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Public Speaking Course: 

Timing

The art of timing is a very important lesson from my public speaking course.  It is one of the most important aspects of humor and NO ZZZZZs, public speaking.  Timing is not only involved in an individual piece of humor, but it is also involved in where you place that humor in your presentation. Timing is also important when when you react to 'expected' unexpected developments during your presentation.

Jack Benny said this about timing, 'When you are speaking, timing is not so much knowing when to speak, but knowing when to be quiet.'

He should know, because he delivered a very famous and funny line after a very long pause. He was being held up by a robber at gunpoint. The robber said, 'Your money or your life!' Jack didn't speak a word for a long period of time. The robber became impatient and yelled, 'YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE!!' Jack finally replied, 'I'm thinking.' His image as a cheapskate, coupled with a long pause indicating he was having trouble deciding whether to give up his money, or die was really hysterical.

A pause lets the audience catch up and draw pictures in their mind to relate to what you are saying. It is the audience's signal to imagine - using the word pictures you practice in your public speaking course.

In telling a joke in public, pause just before and just after your punch line to give the audience a chance to laugh. Do not continue speaking when laughter is expected no matter how hard it is to keep quiet. Laughter is hard to get and easy to discourage.

Make sure you hold eye contact a little bit longer than you think you should when delivering punch lines because time is hard to judge when you are pumped-up for a presentation, yet "pregnant pauses" are another lesson you will learn in my public speaking course.

The size of your audience will also affect your timing. Your presentation will take less time to deliver to smaller audiences. Smaller audiences hopefully will mean quicker laughter.

Conversely, presentations will take longer for big crowds in large public arenas. Your pauses will be longer to compensate for the wave effect created because of the physical distance between you and the back row of the audience.

Go with the flow, but you set the flow in motion, and await a flood of fun and laughter.

 
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