Monday, June 20, 2011

Public Speaking - Planning To Mess Up?

The great comedian Norm Crosby, who is best known for appreciating standing ovulations when he performs, has made a living out of the ingenious misuse of words. In real life though, malaprops are usually uttered by people who don't even realize their fox paws. A friend of mine who is a fund-raiser for an unnamed, stuffy Washington, D.C., art society, told me of a hilarious incident that took place during a meeting.

The humorless director stood at the conference table in an effort to put an out-of-control meeting back on track and said, "I fear our discussions are tangenital to the issues at hand."

TANGENITAL! My friend looked around at the other attendees who were all fighting back laughter. She had to excuse herself from the meeting to keep from laughing right in the face of the old windbag. A flexible presenter who was truly in touch would have 1) realized her mistake, 2) laughed at herself, and 3) used that unplanned comic relief to get everyone's attention so that she could regain control of the meeting. Someone really experienced would make the mistake on purpose.

I have learned, in my years of writing comedy skits, that many times the mistakes are much funnier than the planned program. Now I plan mistakes when appropriate. To make this more foggy, I'll explain in one sentence. I learned that when I plan something and then I mess up the plan, the plan becomes funnier than the plan I planned to use, so now I plan to mess up the plan so the plan is planned to be funnier than a plan that is not planned to be messed up. Get it? Good, because you need to hear loud and clear what I'm writing here so you bunglestand it.

Tips for a better presentation?

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