Ad Lib Your Way Out Of Tight Spots
Instead of passing out, try passing out some humor.
You're giving a speech when something unexpectedly goes wrong. The lights fall, the mike won't work, you forget what you're saying.
So there you stand - heart pounding, forehead damp - trying to think of something to say that will get a laugh, relieve the tension, and get yourself back on track.
It's times like these that make you wish you were a master of those snappy, off-the-cuff remarks that just roll off the tongues of top performers like David Letterman, Jay Leno and Robin Williams. But you can be! Quite often those witty ad libs are not as spontaneous as they seem. Comedians prepare for these situations by memorizing lines called "savers" which they use as needed.
Here are 20 savers you can use when things go wrong with your speeches or presentations:
- Your joke bombs: "Comedy is all, peaks and valleys. That joke was a valley."
- The microphone doesn't work: "This mike reminds me of my kid in college - expensive and not working."
- The mike makes a rude noise: "What are you squawking about?"
- The microphone needs adjusting: "Either I have to shrink/grow, or this microphone needs adjusting."
- The overhead projector acts up: "This must be one of those old wood-burning models."
- Slide is upside down: "Will you all please stand - on your heads?"
- Highlighter runs out of ink: "The magic has gone out of my marker."
- The lights go out: "I do my best work in the dark."
- Telephone rings: "If that's President Obama, tell him I'm busy."
- Someone notes a spelling error in a visual: "This is the last time I'll borrow a Powerpoint presentation from Arnold Schwarznegger."
- You stumble: "I think I may have stumbled onto something."
- You have a coughing spell: "I want my mama - but I'll settle for a glass of water."
- Someone hands you a note: "Aha, just what I need. A new joke!"
- You drop your handouts: "This information is too hot to handle."
- Music interrupts: "They say music soothes the savage beast. If there are any savage beasts here, I hope you're soothed."
- You don't know the answer to a question: "I'm prepared to answer any questions... except that one. If you will write it out on your business card and give it to me, I'll find out and get the answer for you."
- Announcement comes over the public address system: "Funny, I was just about to say the same thing."
- You forget what you're saying: "I seem to have lost my train of thought. Train? It's more like the whole railroad."
- Waitress clearing dishes: "Well, I used to be a waitress/waiter and now that I'm a speaker there is one thing I've learned. You can't do both jobs at once."
- Very small audience: "I would rather speak to a small crowd of great people than to a great crowd of small people."
A well-timed remark, even one that is not hilariously funny, will almost always get a big laugh because it helps ease tension. Most audiences have empathy for the speaker and are pulling for you to do a good job. When something goes wrong, they share your anxiety. When you handle it, they feel relieved.
Memorize these savers, use them when the need arises, and enjoy a growing reputation as a great ad libber.