Two guys walk into a bar…and so begins the most cliche opening to any joke, anywhere. Are you intrigued or already bored? I have no idea. Humor can be a tricky thing! Luckily, Jerry Seinfeld and the New York Times produced a video called How to Write a Joke, to save us from ourselves.
Seinfeld describes the process of comedy writing, saying “it’s a long time to spend on something that means absolutely nothing.” He also manages to discuss wood chippers, Pop Tarts, and chimps playing in the dirt with sticks, all in about five minutes. The man has skills.
Chimp chat and Tart talk aside, we disagree with Seinfeld. Humor and the other SHARP tools are everything. Integrating Stories, Humor, Analogies, References and Pictures fosters audience engagement when you connect it to your point. They enable you to highlight the emotional core of a subject and show your audience that you care and that they should care, too – and take action!
Of course, there are a few guidelines, so we’re breakin’ it down to show you how you can tap into emotion, amp up audience connection and always leave them wanting more.
Step 1: Start Strong
Seinfeld says, “I like the first line to be funny right away.” No arguments there. It’s essential to open with a SHARP because you have to capture your audience’s attention immediately. The average adult attention span is only eight seconds, so open strong with a funny anecdote, or a story, quote or analogy that you know will resonate.
Step 2: Connect the Dots
Seinfeld makes just this analogy, saying he’ll “look for the connective tissue” between jokes. SHARPs in the middle of your presentation keep your audience engaged and following your point of view.
Step 3: End With a Bang
In comedy-speak, this means the biggest laugh has to be at the end. During your presentation, this also applies, because it’s essential we leave our audience feeling something. People buy on emotion and justify with fact, so tap into that emotion! Use those SHARPs – be it humor, or something else – to make your audience feel.
If you start and end with a SHARP, and sprinkle a few in the middle, too, you’ll always leave them wanting more. Any mention of chimps, dirt and sticks – well, that’s just a bonus.