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Public Speaking Course: 

Audience Gags

During my public speaking course we will practice the right way to include audience gags, which are simply funny jokes that occur unexpectedly during your speech. Dr. Joel Goodman, from the Humor Project, does one where a telephone rings while he's giving his speech. He answers the phone that is hidden behind the podium and pretends he's talking to his mother. The same joke would be called a running gag if the phone continued to ring at several other times during the program. 

Here are some audience gags that I have done.

Ten Wanted Men 
I staged a gag at a seminar one time that was tons of fun and took less than one minute to complete. Concentrating on having a good effect and not on the amount of time spent creating is what you will learn in your public speaking course. Before the program, I picked out about 10 fun-loving audience members to help me. I gave them special instructions that were to be followed through on a certain cue during the program. To start the gag, I had my assistant interrupt the seminar to give me an important note. The note read (I used a serious expression): 

"It appears that someone is in attendance today with another man's wife. There is a large and irate man on his way here right now. If you want out, there is a backstage door you can use to escape quickly." 

At this point, 10 men jumped up out of their seats and hauled themselves out the door. Once they realized what was happening, several women jumped up and ran out too. It was great fun and the gag sure woke up everyone who had a heavy lunch. 

Stone the Speaker 
When I really want the audience to focus their attention on an important point, I use this gag. Either before the program or at a break, I recruit audience members who are sitting near the front. I give each one a piece of crumpled paper and instruct them to throw it at me when they hear a certain word. Unique ways of getting and keeping the audiences attention are special skills learned in my public speaking course.

Some professional speakers tell me that is the stupidest thing they ever heard and that they would never do it in a professional presentation. They say that until they understand the reason behind it. I use this gag when I want to focus attention on an important point. Guess who is riveted on what I say until they hear the key word? Of course, all the recruits with the crumpled paper. Then, after they throw the paper and I make a big reaction, the rest of the crowd is totally focused in their effort to see what is going on. That is when I make my key point. I have virtually guaranteed the attention of each audience member. And keeping the attention of the audience is extremely important when using the skills learned in your public speaking course.

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