In this video, I share:

  • Why this topic is quite personally relevant for me (and maybe you?)
  • How to tell a story in a way that captivates – even better than humor at the right times
  • Some delivery style choices that are sure to get and keep the attention of your audience – no comedic timing required

Adapted transcript of video:

Hi, there. I'm Michelle Barry Franco. I'm often asked the question: What do I do if I'm not very funny? That is an easy question for me to answer because I'm not really that funny, so I could tell you that you can be out there speaking and making a difference and even having people enjoy your talks if you're not naturally that funny. Of course, humor is awesome, and it does provide a levity and a sense of connection when it's done through a story or something else that provides high resonance with your audience. Humor can be amazing but it's definitely not the only way to get their attention and keep it.

I want to give you three other strategies that you can use, especially if you feel like you're not that funny. The first is you can be a great storyteller. When you learn how to tell a story in a way that powerfully resonates with your audience, that really recognizes the universality of the core parts of the story so that they can see their own experience through your story, you're probably going to get a little laughter, some of that self-identification laughter, because when we see our own experiences reflected back to us through a story like that, you'll often notice your audience will laugh in recognition. But it might not be a funny story and that's okay. It doesn't have to be. Just the power of a story that resonates will definitely get and keep their attention. Be a great storyteller. That is something you can absolutely learn. I hear that humor is something you can learn, too, but I'm still working on that.

Number two, you can be descriptive. Take them into the world of your experience. Maybe when you're telling a story, it's a great time to … If you had some big epiphany in a garden somewhere, on a beach, for a moment take them there. Describe the scene. Talk about walking through the arch with all of the green plants growing and the beautiful burst of white flowers and walking on this brick path into a huge green meadow area with a little bench in the far-right corner. As you walk toward it, your mind is filled with … See what I'm saying? Just take them into the experience, and you will captivate them. You'll bring them along with you.

It doesn't only have to happen in the story. It might also be describing an object in great detail. Make sure you do that about something that matters so that they trust you're carrying them along in the right places and the right direction.

Then the third tip that I will give you is to use other captivation techniques. Those two are what I would call captivation techniques, but these ones are more in your delivery style. Things like pausing… pauses tell your audience when to pay attention. When you put a pause in a regular flow … Our brain loves novelty. Your audience starts to get used to the sound of your voice and the cadence and there's something lulling, and it becomes really comfortable over time. But when you stop that, either with a pause or with a louder voice, or you start to whisper — you're going to get their attention in a new way. You can use those kinds of captivation techniques.

You can use repetition. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” is like one of the most amazing powerful speeches of all time. It wasn't funny, right? But he used some of these amazing strategies, gorgeous description, the repetition that helps us remember the key themes in it. There's all kinds of other elements that we could talk about in his delivery, but you don't have to be funny to be an engaging speaker. You can use these strategies I just described to get and keep your audience's attention, and also help guide them along the way through these strategies to help them pay attention at the times that matter the most.

Okay. I hope that's useful to you. I look forward to being back with you with another tip in the next week or so. Take care.