Jan Jack – Using Humour in Speeches – at Hamwic Speakers

Hamwic Speakers LogoOn the evening of Tuesday 31st July I had my first visit to Hamwic Speakers, partly encouraged by the ‘Using Humour in Speeches’ workshop that Hamwic Speakers’ special guest, Jan Jack, was going to be delivering.  But more on that shortly.

First of all, I must just say that it was great to meet everyone and they really made us feel very welcome.  I say ‘us’ because there were four of us representing Wessex Speakers on the night; Myself, Janet Blann, Eric Skates and Ravi Bhatta.

Dan Harrison - Hamwic Speakers

I must say that there was a great atmosphere from the very start of the meeting as Brian Miles took on the role of Toastmaster for the evening. Although, we were all looking for tips from Jan on creating Humour in Speeches, there was plenty of it peppered throughout the evening. For instance, I won’t ever be able to think of Dan Harrision without remembering him ‘squeezing up that Old Dear’s back passage’ after his speech, “The Life of a Pyrotechnician” (you had to be there).

Xan Phillips - Hamwic SpeakersThen we were treated to a little ‘Mental Time Travel’ as Xan Phillips took us on a trip down ‘Memory Lane’.  He reminded me of the days when I used to record my favourite music from the ‘Top of the Pops’ Radio 1 show on a Sunday evening. I, too, remember carefully trying not to get any comments from the DJ into my recordings, just as he did.  His speech, ‘A Medium Wave Goodbye’, was an incredibly moving, and humorous, farewell to analogue radio.  Xan certainly sounds like he’s going to miss it – not that we know, exactly, when that’s going to happen.

The Speech Evaluations were beautifully carried out by Andy Baxter and Stephanie Taylor, who did a fantastic job with her first evaluation. In fact, if she hadn’t mentioned that it was her first, no-one would have been any the wiser.

Jan Jack - Using Humour in Speeches - Hamwic SpeakersThen came the time that we were all waiting for; the ‘Using Humour in Speeches’ workshop from Jan Jack, who not only delighted us with some of her poetry and her story – told in a very humorous way, of course – but she then proceeded to ‘break down’ her presentation to show us one or two of the ‘devices’ and ‘techniques’ she’d used to create the wonderful humour that she’d demonstrated, so well.

And, as you might imagine, Jan couldn’t stop herself from bringing more humour into her work, even when providing us with some facts.  For instance, did you know that adults laugh 17 times a day, on average, whilst children laugh 250 to 300 times a day?  Apparently, it’s because they get to see the state of our education system, first hand.

Jan encouraged us to use words to ‘paint pictures’ in the minds of our audience.  We need to use descriptive writing to create an image that links one idea to another in a way that you might not, usually, associate. She showed us how to brainstorm ideas by asking questions. If it’s a person you could ask;

    • What do they look like?
    • What are their physical attributes?
    • What do they do?
    • Could you relate a particular attribute to an historical figure?
    • Do they, or the attribute, remind you of an animal?
    • Or a children’s toy?
    • What items do they use?

And any other such questions you can think of to create links that are unusual and make us look at things in a different way.

She also said that we need to make sure that we use funny words wherever possible.  For instance, following the above process, Jan described the Hairy Bikers.  She said ‘it’s like someone put a pinny on a troll’. (Where ‘pinny’ is used because it’s a much funnier word than ‘apron’)

So, if there’s more than one word to describe something, use the funnier version.  And don’t forget that there are words that are just ‘funny’.  Words like ‘marmalised’, ‘bamboozled’ and ‘befuddled’.  She encouraged us to list the words we come up with, or come across, and then find ways to work them into our speeches and presentations.

Jan Jack - Develop Ideas with a Flow Chart Jan then talked about how to ‘Flow Chart’ ideas. When describing her school – one that was a bit rough – she asked, ‘What is it that makes a school rough?’  The ‘Flow Chart’ went something like this;

In a rough school children may fight  >  Fighting may lead to injuries  >  Injuries may lead to blood  >  Blood may lead to a hospital  >  A hospital may lead to a morgue. The result of this being;

“I’m not saying that my school was rough but it was the only school in the area with its own morgue”.

The last technique that Jan spoke about was the ‘Confounded Expectation’. This is where the listener makes certain assumptions about things and then we throw in something completely unexpected. Jan gave us an example from Bob Monkhouse;

“I want to die like my father, peacefully in his sleep …. not screaming in terror like his passengers.”

The first part creates an expectation in our mind and the second part is completely unexpected.  It takes us away from our assumption. Of course, the ‘Flow Chart’ technique can be used to help us explore these unexpected ideas.

Using Humour in Speeches - People LaughingJan explained that using humour in business presentations can be very effective.  We can use anecdotes and then relate them back to the more serious points that we’re making.  We can make it funnier by wrapping up these anecdotes into ‘advice’ or ‘shared learning’ examples but the whole point of using humour is that it perks people up and;

    • Helps your audience to relax.
    • Creates rapport.
    • Helps them to retain information.

I’m sure that all of this made much more sense if you were ‘there’ but it does give us a few ways to deliberately create humour in speeches and presentations. And that’s the key; doing it deliberately.

I know that Jan was only scratching the surface as far as the possibilities to create humour go.  In fact, her Workshops usually last 5 times longer than the very quick one that she delivered that night.

If you like the idea of attending one of Jan’s  Workshops, you can get in touch with her through her Contact Page by clicking here or call her on 07917 127381.

And don’t forget that Jan runs Jan Jack’s Laughter-House in Basingstoke.  If you ever fancy a really fun-filled night out then go to www.laughter-house.co.uk for up-coming dates and tickets.

Jan really is something of a master when it comes to using humour in speeches and presentations but, as she said, although she does naturally look at things in a ‘different’ way (don’t we all?), she has worked at it and practised to get where she is, today

If we can learn the devices and techniques that Jan can share with us at her workshop (including those above), with practice, we might also get to be quite good at deliberately creating humour in our speeches and presentations.  Wouldn’t that be great?

Jan, thank you so much for coming along. I’m sure that everyone got as much from your words as I did.

Moving on;

Rob Dewing at Hamwic SpeakersIn the final analysis, we had Rob Dewing in the role of Grammarian and Simon Johnstone as our General Evaluator, both of whom seemed to have already picked up a few tips from Jan as they continued with the ‘peppering of humour’ that had been present all night.

It was then only left to past President, Rich, to award the prizes for the evening.  Best Speaker went to Xan Phillips and Best Evaluator to Stephanie Taylor.

If you weren’t able to make it, then you missed a really entertaining and informative evening at Hamwic Speakers. If you’re in Southampton and you’ve never been before then you might like to visit.  You can check out their website here or come along to Wessex Speakers if Winchester is easier for you. You could even visit them both!

Anyway, that’s it from me. Have a great one,

Steve Bimpson


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