Like a great movie, an entertaining speech transports the listeners to a different time and place. Whether the point is to make them laugh, feel certain emotions or have them sitting on the edge of their seats, an entertaining speech needs to include stories.
Since ancient times, human beings have communicated by means of storytelling. The story can have a moral that teaches a point or it can simply be shared for the sheer fun of it. While the entertaining story may have an obvious application for a keynote address, its purpose may be less obvious in a business setting.
Even interactive workshops and seminars can drag on in the afternoon; especially after a carbohydrate-rich lunch. Weaving an entertaining story or presentation into the business content can help lasso wandering minds.
When designing an entertaining speech or story, it’s helpful to have a few pointers in mind.
Decide on a theme or tagline
The most entertaining comedians and public speakers develop their content around a unifying theme. Rodney Dangerfield made a living off the tagline, “I get no respect”. His theme involved humorous stories that illustrated many of the ways people disrespected him.
In a business environment, your tagline can be a direct link to a business topic. For example, if you are speaking on the importance of team building, a speech that conveys stories about bad examples of team work followed by a tagline like, “You need to be accountable to your team” could be humorous while highlighting your key point. Tell another bad example and repeat the motto.
The Open and Close
Too many speakers start with “Welcome and thank you for coming”. Yawn.
Avoid being cliché and predictable. Rather, open with a joke, engaging short story or statistic that is related to your theme. Grab their attention. Do the unexpected. You can still say “thank you” you just don’t have to be pedestrian about it. Throw it in after you have their undivided attention.
The close should tie a lovely bow on your topic. If your topic is teambuilding, close with a good teambuilding story or statistic. For example, if you opened with a story of a dysfunctional team, finish with how you helped transform that team into a high performing one.
Involve the Audience
Building on the team building speech mentioned above, if you have developed your theme and tagline, you may choose to involve the audience. Tell another bad example of teamwork then pause, dramatically of course, and have them repeat your mantra, “You need to be accountable to your team”.
Since this type of speech is intended to be entertaining, exaggerating your gestures will help to punctuate the points you make. Play up on the emotions. If you are normally very serious and straightforward, the new emphatic you will throw them a little off guard and build the excitement.
Note, however, these unexpected exaggerated movements only work if you commit to it and throw self-consciousness to the wind. If they sniff any hint of insecurity the entertainment factor gets lost. They will just feel uncomfortable for you.
When delivering an entertaining speech, do not:
- Tell one joke after another
- Name an audience member as a source of the problem
- Identify someone the audience knows as a wrong-doer
- Self-depreciate unless you also state what you learned or what you will do to improve
- Laugh at your own jokes
- Forget to smile, if appropriate
Follow these tips and you will grab their attention and hold it during your entire entertaining speech.