How can we make our pitches stand out with humor?
Comedians often get asked if their lives are full of joy and humor. Quite contrary to popular belief – some of the best comedians’ lives are filled with the opposite. The tragedies, setbacks and difficulties they face become their punchlines on stage. Here’s a bit I told on stage during the Covid pandemic:
“My first marriage was so brief that I’ve seen quarantines last longer…” [Applause, please.]
As comedians, we learn and practice the formula:
[Tragedy + Time] = Comedy
Comedians tell great jokes by reflecting back on situations and seeing it from a different perspective. They engage audiences by sharing that different perspective and getting others to see it also. When comedians share stories of how they suffered before, of how misery led to hopelessness – and the audience erupts in laughter! But guess what? That’s what great presenters do as well. When presenters share a different perspective with the audience, and engage the audience’s emotions to join along – that’s when impact is made.
For those of you who are pitching a new product, offering or concept – are you trying to bring your audience to see a different perspective? One of the best ways to bring others to see your perspective, is to make them feel the situation. When pitching to an audience – can you tell them of a familiar situation, but seen in an unfamiliar way?
To begin your pitch, try sharing a story – of a familiar situation, persona or common problem. Present the typical ways of handling these situations, and the emotions usually felt. Then begin your “mis-direct”. Comedians that drop strong punchlines mis-direct their audiences to go down one path, and then surprise them with a different path. Allow me to illustrate by continuing with the bit I started with in this blog:
“I’m glad you guys liked that joke… for me to write it, it only took me about 10 years of alimony payments” [Applause, please.]
See? Mis-direct. When you mis-direct your audiences, perhaps share how the situation which they were so familiar with can be thought of differently. Or perhaps how if that situation is handled in a different way, a very different outcome can be seen. The most important thing is to bring audiences to see your new perspective after you mis-direct them. The highlight of a pitch is when you tell them about new opportunities which may arise, how problems are resolved, or simply just how lives would change. This engages audiences because it engages their feelings – which is what people will remember. After comedy shows, I’ve had fans come up to me and tell me they loved my set and they laughed so hard they almost fell over. When I asked them which joke hit them the hardest – they can never tell me. People remember how they felt when you presented, more than the words you say. And when you pitch – they will remember how you made them feel. For those of you who have made the audience feel shocked, curious, excited, etc. This is the feeling that they will take away from your pitch. Question is – is that the feeling you want them to leave with?