“First, two announcements,” my friend Michael Gallant said as he eulogized his mother-in-law last week. “1. If you’re here to eat doosies* … we are not serving them after this service so if that’s why you’re here you can leave now! And 2. Neimans is closed for the day. And the St. Johns department will now be closed forever.”
The crowd laughs and he pauses. Gallant continues…
“Ruth never attended a family function that she couldn’t ruin. [He pauses] BUT she believed in me. Early in my career when I had an unexpected job transition she backed me when I started my own business. [Gallant’s voice cracks here] She believed in me.”
Michael Gallant and Ann Zimmerman Gallant are master speakers and there are three lessons you can learn from them about writing/giving eulogies AND writing/presenting any speech.
Lesson #1: Rules of Humor.
The first rule I call “bing,bing, baboom” – you do a list of three items, the first two being similar and the third item is the unexpected twist. Usually the first two items are serious and the third item is the funny stuff. Example: The world is a challenging place these days. Politics are polarizing, there’s unrest in the Middle East, and the Kardashians just announced the renewal of their reality show. Michael does the reverse. Two funny statements followed by a serious truth. In the audience, we are surprised and we are all in.
The second humor rule comes from Ann’s speech about her mom – do a set up with the perfect amount of detail followed by a deadpan punch line.
“She was a woman with big appetites – she bought St. John’s by the pound, drank a magnum of Kettle One once a week and shipped us 12 pounds of rugelach** overnight every few months. She had an entire basement filled with coats – fur, cashmere, raincoats, you name it. Michael said we could open a store, but we would have to call it ‘Size 8’. [pause] And that kids, is why there will be no inheritance.”
Lesson #2: Rule of Authenticity.
Michael and Ann share difficult info, from the heart, about a complicated woman who suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. For you that means – be authentic. Tell the truth. You will gain credibility and trust from your audience.
Lesson #3: Rule of the Pause.
Both Ann and Michael master the power of the pause. It makes sense but pausing is hard to do. When you give presentations any silence from the lectern feels like an eternity. It isn’t. Tip: in your speech notes, add the word [pause] into your script and when you get there…. Stop! Silently count: “1001, 1002, 1003” and THEN start talking again. You will add drama and depth to your message.
Humor + Authenticity + Pausing = Strong Speech
*Doosies – a delicious triple-decker small sandwich made with corn beef, pastrami and sometimes with cheese on skinny party rye bread with mustard and thousand island dressing. These sandwiches are to die for, and, well, they are often served at funeral receptions where I come from.
**Rugelach – pastry made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. I could live on this particular rugelach.
Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S., author of 3 books and President of Speak For Yourself®, works with decision makers on how to speak with gravitas. It’s all in how you speak for yourself. Karen also speaks about her cousin, Albert Einstein, in a message about hope, resilience and brassieres.
Whether you’re talking in a formal setting, or you’re chatting with your colleagues at a charity event, here are two quick ways to offend your listeners.
The First Way to Offend Others: Telling jokes. Yes, jokes can be funny and your listeners might laugh. Or not. Jokes are defined as a narrative with a funny punch line. The issue is the punch line. Some group gets punched – such as a political party, a gender, a religion, an ethnicity, or even a college. Your listeners comprise all of the above! Jokes can and do alienate the punched entity. Why take this chance?
The Second Way to Offend Others: Using funny stuff you have seen online. If you have read it online, so have 50,000 of your best buddies. You offend the originator (this is the other person’s intellectual property aka copyright infringement), and you bore your listeners.
I love to make my listeners laugh. Humor is a great way to make your message stick. When well-crafted humor can ease tension, add levity and create good will. Read our last blog on the secret to effective humor.
Humor soothes conflict. Humor creates buy-in. Humor adds joy to any conversation.
The secret to effective humor: be self-deprecating. Use yourself as your foil. You will never offend anyone else.
The other day, two close friends paid me a compliment, “Karen can laugh at herself.” Thank you, Robin and Liza! But what Robin and Liza may not realize is that I purposefully look out for the funny stuff that happens to me. The humorous situations where I am NOT the hero of the story. Those are the gems that I share.
Recent example. As readers of this blog you know that I have just returned from a successful business trip to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. HU, co-founded by Albert Einstein, invited me to speak about the personal side of my famous cousin (yes – that guy with the bad hair).
Now back in Texas I sent some thank you notes to my clients, and one person replied, “Our pleasure. You were an amazing guest. (We don’t have so many Einstein relatives to choose from). Best regards and I hope to see you again.”
Do you think he could’ve omitted the parenthetical sentence?!
Let’s say you just got a recent promotion to SVP and your CEO says, “You’re doing an amazing job. We didn’t have many candidates to choose from.”
Before you take pity, please know that I did receive great comments from others (without qualifying parenthetical statements!). BUT, here are the reasons to share the odd comment and NOT the nice stuff.
The nice stuff is blatantly self-serving.
The odd compliment is funny – in a self-deprecating way.
You still get the same message across (neat business trip).
Rules for self-deprecating humor:
Embed the funny stuff that happens to you with other impressive data. Your fly is down while you ring the bell on Wall Street during your 27 million dollar IPO gain.
Avoid telling only the idiot things you do. That will demean your value.
Keep it short and relevant to your situation.
Humor can also offend. Tune in to my next blog for the two biggest humor mistakes – guaranteed to cause missteps.
SOPA was finally “killed” by President Obama at the end of last week, following protests on Jan. 18, 2012 by several of the most influential and most widely used sites, like Wikipedia, who went dark to protest the bill. Many other sites included pop-ups showing their support of anti-SOPA protestors, and encouraged visitors to contact their congressmen in opposition of the anti-piracy bill.
Gizmodo clearly outlines why “other than being a very bad thing, what is SOPA? And what will it mean for you if it passes.”
So why should you still care about the dangers associated with this bill?
Because although this particular bill was stopped, it does not mean others will not arise.
Rather than resorting to extreme solutions that will likely hurt small businesses, we need to develop better solutions and improve education surrounding online copyright laws. While online piracy should be put to an end, SOPA is not the solution.