Energy Zappers

When it comes to humor delivery and getting good laughs, it’s important to avoid the energy zappers that could suck the energy right out of the room.

1.  Your attitude.  A negative or pessimistic attitude can sabotage your laughter.  Sometimes it’s easy to slip into a “negative expectation” mode.  If your first line or two of humor bombs, a speaker may start to interpret the inner motivations of the audience.  Negative thoughts attract negative results.  Solution:  Always assume the audience is enjoying your program even if they aren’t showing it.  Perform now. Critique later.

2.  Eye contact.  Lack of good eye contact is an energy zapper.  Great eye contact gives you a presence and a connection with the audience that is critical to your success.  Great eye contact completes the conversation loop.  A speech is never a monologue.  It’s always a two-way conversation.  The feedback you receive from the audience works to energize you.

3.  Warm ups.  Failing to warm up your body and your voice can have negative consequences.  I remember watching Leo Cortez, one of our most experienced actors in my California improv troupe ten years ago.  Before a show he would always walk around back stage waving his arms, stretching, humming, singing, massaging his face.  He had a regular warm up routine that prepared him for the performance.

Often, before I take the stage for a keynote speech, I use some group warm-up exercises borrowed from improv theater.  I  do them alone when I can find a private spot.  Before you speak, take a brisk walk, or do some jumping jacks!   Warm up before you speak…or you’ll warm up in front of the audience as you begin your speech.

4.  The seating.  A bad seating arrangement can pull energy out of the room.  Tall centerpieces that block some audience members from seeing you is not good.  An aisle down the center of the room is not ideal.  A large gap between the first row of audience members and the platform on which you speak is not good.  Be proactive in setting up good seating for your listeners.

5.  The lighting.  Poor lighting results in dim laughter.  The audience needs to see you and your facial expression.  And the audience needs to see each other.  It’s a myth that comedy plays best in a darkened room.  I much prefer a lit room.  I’m not talking about a blinding light, but enough light so that a listener can easily see others in the audience…and so that the speaker can see the audience.  The contagious nature of laughter is magnified when the room is not dark.

6.  Distractions.  Anything that pulls attention away from your humor is a zapper.  If the wait staff is bussing dishes during your talk…not good.  If a band is playing on the other side of the sliding wall divider…not good.  You get the picture.  Take the responsibility to eliminate as many of these potential distractions as possible before you take the platform.

Eliminate the energy zappers and you’ll increase the odds that your humor will connect and laughter will fill the room!