgetting when and where I studied it.  Sometimes a flash of brilliant insight is nothing more than a cloaked memory.

Here’s the way the business analysis process of Gap Analysis works, in relation to improving your Public Speaking. Let’s say you have a list of performance elements, like the ones listed above, that could add more zip, more pizzazz, more variety, to your talks.  Since you can’t add everything at once, which ones will give you the most desired impact by developing them first?  Let’s look at a three step process.

First, look at each element and ask yourself, “Where do I want to be?  And how important is it that I be there?”  For example how important is it that I have HUMOR in my talks?  The answer is not the same for every person.  Rank its importance on a scale of 1-10.  For most people, I think that this element would rank rather high.  Probably an 8, 9 or 10 for many speakers.  For me it’s a 10.  Let’s look at another element.  How about GYMNASTICS?  At the NSA Lab in Las Vegas, Speaker Dan Thurmon opened with a gymnastics tumbling pass across the stage ending with a flip.  Very impressive.  Wouldn’t it be great to open MY programs that way?  I’d try it only if I could figure out whether I or my client should pay for the ambulance.  As cool as that would be, my potential to add a flip to my talk is zero.  So gymnastics, for me, gets a zero as a ranking of “where I want to be.”  MUSIC, on the other hand, is something I could add to my talk and would like to add to my talk.  So I’ll give that an 8.  You’d go through your entire list of elements and rank them on your “where I want to be” scale.

Second,  you revisit the list of elements, and rank each one on a scale of “where am I now.”  This is not a desirability scale.  This is a status quo scale.  Let’s look at the three elements we rated in the previous paragraph.  Humor.  I give that a 9.  I rank that highly because I’ve studied it for over 30 years.  I’m pretty good at using humor.  But it’s not a 10.  There is room for growth.  Gymnastics.  I rank that as a zero.  I don’t do any gymnastics in my programs, I never have and I never will, unless I accidentally tumble off the stage.  And last, Music.  I rank that as a one.  Remember, this is a ranking of WHERE I AM, not where I WANT TO BE.  In the past, I have occasionally used music as part of my magic (I am a magician), but never with my speaking.  And I haven’t used music in any way for almost 10 years.

Third, you analyze the distance from where you are to where you want to be.  This is the Gap Analysis.  For Humor, I’m currently at a 9 and would like to be at a 10.  The gap is one. For Gymnastics, I’m at a zero and would like to be at a zero.  The gap is zero.  For Music, I’m at a one and would like to be at an 8.  The gap is 7. 

This analysis tells me that the gap, between where I am and where I’d like to be, is the largest for Music.  Perhaps devoting time to developing this element in my talks makes sense.  Perhaps the payoff for my efforts would be maximized.  You analyze the gaps for every element on your list. You can then numerically see which elements need the most attention and might have the greatest rewards in time and effort.  A rank listing based on your analysis will give you a priority list for adding or improving elements for your programs.  You then apply the process of reverse engineering to figure out where you want to be and how you’ll get there from where you actually are right now.  This will give you a task list of how to get to where you want to be.  A simple lesson from the world of business and economics applied to the art of public speaking.

Cartoon Caption Contest Results — Creative Humor Writing

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

And now, the results of our September Cartoon Caption Contest, the Butterfly.  We feature the art of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced at the start of the month.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

Here are this month’s top captions:


My mother was right, you did change after we got married.
     Drew Tarvin, New York, NY, USA


You the hotshot flight instructor?
     Keith Shettle, Dallas, Texas, USA


Are you my fairy Godmoth?
     Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – No, those new wings don’t make you look fat.
  – Well you’ve got the ‘Float like a butterfly’ part down, how are you going to learn to ‘sting like a bee?’
  – I told you to stay away from that uranium.
  – So, you obtained the FAA permission.
  – See you in a collector’s collection later, Larry.
  – But what will I tell the children?
  – Those horizontal stripes make you look fat.
  – For the last time, quit blowing our budget on designer clothing!
  – Be careful what you ask for! Maybe you should have been more specific before demanding change.
  – Bet it’s hard to count past four now, isn’t it? 
  – Just what we need Carl, another narcissist.
  – So Murray, you were abducted by this thing you call a cocoon…tell us what happened next.
  – I told you Herold, I’d change you one way or another.
  – So Red Bull really did give you wings.
  – Congrats on your first solo may be a while before I’m ready.
  – What kind of example is that for the kids?
  – Butterfly? You didn’t say anything about changing species when we got married!
  – Butterfly, shmutterfly! The garage still needs cleaning!
  – I’m sorry, I’m watching my weight. I only got out with oleoflies.
  – You are so lucky.  I should have believed in fairies like you did.
  – I’ve no carry-on this time. You were right, that cocoon was too heavy.
  – Damn it Cindy…now what do I do with all your shoes.
  – Sally, you promised you’d never change.
  – So you’ve spread your wings…I suppose you’re leaving.

Dan Rosandich can create custom cartoons for your next special project, book, newsletter, web site, T-Shirt and more!  Visit his web site at

Three Steps To A Joke

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Here’s a methodical way of creating a joke.  It’s a three-step process. Even if you never formally use this process, understanding it will give you insight into the inner-workings of a joke.

   1.  The Connection
   2.  The Conceal
   3.  The Reveal

The Connection.  This is normally the foundation for most jokes. It’s the connection or relationship between two things which makes the joke tick.  The process of creating a joke normally starts with finding an unusual way in which two things or concepts are related.

The Conceal.  Once the connection is made, the setup of the joke
usually needs to conceal that connection.  Without concealment, the
joke is telegraphed or is too obvious.  You want the punch to sneak
up on the listener.  Concealment provides that misdirection.

The Reveal.  Once the setup is delivered, you’re ready for the
reveal…the punchline, the punch word, or the activator word which
sets the joke in motion.  The reveal creates the surprise, the
tension or the superiority factor necessary to get the laugh.

Let’s look at some examples.  Here’s a classic Groucho Marx joke:
“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas.  How he got in my
pajamas I’ll never know.”

The Connection.  The elephant was wearing his pajamas.  That’s a
connection, or a relationship, that one would not normally make.
It’s a funny relationship.  It’s a funny picture.

The Conceal.  One would normally assume that Groucho was wearing the pajamas.  So the joke in “I shot an elephant in my pajamas,” is fairly well concealed right from the start.  It’s further hidden by the addition of “one morning.”  This would lead one to think, “he just got out of bed and obviously was wearing his pajamas.”

The Reveal.  “How he got in my pajamas,” reveals the humor
connection.  The listener thinks, “I get it…the elephant was
wearing the PJs!”  Getting the joke (superiority theory) he or she
laughs.  Or maybe the surprise of the unexpected connection gets
the laugh.

So creating the joke is often:  The Connection.  The Conceal.  The

But the experience of receiving the joke is just the opposite.  The
listener experiences it this way:  The Reveal.  The Conceal.  The

Although in the delivery process, the concealed part of the joke
comes before the reveal, to the listener The Conceal is invisible
(if it’s done right), and not noticed,  until after The Reveal
happens.  Initially, The Conceal is totally hidden.  It’s
disguised.  It’s camouflaged.  The listener doesn’t experience a
joke until The Reveal takes place…How he got in my pajamas.
“Wow!  The elephant was wearing the pajamas.  I thought Groucho was wearing the pajamas.  I didn’t see that coming. (The Conceal is
recognized).  Hey, the elephant isn’t supposed to be wearing the
pajamas! (The Connection)”  Then the laughter follows.

Let’s look at another classic joke, one that’s very different from
the Groucho joke:  “Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to
the other side.”

The Connection.  The obvious answer to the joke is “To get to the
other side.”  This is a riddle connected to the obvious, which is
an unexpected relationship.  A riddle would normally be connected
to a twist or clever word play.

The Conceal.  Being presented in the form of a riddle, the listener
is tricked into thinking that the answer couldn’t be the obvious one, but must certainly be a clever or tricky one (such as, to avoid walking by Kentucky Fried Chicken).

The Reveal.  In this case the punchline is simply stating the
obvious answer. The listener experiences the joke in reverse order.
The Reveal.  To get to the other side.  “Oh, of course, that’s why
a chicken crosses the street.”

The Conceal.  “So you were looking for the obvious answer.  I
thought it was a riddle where you were looking for some kind of

The Connection.  “I didn’t expect the answer to a riddle to be so

The next time you’re creating a joke:  Start by brainstorming The
Connection.  Look for an unusual relationship.  Next, you conceal
The Connection so the listener doesn’t see it coming. And then you
Reveal the connection, turn on the light switch, so the listener
can see through the conceal, get The Connection and see the humor.

The listener gets the joke in reverse order allowing him or her to
connect the dots and discover the funny connection that makes the
joke work.

Creative Humor Writing — New Joke Contest

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This month’s contest theme is submitted by Sol Morrison from Santa Barbara, California.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month.

The theme this month is Occupational Illness.  Some examples are:

An Office Manager:  Staff Infection
A Roofer:  Shingles
A Beekeeper:  Hives

Get your creativity flowing and submit your best lines to by September 30, 2009.

Observational Humor — Case Study #42

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Here’s another observational humor monologue presented at the end of a meeting.

THE SET-UP (What was said and what happened during the meeting before the monologue was delivered)

1.  Normally the Observational Humor part of the program is introduced by the Master Evaluator.  When the Observational Humor is complete, the Master Evaluator finishes the overall evaluation of the meeting, and can critique the humor segment, if necessary.  During this meeting, the Master Evaluator closed his part of the meeting and passed control to the Toastmaster of the Evening (the emcee).  The emcee decided to let everyone know that if they shared humor in poor taste that the Observational Humor Master (me) would “smack them.”

2.  Ryan Mulligan gave an outstanding evaluation of a speaker.  The Master Evaluator, after Ryan’s evaluation, noted that Ryan had been in the club only one year.

3.  The theme of the meeting was Training Camp.

4.  John Bernstein, talking about cookies, said that he liked them with “deep relish.”

5.  Someone mentioned the Seven Dwarfs.

6.  Pam Shinkle mentioned that a speaker at another meeting (who was short and bald) “gave up hair and two inches on her.”  Pam often jokes about her height.

7.  A speaker mentioned a Fairy Godmother granting her a wish.


If you get out of line…I’m going to smack you.  (puckering up and delivering a loud kiss in the air)
(A strong opener because it immediately followed the introduction which set up the observational line.  The alternate word meaning (smack) made the joke work.  The physical delivery of the kiss magnified the humor.)

(Ryan Mulligan shared some Observational Humor.)
I’d like to point out that Ryan has been with the club for only one year.
(This line came to me in the moment and surprised me with a very big laugh.)

And now it’s time to answer some of your questions:  (a series of jokes in the Reverse Question format)

A:  The difference between Training Camp and Toastmasters.
Q:  What are Performance Enhancing Drugs?
       They don’t use them at Training Camp.

(I love the topper which makes an unexpected switch.)

A:  A place where you learn more than Training Camp.
Q:  What is Band Camp?
(A line from an old comedy movie.)

A:  With deep relish.
Q:  Most people like their cookies with milk.  How does John Bernstein like them?
(Playing with double word meaning:  Deep relish meaning both “a type of food” and “with passion.”)

A:  The Seven Dwarfs.
Q:  Name a group of men who have less hair and two inches on Pam.
(Pam often jokes about being short and is frequently the butt of short jokes.  I almost never do “short” jokes.  But in this case it was a callback line that I couldn’t resist.)

A:  I can’t remember.
Q:  Your fairy godmother offered to make you either very funny or to have a great memory.  Which did you choose?
(The laughter came before I delivered the “Which did you choose?” and drowned out the line.  Apparently it was an unnecessary line.)

Humor Contest Results — Geo Foods

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

The Geo-Foods humor contest was popular.  Our readers submitted many entries.  Special thanks to Sol Morrison of Santa Barbara for the contest theme.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced at the start of the month.

Here are the results selected by our panel of ten judges.


Indianimal crackers:  Shaped like zoo creatures driving tiny race cars.

     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois, USA


Long Beacheetos:  Cheetos that are salty and have an oily aftertaste.

     Jim Spero, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA


Syrial: Mideast breakfast.

     Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Illinois, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Corpus Crispies:  A flesh-toned cereal that goes snap, crackle, pop!
  – Beef a Las Vegas:  No matter how much you eat, the calories stay in Vegas.
  – Coloradoughnuts:  Beautifully textured pastries whose tops are often powdered.
  – Utaco Salad:  A salad that comes in a basketball shaped bowl and has a JAZZy flavor.
  – Tex-Lax: What you may need after a Texas sized dinner.
  – New Pork, New Pork:  The other white meat, so nice they named it twice.
  – Sauce-alito: Piquant and picturesque.
  – Tenesseefood:  Seafood that you eat after playing tennis.
  – Chile flavored Turkey on Red China, hold the Greece (you’d better be Hungary!):  United Nations cafeteria special of the week.
  – Lancaster oil: A spoonful a day is good for you heart.
  – Peroots: South American carrots, potatoes, and parsnips.
  – Rabbit City, South Dakota: Where to go for Hasenpfeffer.
  – Grand canned yams: Easy way to eat vegetables in Arizona.
  – Lobster Mozambisque: Cream soup in east Africa.
  – Beirut beer:  Lebanese soft drink.

Cartoon Caption Contest — Butterfly

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

It’s time for our September Cartoon Caption Contest.  We feature the art of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced at the start of the month.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

Here is this month’s cartoon:

Write several captions.  Go for quantity first.  Then go for quality by editing your initial work.  Submit your best lines to by September 15, 2009.

Visit the web site of Dan Rosandich for information on how he can design custom cartoons for your next special project, book, newsletter, brochure, holiday card, T-shirt and more.