Speakers and writers share one thing in common – they’re both susceptible to mind blocks.
This is where your mind goes blank and you can’t think of anything new to write and speak about. You feel like you’re facing a blank wall; your creativity has left you. You’ve covered everything you know about and you don’t know what to do next. You’ve run out of ideas.
YIKES! You are without inspiration. You are full of exasperation. You may even start to indulge in some procrastination!
Does this mean you have to start pinching other people’s material?
NO! Because the world around you is a rich source of new material; you just have to know where to look and keep your eyes open.
Mind you, if you do want to borrow material from other people, first ask their permission, and if it is granted, make sure you acknowledge the source during your speech.
It is okay to quote others and borrow material if it fits your needs, but you do need to follow the accepted protocols. (This also helps you avoid being sued!)
And after all, you wouldn’t want other speakers stealing your material, would you?
We often experience those moments of pure inspiration that pop into our heads briefly before being replaced with our refocus on whatever it was we were doing.
These moments don’t always occur at convenient times and remembering them later, when we need them, is the challenge.
Brainwaves can hit at any time and usually when you lease expect it; driving down the street, in the supermarket, standing in a queue, in the shower, or watching TV. Brainwaves are like dreams & sometimes you remember them and sometimes you don’t.
Guess what? Some of your best material can appear in a flash of brilliance, but if you aren’t able to record it, you can lose it.
For capturing and remembering personal brainwaves and other moments of inspiration, you need to make a note of it immediately. A useful device is a small, pocket-size recorder that you can whip out when inspiration hits you and you can save your brainwaves; before it disappears.
You can also use a small note-book, but a recorder is easier and sometimes safer especially in situations where writing in a notebook is not convenient & like driving.
You never know when the perfect punch line, anecdote or story will occur or appear to you, and you need to be able to record it the moment it does, otherwise once your attention is drawn away to matters of the moment, it can disappear and you will forget it.
Keeping record of everything you hear and see is important because it will form part of a library of valuable material you can draw on forever.
You should be keeping a file of material indexed by topic these can be clippings from magazines and papers, handwritten notes from adverts you’ve seen, or conversations you’ve heard, or transcribed notes from your inspirations.
As a speaker, you are or should be naturally attuned to the world around you because it provides your source of material. Whether you are planning a serious speech or a humorous speech, just step outside your door and inspiration is all around you.
Newspapers and TV news are full of serious stories and finding serious topics for speech is not as difficult as finding humorous stories. This is where you need to be alert and pay attention.
Everyday situations can be funny. People are funny. They may also be annoying and foolhardy, but even those traits can be humorous to the on-looker.
Don’t take anything you see or hear for granted. If something grabs your attention, before dismissing it, think about it. Can you see anything funny in it? Does it have potential? Can it work in one of your speeches? If you’re not sure, don’t discard it. Keep it, just in case.
It’s how you look everything that will give you the edge over other speakers; Believe it; or not, even mundane, everyday events can provide inspiration for humor.
When you see your neighbor hard at work polishing his new car, even blacking the tires, only to have a local pooch come along and relieve himself on them – is that not funny?
Do you not smile when a snob who belittles others to make himself look bigger is seen walking from the restroom with a trail of toilet paper stuck to his shoe?
Does the lady boarding a bus with a large paper bag of oranges that decides to split halfway up the stairs not tickle your funny bone?
Could some annoying little habit your spouse has be fodder for an amusing anecdote?
Does your local TV newsreader look or behave in a way that lends itself to a humorous story? Maybe they & talk with their hands; and wave their hands around so much they look like they’re conducting an orchestra?
If you have children, you already have half a library worth of anecdotes! And if you’re married, there are always the funny parent-in-law jokes to fall back on.
Your task is to look for and take this material and find ways to use it appropriately in your speaking topics.
Oh, and don’t restrict yourself to the people around you. You will find inspiration watching TV, listening to the radio, surfing the internet, on You Tube!, in the newspapers, magazines, and even on billboard and bus advertising. As a comedian my whole world is inspiration… as it should be for you.
Just open your eyes; inspiration is everywhere.
Another good idea is to join groups on Yahoo or Google whose interests match your speaking topics. Even if you choose not to participate actively, by reading other people posts you will find some amusing gems among the scattered comments and shared opinions.
You don’t need to be worried about having your own email inbox inundated with group emails if you sign up with a gmail or yahoo email account, which means you don’t have to use your own email address and it can be cancelled at any time. When you decide to quit the group, once you’ve cancelled your temporary email address, you won’t hear from them ever again.
While you are a member of the group you can also keep the number of emails you receive down to one a day by selecting the option to receive the group’s emails either in a daily digest format or elect to read them on the website, so you won’t be bombarded each time an individual sends the group an email.
Being a topic specific group, you should find plenty of fresh material being generated through the group’s conversations.
Sometimes, you may have to wade through some nonsense in the postings because people do chat aimlessly, but among the aimless chatter you will occasionally find a gem of inspiration to add to your folder.
You can also use the group to bounce your ideas off – you can use them as guinea pigs. If they know what you’re trying to achieve, they may even freely offer ideas for your use. Sensitive material that can expose individuals even if they are not named can be reworked to ensure privacy.
Don’t discard anything until you are sure you can and will never find use for it.
And don’t forget about yourself. Comedians and speakers get some of the best laughs when they are poking fun at themselves. Remember the old adage:
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Your vulnerability makes you appear more to the audience who is able to identify with you or your story; people always find it easy to laugh at other people’s misfortunes!
Making wry and witty observations about mundane, everyday events can extract larger laughs than when you try to be too clever about intelligent subjects, so don’t overlook the the small stuff.
What have you done that is foolish, funny or embarrassing? And it needn’t be something recent; think back to your childhood; your school years; your first job… your relationships; your family.
Think about family get togethers and special occasions. Do you have any mannerisms or habits that annoy other people that could be good for a laugh? Do you have any amusing travel anecdotes? Restaurant tales? Missing luggage stories? Customer service anecdotes?
The positive side of laughing at yourself is not only will your audience laugh with you, but you don’t risk offending any of them.
Another source of inspiration is your standard international communication and misunderstanding situations. You do have to be careful with this that your humor is not offensive to other nationalities and it would pay to check first before using uncertain jokes or stories.
If in doubt don&t If you keep to simple ideas, you can still find many funny anecdotes you can insert into your talks that are not offensive to anyone.
Here’s an example.
A well known Australian comic visiting the U.S., Carl Barron, had the audience rolling in the aisles with a very simple anecdote revolving around how in the U.S. we call flip-flops, flip-flops, but in Australia, they’re called thongs.
That might not sound funny straight away until you remember that in the U.S. thongs are what we call ladies; very skimpy underwear, and men don’t wear them!
So when Australian men say they wear thongs, clearly they aren’t talking about the same thing we do. And from this simple but very embarrassing misunderstanding, a routine was built.
Here’s the good part: The same joke could be used for a speaker or comic from the U.S. visiting Australia; where the word means flip-flops.
Women speakers can have the same riotous results using the same simple, everyday concepts. For women speakers, an example of somebody who can find the funny in everyday subjects is Rita Rudner.
You need to keep an open mind with international humor. What may not seem apparently funny on the surface, might offer interesting and inspirational options when you tweak it. Always be prepared to tweak and play with material.
The point is the humor you inject into your speech doesn’t have to be mind-boggling brilliant or match the intelligence of Einstein. It doesn’t always have to be clever- it just has to be relevant, inoffensive and amusing.
And remember, you can find inspiration for new material in the strangest places. Here are a few more ideas:
Next time you’re in a public convenience, check out the graffiti written on the back of the door. While most graffiti is purely offensive, every now and then you’ll find something clever or witty left by a smart-alec.
Eavesdrop on public transport and in elevators. When people don’t know or don’t care who is listening, they can relate some outrageous stories and provide much fodder for future talks.
Other people you know also have funny stories; borrow from your friends! If the story is personal, ask their permission first. You can change names to protect the guilty, uh… I mean, their privacy.
When you are reading a magazine, keep an eye out for expressions and ideas that are in line with your speaking topics and take note of them. This includes cartoons and joke pages.
If your child comes home and tells you something funny that another child or their teacher did or said, make note of it.
Make note of some of the crazy antics of your pets. (If you’re arenot sure how to work your pet into a speech, an example could be if you’re talking about futility and you have a dog who chases its own tail.)
Not all inspiration appears in obvious places and not everything you see or read or hear is instantly recognizable as something you could use. If you come across something you suspect may have some use further down the track, even if you can’t use it now, make a note of it.
You may not use everything you collect, but it is better to have too much than too little and you never know when some small snippet might have perfect relevance for a future speech.
What you may find a little more challenging is sourcing material for specific profession or industry related speeches.
If you are talking to a medical group or legal group for example, you will have an easier time sourcing material for an interesting speech, because these are high profile professions that attract attention.
There are many websites dedicated to these professions and many joke sites that make fun at their expense. They are also often in the news.
On the other hand, if you are to deliver a speech to a group of cobblers, or some other less renowned profession or industry group, youu’ll have to do your homework to come up with appropriate material. This is where you need to be creative and do your research.
Many industries have their own trade journals and newsletters and that is a starting point.
Also check with your local library and don’t forget to use the internet for research. If you can, access archived copies of older journals and newsletters as well as current issues. Old news that isn’t fresh in people’s memories will often spark new laughs.
You can also contact people working in the industry you’re about to speak to for permissible and interesting anecdotes. You can do this for any trade or profession because everybody, regardless of what they do, has at least one funny experience to share.
Eventually, if you continue to seek, find and record inspirational ideas, you will have a personal library of speaking material that will keep you in speaking ideas for a long time to come.
Your only challenge then will be finding ways to use and rework the material to match your speaking topic.
The world is your library when it comes to sourcing material and the only pecaution you need to take is to not offend races, sexes, or religions.
To play it safe, when choosing material, ask yourself these questions:
1.Is it clean? Not everybody appreciates rude or crude humor and swear words aren’t “at home” at respectable speaking engagements.
If it isn’t clean, and you can’t “scrub” it to make it presentable without losing the humor, then leave it out. Keep in mind that what might be acceptable at a convention of truckies would be frowned upon at a business seminar.
2.Is it offensive to any particular race of people, sex or religion? Don’t assume that because blonde jokes abound that all blondes are okay with them now and won’t be offended.
Stereotyping people can be funny, but depending on the circumstances this might also be within limits. Also be careful with sensitive political issues. If in doubt – leave it out.
3.Is it pertinent to your speech? Does it relate? Just because something is funny and topical doesn’t mean it is appropriate for use in your speech.
If you cant make it relate in some way, perhaps it would be best to leave it for another speech, another day, when it can relate. Misplaced humor won’t add to your speech it will just make you appear inexperienced.
Try the above ideas… and let me know how they work for you!