Public Speaking Course:
How to Deliver a Punch Line
While taking my public speaking course you will practice the best way to deliver
a punch line. The term 'punch line' derived its name because of how you
deliver it. You
have to punch the line out a little harder and with
a slightly different tone and emphasis than the rest of the joke. Try leaning into
the microphone and saying it louder and clearer than you said the
rest. Make sure you say the punch line so they can understand you,
because if the audience doesn't hear you they won't laugh. Just before delivering the punch line, pause
slightly (see Timing article on this website) to emphasize and draw
special attention to what you are going to say. Learning how to deliver
a punch line well should be mastered in your public speaking course.
After you deliver the punch line, be absolutely quiet for a moment. The urge will be
strong to say something but give the audience a chance to laugh at what
you said. Words or phrases added after the climax
of the punch line tend to delay or impede laughter. Until you get some
experience, sometimes it's really tough to wait. Beginners tend to be afraid that no laughter will
come, so they keep on talking. If you keep talking during this period, you will easily
squelch the laughter. As your confidence builds, pausing
will become easier and easier. Sometimes waiting the audience out will actually give them a cue to laugh even if the joke wasn't that great.
In your public speaking course you will learn emphasis, timing,
Deliver the line to one person.
When you deliver your punch line, look at one person in the audience
and deliver it directly to them. It doesn't matter how large the
audience is, you can
one person right in the eye and give your punch line to them.
As you master what you learned in your public speaking
course, you learn the person to whom you deliver the punch line is NOT randomly chosen. I deliver punch
lines only to someone I know is going to laugh. How do I know? I pay
attention. It all starts with my pre-program
research. If I have spoken to any of the audience members and they were laughing with me on the phone, I'll seek them out before the program
so I know where they are sitting. That way I can look directly at them
during the program. Before the program starts, I interact with the
attendees, not only to meet them, but to see who is and who is not
in fun, mingling with them helps to put them in fun (see the "in
fun" article on this website).
Also I like to watch the audience while the emcee or program coordinator
is on stage talking. This gives me a mental note of the people who are not only
having fun, but are also paying close attention to the person who is speaking.
Watch out for alcohol
Don't be taken by an audience who appears to be having a ton of fun.
It could very likely be from alcohol at their social hour.
They may be oblivious to what's actually happening on-stage.
Another way to tell who to deliver your punch line to is by keeping
an eye on the
audience during your presentation. Some audience members who are really
paying attention to what you are saying will nod their head
gently in approval. You should have great success delivering your punch
line to these people.
Your skills from your public speaking course should include seeing who is most
receptive to your message, to help you lead the others in the audience.
Why deliver to the laughers?
There are two main reasons to deliver your punch line to someone you
know is going to laugh. The most important reason is that you want that person to
a good example for the rest of the audience. If you deliver a punch line
or comment to a specific person in the audience, the other people in the
audience will naturally look in that direction. If they see someone
laughing, then usually they will laugh too. If you deliver your line to some
unhappy person who hasn't laughed for 20 years,
the rest of the audience will see an example of someone NOT laughing and they will be influenced in a
A 1976 study by Antony Chapman and D. S. Wright supports the notion
that the lack of laughter or inappropriate laughter (the kind of
laughter you would get if you pick on someone or some group
inappropriately and they laugh to save face) are inhibitors of
laughter. You will learn about this study and more during your public
The second reason has to do with the fact that there is little chance that you
will get old sourpuss to laugh no matter what you do. If you kill
yourself trying and fail, as you probably will, it will knock your
confidence level and affect the rest of your performance. Combine this
with the fact that you will be ignoring the rest of the audience, who
will be watching this person not laugh, and you'll be quickly swinging
in the wind. Deliver to the ones that appreciate you!