August 2020: A Note from Hope — We bet you have heard of Fran Capo, a 9-time Guinness Book World Record holder — best known as the World’s Fastest Talking Woman (at 603.32 words per minute).
The comedienne, keynote motivational speaker, actress, and 21-time author is also an ordained minister, hypnotherapist, and event producer. Fran dives with sharks, eats fire, bungee jumps, climbed Kilimanjaro, visited the Titanic and is the first woman in history to zipline into an active volcano.
Wild and crazy, right? Yes, of course! That is why since we met Fran in 2011 she has been one of our favorite Truly Amazing Women. But there’s more to the woman who has wowed folks on more than 6,000 shows — including giant audiences that watched her features on Entertainment Tonight, Dr. Oz, Larry King Live, and the Discovery Channel.
It’s Fran’s giant heart — and amazing courage — that makes her tick.
Sure, Fran’s schtick and quick wit have landed her gigs at Caroline’s and Dangerfield’s in New York City, the Tropicana in Las Vegas, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and performing to private groups on Yachts in the Antarctic.
But it’s that huge heart that has inspired fundraisers to make her part of their campaigns at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Comedy Cures, Firehouse 9-11, and the Marines stationed in Okinawa, among many others. It’s also why she always adds humor to all her motivational talks. “Laughter reaches the heart,” she knows.
And because Fran’s philosophy is that speaking is about teaching, touching and transforming lives, she insists: “Whether you are speaking to a large live audience — or on Zoom during the pandemic that doesn’t seem to want to quit — as a speaker you are not required or expected to be funny. But how wonderful would it be if you use motivation, storytelling and humor to liven it up. It’s a powerful mixture, and in speaking combining all three is a win-win-win situation.”
Below, fabulous Fran shares tips on how we can incorporate the magic of being funny into our businesses speaking. Want more? Check out her book. The Humor Approach: A Guide to Humor in Business Speaking and Everyday Life. Scroll down for her 10 tips. And stay tuned for much more from Fran Capo on Inkandescent Women.
How to Use Humor Effectively
“Unlike comediennes, there is very little risk to a speaker who bombs with a joke. If you “bomb” as a comedienne, you risk never getting booked again. If your humor fails as a professional speaker, simply continue with the presentation,” shares Fran.
No one, however, likes to hear a round of silence instead of one of laughter. In my book, “The Humor Approach” I talk about tips for adding humor into everything you do. Here are some tried-and-true methods to give your humor the best chance to succeed on the platform.
- You don’t have to be a comedienne to be funny. Anyone can tell a joke. Find your comic persona. What type of humor are you most comfortable with? Some speakers are better at one-liners, some at observational humor, others excel at storytelling. Timing is essential. The closer you stick to your natural timing, the more success you will have and the audience will believe it’s coming from you not a set up joke.
- Know your audience. Ask yourself: Are they blue collar or white collar? Liberal or
conservative? Millennial or Boomer? What do they have in common? Are there regional sensibilities? The nature of your audience determines the type of humor. A colleague of mine once jokingly yelled out, “Last call at the bar!” only to discover most of his audience were members of Alcoholics Anonymous!
- Localize and personalize your materials. Audiences love to be included as part of the show. Tailor your humorous anecdotes to make them fit your audience. Make it seem as if it just happened. They will think you are incredibly talented. Mark Twain said, “The best improvisation is rehearsed for 48 hours.” It is better to say, “On my way here from Newark Airport” than, “A month ago when I was in Dallas.” Personalize humor from a joke book or speaker’s file. The audience wants to relate to you, and you want to relate to them.
- Be prepared. Always have some “what-IF” lines ready. For instance, what would you do IF the mike malfunctions? IF the lights go out? IF a fire alarm sounds? IF someone yells out an insult? IF, IF, IF. Have stock joke answers that you will use in these situations, and you will remain in control no matter what happens.
- There are many ways to speak funny without being a comic.Make enlargements of relevant funny cartoons. Use props. Use jokes you have read. Have silly pledges or awards. You are only limited by your imagination. (Note: Don’t steal a comic’s act — we get rather annoyed when that happens because being funny keeps our kids fed.)
- Keep your audience interested.Humor and storytelling does that. It keeps the audience wanting to hear more. Your job is to impart information, and humor keeps an audience tuned into your message. The more attentive they are, the more they will retain. The more they retain, the more you succeed as a speaker. Remember: educate, motivate, captivate!
- Space out the humor.The beginning, middle, and end of a speech are the strategic places for a joke. You want to start with a laugh to warm them up, throw some humor in the middle to keep them interested, and end with a laugh so they will have a nice, warm feeling.
- Practice, practice. practice.Tell your jokes to unsuspecting friends. Just like with your speech, practice your jokes and delivery. Never tell someone you are going to tell them a joke because then they sit in judgment, just work it into a conversation and watch their reaction, that’s the best way to gauge if it will work. If they laugh, you know you have a winner on your hands and you’ve mastered the joke.
- Do not telegraph the end of the joke. Surprise them.Suspense is the key in any good joke. If someone feels they know the punch line, the joke is a letdown. The listener should be waiting to find out what the punch line is, that’s what causes the laughter.
- Be yourself, and have a good time.If the audience sees you are really enjoying being on stage, your enthusiasm will be contagious. If you are having a good time, then your audience will, too.
And here’s one for the road: Always leave them laughing!