Hello My Name is … and I’m a Recovering Boring Person … By Carmel O’ Reilly

A Funny Thing Happened At My Appraisal Last Week …

Do you want to add a little humour and wit to your presentations? Maybe you’re a nervous public speaker and know if you can make the audience laugh, it makes everyone (especially you!) feel a lot less awkward. Maybe you need to create a connection with your audience, or you want to build the tools to become a speaker who’s confident, memorable and, most importantly, funny.

Hello My Name is … and  I’m a Recovering Boring Person … are people’s stories of how they turned boring into funny. How adding a touch of humour helped them overcome their awkwardness. Stories of how using the principles of stand-up comedy made them funnier, more interesting and better looking. (Or at least two of the three!).

A Funny Thing Happened At My Appraisal Last Week … I got Sage Wisdom from my manager Cyril. Now I know you’re all thinking Sage Wisdom isn’t funny, but have you met Cyril? That was the beginning of Doris’s presentation.

But let’s back up a little to Doris’s Story: Hello My Name Is … and I’m a Recovering Boring Person Case Study:

My Name Is … And I’m Bored

Doris considered herself to be boring, and there wasn’t anyone who would disagree with her. Not anyone who listened to her presentations at the weekly sales meeting that is. 

In fact, Doris knew this is what people thought of her, because of the 360-degree appraisal she’d received the previous week. The feedback didn’t say outright that she was boring. It was slightly softer, saying: “That she came across quite seriously in her presentations, and that perhaps a lighter approach would help her to be more engaging.” Same difference, Doris thought.

Although Doris wasn’t a fan of the 360-degree appraisal – she didn’t like or agree with feedback that was anonymous – she knew the argument in favour was that it allowed people to speak the truth. But Doris felt what it actually did was to create an illusion of truth, and an impression that truth had been delivered, when it’s merely been left at the doorstep. However, in this instance she was able to see the truth in what was really been said, and that was that her presentations were boring.

It’s something she had been thinking about for a while, and the fact that it had come up in her appraisal was the push she needed to take action and do something about it.

However, identifying the action she could take was what was holding Doris back. She was very aware that the most popular actions always suggested was to enrol in an improvisation or stand-up comedy class, but this wasn’t Doris. Not only was it not Doris, the mere thought of it totally freaked her out. She knew she had to find another way.

Then that Friday evening as she walked home from work, she was listening to a podcast. The guest on the show was the comedian and author David Nihill. He struck Doris as being a very down to earth guy, and more importantly he was very funny. He spoke about how he went from being deadly afraid of public speaking to regularly performing stand-up comedy. He was promoting his book Do You Talk Funny?

While Doris wasn’t convinced that she could go from boring to funny by reading a book, she figured she had nothing to lose, and so on getting home she ordered a copy.

BOOK WISDOM

The book spoke to Doris. It was exactly what she was looking for: a step-by-step approach, with lots of helpful tips and techniques that she could immediately begin to practice and try out.

Having put it off for so long, and then having the matter forced through the 360-degree appraisal, Doris felt there was no time like the present, and so she decided she’d prepare something simple, practice it over the weekend and then try it out at the Monday morning sales meeting.

Doris choose the following 12 techniques from the 80+ in the book to work with:

  1. Develop an opening line:

Hello I’m Doris and I’m a recovering boring person 

Doris actually borrowed this line from the book. She felt that was OK because it:

2.  Acknowledged the obvious, which is known in comedy as “calling the room”. It means vocalising exactly what’s going on in the room or what people are likely thinking.

It also allowed her to try out:

3. Taking the Train Off Track: To shatter the expectation of what she’s going to say.

4.  Using the art of misdirection: The beautiful thing about a business presentation versus stand-up comedy is that the presentation audience can be misled into a funny line much easier. Due to the many boring presentations they have been subjected to, they are expecting it less. Use this to your advantage.

5. Getting a quick laugh: To lighten the mood in the room.

Her next line:

A Funny Thing Happened At My Appraisal Last Week

This allowed her to:

6.  Use current media references: Creating material that relates to topics that are current in the mind of those in your audience is another easy way to get a laugh.

It was annual appraisal time in the company. Everyone was going through their appraisal and many people didn’t enjoy the process. Doris figured anything that poked fun at it would get a laugh.

Her next line:

… I got Sage Wisdom from my manager Cyril. Now I know you’re all thinking Sage Wisdom isn’t funny, but have you met Cyril?

This allowed her to:

7. Tell a Joke: If people laugh, a joke has already added value.

Doris was reminded of a quote from Jeanne Robertson, who distinguishes between a humourist, which she considers herself, and a comedian, stating, “The humourist weaves the longer stories with a point. We don’t go ‘after’ anybody. I’m telling my life.”

It wasn’t Doris’s intention to go ‘after’ Cyril, but knowing him as she did, she figured he’d be OK with a little jibing. 

She quickly moved it on to her next lines:

Sage Wisdom

So, at my appraisal last week, Cyril imparted his sage wisdom to me, he told me: “Keep boring to yourself: Don’t put something out there that bores you. If it bores you to tell it, you can bet it will bore your audience to hear it.”

This allowed her to bring it back to herself by:

8. Drawing upon her own real-life experiences: the safest humour involves personal stories, because they are guaranteed to be original and unheard. They can be practised and perfected, and they are highly personalised to your style.

This also allowed her to:

9. Use the rule of 3:  This is the basic structure for jokes and ideas that capitalises on the way we process information.

Doris had mentioned Cyril 3 times.

Throughout her preparation Doris had:

10. Thought Fun over Funny: Making people laugh is only one type of humour; getting them to smile is another. When starting out, focus on making things fun as opposed to making things funny.

She then spent the weekend:

11.  Running through these lines of her presentation, slowly at first, and then on fast forward: Saying the words out loud as quickly as possible is a great technique to identify words and parts of your talk that may trip you up the day of your talk

Then on the day she:

12. Smiled and make eye contact: If you look like you’re enjoying it and you look happy, chances are other people will start to as well.

And so on Monday morning this is how Doris began her sales presentation:

Hello My Name is Doris, and I’m a Recovering Boring Person …

A Funny Thing Happened At My Appraisal Last Week … I got  Sage Wisdom from my manager Cyril, now I know you’re all thinking Sage Wisdom isn’t funny, but have you met Cyril?

Sage Wisdom

So, at my appraisal last week, Cyril imparted his sage wisdom to me, he told me: “Keep boring to yourself: Don’t put something out there that bores you. If it bores you to tell it, you can bet it will bore your audience to hear it.”

Everyone around the table laughed, and looked at Cyril. He could tell by a few people’s faces, they were wondering if he had actually said it – he hadn’t, but he had thought it, and he laughingly played along because he knew Doris was calling him out on the feedback she knew he had wanted to give her.

As the laugher died down, and Doris was about to begin the sales part of her presentation, Cyril caught her gaze, and in that brief exchange he communicated to her that she’d done well. This gave Doris a quiet confidence and helped her relax into her presentation, which in turn helped her to take a lighter approach.

At the end of the meeting, Cyril walked back to Doris’s desk with her. He told her how impressed he was with how she’d opened her presentation. He said he knew how much out of her comfort zone this had taken her, going on to say she was a natural. 

EPILOGUE

Next steps for Doris? 

Well that’s exactly what Doris asked herself, and the feedback she gave herself in response was:

She needs to take the Bar Exam: No, she’s not entering the world of Law, or the world of stand-up comedy for that matter, but she is heading to the bar to test out new material she’s been working on, and will tell a funny story or two to a captive audience of her co-workers. Doris is getting the beers in – and no she’s not bribing them to laugh, but they will have to work for their beer, because as we all know there’s no such thing as a free beer. The price? They have to repeat Doris’s stories back, to see what’s sticking and what’s not. What’s in it for Doris? She gets to refine and repeat, I have a sneaking feeling, Doris is going to get funnier as the night goes on …

WORDS OF WISDOM

“A sense of humour is an attitude in how you approach your work and life. It is a skill that can be developed.” Jeanne Robertson.

TODAY’S BOOK OF THE BLOG: Do You Talk Funny by David Nihill

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of www.worklifeincorporated.com. I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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