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Public Speaking Course: 

How to Deliver a Punch Line

In your public speaking course you will learn how to use emphasis, timing, and silence when delivering a punch line. Delivering an effective punch line is a necessary skill practiced in my public speaking course. You must punch the line out a little harder and with a slightly different tone than the rest of the joke. Lean into the microphone and say the punch line louder and clearer than the rest of the joke.  If the audience does not hear the punch line, they aren't going to laugh. Right before you deliver the punch line you should pause slightly (see Timing article on this website) to draw special attention to what you are about to say. Learning how to deliver a punch line well should be mastered in your public speaking course.

After you deliver the punch line, fight the urge to say something else in order to give the audience a chance to laugh. Words or phrases added after the climax of the punch line tend to delay or impede laughter. Until you get some experience, it is really tough to wait. Beginner speakers tend to be afraid that no laughter will
come, so they keep on talking. If you keep speaking during this period, you will easily squelch the laughter. As your confidence builds, pausing will become easier. Sometimes waiting the audience out will actually give them a cue to laugh even if the joke wasn't that great.

Deliver the line to one person.

Look at only one person in the audience and deliver your punch line to them. It doesn't matter how large the crowd is, you can still look one person right in the eye and deliver your line.

As you master what you have been taught in your public speaking course, you learn the audience member is  not randomly chosen.. I deliver punch lines to a person 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 mingle with the participants, 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).

Try watching the audience members while the emcee or program coordinator is talking. Then take a mental note of the people who are not only having fun, but are also paying close attention to the person speaking.

Watch out for alcohol

Don't be fooled by an audience who appears to be having great fun. It might have been induced by alcohol instead of your witty program. They may be oblivious to what's actually happening on-stage.

Head nods

After you have started your presentation pay attention to the audience members who are really in tune with what you are saying, because they will nod their head gently in approval. You should have great success delivering 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 reasons for delivering your punch line to someone you know will laugh. 
The first and most important is that you want that person to be a good example for the rest of the audience. If you direct a punch line or comment to a person in the audience, the other members of the
audience will naturally look in that direction. If they see someone laughing, there is a high probability they will laugh too. If you deliver your line to someone 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 bad way.

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) will inhibit the laughter of others. You will learn about this study and more during your public speaking course.

The second reason for delivering your punch line to someone who will laugh is because 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 probably squelch their laughter. Deliver to the ones that appreciate you!

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