Avoid 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 funny line bombs, a speaker may start interpret the inner motivations of the audience.  “They don’t like me.”  Negative thoughts attract negative results.  The solution is to 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.  Lack of eye contact drains energy from your presentation.

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 twelve 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!  Before I present an Observational Humor monologue at a Toastmasters meeting, I always step out of the back of the room first so that I can do some stretching.  I don’t want to be introduced while having sat in my chair for an hour.  Warm up before you speak…or you’ll warm up as you begin your speech.  Warm up in private…or you’ll warm up in front of your audience.

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.  Don’t get in the habit of passively accepting the seating arrangement as it is.

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.   The contagious nature of laughter, and the energy, is magnified when the room is not dark.

6.  The sound.  Can they hear you?   It’s better to have a microphone when you don’t need it, than to not have one when you do need it.  It’s a major drain on the energy if they can’t hear you.  Avoid the temptation to think, “I’m OK without a microphone.  I’ll just shout my speech.”

7.  The venue.  Some performing conditions are better than others,  especially for presenting humor.  An indoor event is usually much better than outdoor event.  When you speak outdoors, energy is sucked up to the sky.  Likewise, speaking in a room with a very high ceiling, like an over-sized ballroom or warehouse, has the same energy draining effect.  Speaking in a padded room is not ideal.  For example, I presented 30 minutes of humor in an elegant lounge area lined with heavy drapes and filled with over-stuffed furniture.  It was not an ideal humor venue.  Padding absorbs energy.  If you have a part in selecting the venue, make good choices.  If you have no control in picking the venue, you may have the option of declining the speaking opportunity.

8.  Distractions.  Anything that pulls attention away from your humor is a zapper.  If the serving 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.  If you’re performing stand-up comedy in a room with people talking in the back of the room…well, you get the picture.  Be proactive to eliminate potential distractions 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!