Can presenters learn from comedians?

Do presenters and comedians have a lot in common?  After all, they both go on stage.

Maybe comedy routines can provide some tips on improving our presentations.

The first point to make is that, although stand-up comedy may look improvised or ad-libbed, it rarely is. And indeed, it’s probable that the better the comedian, the more rehearsed, planned and painstakingly worked-on the material is likely to be.

In other words, preparation and rehearsal are excellent in comedy. And they’re equally valued in presentation. Both have the ability to make what you’re doing look more effortless and more professional.

Then there’s the stance. No comedian stands still like a guardsman at attention. Many of them, like Michael McIntyre, walk almost constantly right around the stage as though in some kind of driven delirium. It might not be possible to go to those lengths as a presenter, but at least it reveals the principle. He and other comedians move around to engage with different parts of the audience, have eye contact with them, show them that they’re equally valued. That’s good in presentations too.

Less ambulatory comedians are still mobile. They use gestures freely, sometimes to the point of slapstick. Again, that might be going too far in a presentation, but it shows the importance of using your body as part of your message. An animated, energised speaker excites more enthusiasm than a totally laid-back one.

The same is true of voice. Comedians use lots of different levels of volume and pitch. They would never speak their material in a dull monotone because they know that it’s very, very boring to listen to.

They vary their delivery and pace. A long joke might be followed by one or two short ones in quick succession. They pause between jokes, giving little breaks for the audience to catch up. They know the value of silence – and good presenters do too.

Last but not least, they go out with a bang.

Audiences love great comedians because they’ve been entertained. You may say, with fairness, that you can’t remember ever being entertained in a presentation. If so, maybe presenting one that is entertaining could be an enjoyable experience for both you and your audience.

By David Vickery


Published On: 1st Nov 2010

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