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One of the issues with putting together a humorous speech is getting all the funny stuff organized. so your first task is to find a theme to hang your humor on. One useful structure is The List.

The List can work one of several ways:

1. The Top 10 list (You know, like Letterman)

  • The top 10 results of…
  • The top 10 ways to….
  • The top 10 reasons for…and so on.

You could make the list appear initially to be serious issues but you give each one a funny twist, building from slightly silly to downright ridiculous.

Or they can be funny right from the title “The top 10 ways to annoy your mother-in-law.”

Just remember that 10 is a lot of points to cover in seven minutes. You don’t have much time to comment on each one, especially as you need to allow time for the audience to laugh..

2. A short list of three, five, or seven “how to” points. Think of the on-line ads you see –

‘three secrets of…’,

‘five best ways to…’,

‘seven proven ways to speed up your….’

You could think up wild and wonderful secrets as well as crazy topics that people might want dissected in your own inimitable style.

3. A list, again of  three, five or seven points (odd numbers work better than even numbers) of steps you took to achieve….. Often the goal itself is humorous and part of the title “Seven essential steps when giving a cat medication”, “five ways to prevent your children from getting a puppy”.

As long as you have points lined up and developed to be even funnier than they seem at first you will have a well structured speech.

Arrange your points from mildest to funniest and within each point build so that your punchline comes at the end.

Once you’ve got your list of points decided, develop an opening that draws your audience immediately into the humor of your speech. Link this to a conclusion that is the grand climax – the biggest laugh of all. Leave people laughing so hard that they will always remember you.

And enjoy the laughter – you’ve earned it.

 

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Let’s suppose you are a fairly new Toastmaster and you have this speech coming up. You know you aren’t supposed to use notes, but how can you possibly remember 5 – 7 minutes worth of material?

It works like this: First you plan your speech as you have been shown – a beginning, an ending and three major points between. Perhaps your speech is about buying plants for your garden. You develop a snazzy introduction and a strong conclusion that links back to it. Now consider your three main points. You’ve decided your three main categories will be plants for sunny spots, plants for shade and plants for rockeries.

You have chosen a topic that interests you so we’ll assume that either you have a garden or have had gardens, or know gardens and gardeners very well. Now you’re going to delve into your memory bank about gardens and come up with little reminiscences.

Thinking about this topic I dug deep into my personal history and came up with the memory of being about eight years old and my grandfather being too ill to plant his front garden. On a whim I said I would look after it. I went to the store and bought a couple of packets of seeds – nasturtiums and marigolds. I dug over the little plot, planted the seeds and waited. Amazingly I got a full crop of bright red, yellow and orange flowers that bloomed all summer and made a vivid display that had people stopping to admire it. Beginners luck, of course. By sheer chance the garden was in full sun and and the seeds I picked out do best in full sun.

This story could be stretched to at least a full minute, then be followed by a list of full-sun plants. The strong points of the story are that it is personal, full of strong detail and that it illustrates exactly the point you want to make (and if it didn’t you could adapt it).

Follow this with similar stories or anecdotes about shade plants and rockery plants for your remaining two points.

Now you don’t have to memorize a complete script, you just have to recall the beginning, ending and one anecdote to match each of your main points. Practice them ahead of time so they re well polished.

And let me know how it works for you.

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