How to Make Your Talk Funny Ep08 with David Nihill

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Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, David is the author of the best-selling book “Do You Talk Funny?” and the Founder of FunnyBizz Conference.

His work has been featured in Inc., Lifehacker, The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times.

“One of the best speaking coaches out there” according to, David’s program with over 29,000 students has been featured by Prezi as one of the best training courses for presenters. His book remains one of the highest rated in the world on the (usually not so wildly exciting) topic of public speaking and his content has been read by over one million people.

Get in touch with David Nihill, click on the links below.

Victor Ahipene: Speaking nation, what’s happening? Welcome to a new episode of the public speaking secrets podcast. I’m your host, Victor. He Penny. And today I’ve got someone who, uh, I’ve, I’ve actually listened to read Rita’s book a few times now because it’s a very, very interesting in the sense that I’ve helped a lot of people would speaking, but I’ve always found the teaching of humor, one of the, the things that I’ve never really been able to grasp in a, in a true way. And I found this book probably the most easily, the most practical and logical assumption of, of how you can kind of keep being natural and yourself and also add humor until you kind of your business presentations you did talk to you. Yeah. Whatever, uh, yeah. Even you eulogies if need be. Um, and so I was super stoked to get them on the show and we’ll cut to the chase and welcome David Nihill. Who, who’s the author of. Do you talk? Funny and welcome to the show, man. Right.


David Nihill: Thanks.


Victor Ahipene: So give us, give us a bit of a background. Have you always been the, the, the humorous, the humorous man in the, in the conversations that you’ve been with friends and always been the guy who hopped up on stage and bust in and everybody would laugh?


David Nihill: Definitely not. I think them in Irish, it’s a bit ingrained that we try and be a smart arse most of the time and we will usually go for the laugh over anything even when it’s horribly inappropriate. And so funny. You were mentioning eulogies. I’ve seen many an Irishman going for jokes when you’re. I’m not sure that’s the time and. But yeah, I, I would not have got unstaged in any capacity, shape or form and hid from it to be honest. And the reason I wrote the book is because I hate public speaking so much and that has backfired. Massive. Because you wrote a book, you should talk about it like Oh, maybe allowed. I wrote the book so you could read it. I believe we have based. That hasn’t worked out, but yeah, it was always just really fearful of it and a bunch of bad stuff happened and I basically needed to try and get over it as people tell you, you can do, and I was like, well, most people teach and just make me cringe a little bit. For the most part. It’s usually like a TV anchor in a slick suit or someone who just makes you feel. I don’t know. You just feel inauthentic when you’re watching them and they’re talking about moving your hands, make an eye contact and you’re like, just what do you make me feel so uncomfortable when I nearly ran out of anything I ever got involved in the world’s true masters of this and is there anyone that’s just clogging up that kind of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to make a master. And I was like, surely it’s comedians and there must be a ton of stuff that they learned the hard way that the business community and under Ted world just never taps into even though they’re going after entertainment. So that’s kind of how it came about. It’s like, what do you hate public speaking or you love? It does a lot the comedians know that they’re simply never asked and if they’re asked to, you’re always like, oh yeah, that makes sense. I know I never talked about like even when you walk into a comedy club and they, they’re always like a round of applause for your barn waitstaff and you’re like, why am I applaud? And for them they took ages to get me a beer. I don’t even like them. Where are we clapping? I’m not sure what’s going on here around applause for yourselves, for being in the audience. You’re like, well, that wasn’t much fun. Achievement. Why am I uploading this? You realize their conditioning you to applaud. If they get you to do a tree times, you’re more likely to condense that behavior and when you watch it you’re like, oh yeah, that makes sense. There’s just a million things that they were doing and most people didn’t know, but. So that’s kind of how the book came to be


Victor Ahipene: And like I was saying, I liked your, your logical and simple breakdown for it and you had me hooked after the first chapter and you mentioned Tim Ferris because I’m a. I’m a not so Loki groupie.  I have all of his books and content and things like that because I think…


David Nihill: I’m the same and it just, it truly across so many people that are within our area that he referenced and down the part of a lot of using the 80 slash 20 principle to kind of break things down and learn them rapidly like water to 20 percent of things to give you 80 percent of results. And in public speaking it’s usually the same things over and over again and very seldomly our day body language or how you’re moving your hands or however you’re making eye contact. They’re usually on the content like comedian. If a comedian was going on the David Letterman show or one of the big ones in America are joined and Trevor Noah and they have a five minute slot. They will be asked in advance, what is your script, what does every single word that you’re going to say before we let you loose on their audience. They don’t care how you’re gonna, move your hands two and a half minutes into it. If you’re going to make eye contact, how you’re going to stand. They put all the weight on the content, which is funny. Whereas in the world of public speaking, training on the corporate side, and even a lot of Ted talks, they put huge emphasis on delivery. Whereas rubbish content delivered beautifully is still rubbish, so you usually cannot improve public speaking skills very quickly just by doing things around delivery. It’s nearly always to content steals the show, so it was just a lot of logical stuff in there. Did I think someone like Tim Ferris would look at going, oh yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. Kind of hard to argue with it. You’re like, oh yeah, that makes sense. Just let me do those four things. You’re like, oh Jeez, look at that. That worked out.


Victor Ahipene: It was actually one of the things. I did a Tedx talk last year and leading up to it, I’ve done a lot of speaking, but I was like, alright, how can I minimize the variance of my talk? Not necessarily being good or bad, but you know, you watch, you go into it and you start watching all of these good, uh, ted talks around the world that are online and you’re going, okay, what’s the common denominator in there? And then you, you talk about it a depth in your book about the, um, at the last minute and things like that.


David Nihill: I had way too much time on my hands that’s very like, did this weird. Don’t really watch all the world’s breathing. Break them down and correlate different jewelry in Trenton. I analyzed them and you’re like, yes, yes. Saturday I did. Cannabis is legal in California. That could sound like a good plan. When I say it out loud right here. You say it got together with your mom when she was over and a winning strategy


Victor Ahipene: And so run us through it. We knew obviously you to to get better at this, apart from just analyzing it and breaking down. You got out there and did it and I’ve always been in the same vein of not necessarily having gone out and asked Comedians, but you see them like a good talk regardless as a good narrative, like you should be running people on a good narrative and you talk a lot in the end it, you’re a good comedian is taking so much time to craft the words that they’re using and trying to trim the fat and make it get to that punch line as quickly as possible. Which of course makes it a good narrative. You don’t necessarily need to have all the waffle when it comes to a presentation when you’re in front of people. Um, how did you, did you have a process? This is where I’ve been listening to the book. Did you have a process of making that part more efficient? Like, yeah, I’ve got the story. Did you kind of ride it out in the garage? I can trim this or I can compress this?


David Nihill: Yeah, normally it’s, it’s making a list of stories that you love to tell an unrealized and it’s easier than you think to shoe horn them into your presentation and make them relevant to your topic. With the connecting statement. I told you that story because and then looking at the story and go, okay, what’s the key funny part to it and now how do I treat this like a comedian would treat this, so a comedian would strip it down to structure and that structure is always setup punch line tagline and a setup as a minimum amount of information you need for everything else to understand. Everything else is trimmed out or removed. They key part of the story or the punch line is where do people normally react, react or react to us to be a giveaway and the tagline is anything you might say after the key reveal moment there, two key lifeline. It won’t bring it up, but it’ll usually keep a little bit of momentum going into laughter. So if you take like Jon Acuff is a business speaker, I like a lot, he’s extremely funny and very well paid as a speaker, four or five time New York Times bestselling author and I was in a conference recently where we did about 20 seconds. He’s like, well my daughter wants to get a cat but we can’t because my wife Jenny is allergic to and one day my cat, my daughter’s scrunched up her arms and said to me, we can get a cat when mom is dead. Right? And it’s just a very clear. It’s not exactly a viral hilarity. It’ll make an audience laugh, does it? A couple of things in that story you need to know to understand to get the story and else has been stripped out. So like that’s a 15 second story with a very clear punch line. The keyword is delayed sale to the end. People are normally going to laugh when you tell them. The daughter was really thinking we can get a cat as soon as mom is dead. The whole sentence doesn’t make sense until you say the word dead. And even though it’s sinister, it’s still kind of funny. So it’s using a comedian structure. It identifies. The key part of the story is when the door says to words we can get a cat off is dead, and it uses the same structure comedian would use to move the impact word to the very end of the sentence to maximize your chances of getting a laugh from the audience. The Nice thing about that little story, it is a story. It’s not a joke. So when I say comedian or comedy, you’d normally think joke. Whereas most people internal think funny or laughter. We’re always going for laughter. We never want you to know. We’re trying to tell a joke. We want you to know when we’re on stage two, we’re just talking and you were going to laugh at the moment, so I want you to laugh, but usually I don’t refer to them as a joke or a story or it’s something that I know is going to work. Or is everyone in corporate land goes, Oh gee joke though. I don’t know about a joke that could go either way. The joke can always go either way because if people know your intention to tell a joke, so if you’re like, oh, I’ve got something funny, I got a great funny, but here’s the joke, I like to tell you’ve already reduced your chances of success because you have telegraphed your intentions. It’s like going out on a date with someone and go and hopefully I’m gonna, get some love from you to save that if this all goes well, and they’re like, well, I don’t think so. You create a guest that’s not going to work out, but you have telegraphed all intentions even though you might be thinking you don’t want people to know to. And it’s the same with comedy. So it’s just stick into little short, funny stories like that, putting them through that structure, only keeping into necessary and moving the keyboard to the end.


Victor Ahipene: And then if, if, uh, people can’t necessarily go to a comedy club in and taste those lines out, how, how would you go about it for somebody in the sand, that business, so corporate world to be able to test those stories as it just started?


David Nihill: Yeah. You just literally just them on your friends and I would start by normally when we go to a Christmas party or were in a family reunion, people we haven’t seen in a long time old mates from university or old work friends. They’re normally like, oh, tell that story. You know that one you normally tell we’d nearly all have at least one story to their friends make us tell repeated and if you ask us tell that story. Were already comfortable telling them we know where people are going to laugh. We’ve told it loads of times use that. Don’t try and make up crazy new stuff like a comedian is doing and testing and a lot of times they’ll use stuff from their own lives they know is already funny and log that stuff. So comedian or any form of kind of humorous content creator writer will keep a log on their smartphone and it just says funny stuff and every time they hear or see something or remember something, they write it down so they have a massive journal and it’s not like. Like if you kept a diary. Sometimes when you’re young and you read it back in, it’s like, Oh, last Tuesday I was emotional. Nobody likes me, I ate cake, I have no friends, and then you read it back. Now that was a bit more, but I won’t be down, so he wasn’t very happy that day. And imagine you had a list of all the funniest stuff you you’ve ever seen or heard in your life because you do forget it. Like if I put you on the spot and go, tell me something funny. Now you’re like, God, leave me alone. Yeah, isn’t recording. Most people will panic for a second rather than something coming to their mind, but if you have a list, it keeps it fresh and it gives you a reference point to go to and that’s just a few want to get into. Your already knows that it works. If it works in a conversation that works on stage, usually not a big difference, especially in a business talk. It might not be viral hilarity for a comedy club, but realized people in the comedy club went there with the expectation to laugh and for you to be funny. People at a business conference went there with the plug in their hand going, where am I going to plug this in? This is going to be a boring day. I hope at least one speaker is good and you’re nearly surprised when there’s a good quality speaker these days because there’s so many people out there these days onstage and so many events and the standard in general is so low, so if you’re the one doing it, they don’t know what you’re trying to be funny. You just happened to be funny and you’ve structured in a way that allows them to react, that makes your timing look good and nobody knows you were trying to be trying to be comedic and your intentions, your typical business presentation with the, Hi, my name is and today I’m going to be talking about. Or even worse now. I got here by. I used to work here and then I worked here and then I transferred to their. God get off, it got into tight, either you or the amount, um, when you’re in the audience, I shouldn’t say you’re in the sites. It’s a silent there.


Victor Ahipene: Another thing that I, that I loved in your, in your book, and yeah, it seems like it’s a comedy comedic extended is the role of the role of tree. Well, the rule of three. What did, uh, what can, can you give people kind of a practical, practical input into, I guess what it is and how it can work into the business or the stage presentation will.


David Nihill: It’s something quite similar at something comedians live off at copywriters and marketers live off at all of us have been subject to it, although we might not know it is a tree is a shorter, shortest number of elements that your mind can recognize as a pattern. So if you’re trying to be brief and generate laughter, you’re usually wanting to establish a pattern and break it. And tree is the smallest number of elements you can use to do that. When most people screw up comedy, they usually try and put the funny element forester, second or third. So I saw a speech recently where a guy came out and he’s like, I know a three, things about you as an audience. One I know one of you, at least one of you is wearing red underpants. And he’s like, okay, that’s me. And everyone’s like, ah, okay, that’s a bit weird. And then he says, now, second thing, serious, third things serious. Whereas the rule of comedy is you come out and establish a pattern. So what he should’ve done in that example is a serious statement, serious statement. And then the third statement is, and I know one of you is wearing red under principle, okay, that’s me now it’s funny, but when flipped the other way around, it’s just weird. So the real atrial comedy basically is where you give people one, two and their mind assumes three, but you’re planning on giving them four. So it’s still a logical sequence. It still makes sense, but only retrospectively do you realize I was multiplying the numbers. That’s what allows a medium to be one step ahead of the audience. Usually we’re still. There’s still a pattern there, but it’s just one you didn’t suspect to be there. So it’s always give them apples, give them apples and then give them arches. So make the last element is always the twist and it can be four, it can be five, it could be six, but it’s just a funny thing. Has to be the last thing and it has to go against everything that came before it. And the quickest way to do that is by using three elements.


Victor Ahipene: You said it earlier, earlier today, but it was, uh, the, the pudding, that punch line at the end of your sentence. It’s something that I’ve looked into, you know, when you, when you say that when we can get a cat, when moms did versus when moms did, we can get a cat anxiety different. Yeah. And it was um, it was just all these little kind of nuances. It’s just things you have to be aware of. It’s not.


David Nihill: What most people associate comedy with timing and delivery. They say, oh, their timing was great, their delivery was great. But realistically, most comedians over time, they don’t all get funny famous for being funny, but they all get funnier and their structure gets better and their writing gets better and 100 percent of the time they will have that key word at the end so that they can be silent. It gives the audience time to react because the audience are loving what you’re saying at that point. If they’re laughing and if they laugh, they’re going to assume the next thing you say is going to be under 40 are very important, and if it’s just added words that didn’t need to be in there, then you’ve screwed up your own reaction and timing so you can make your time and look right just by being very conscious of that keyword. And then it applies to everything in in business like if you’re trying to stress the importance of a percentage or a certain metric, that metric needs to be at the end of the sentence. You need to raise your voice a little bit when you say it and you need to pause just after you say it and then that tells everyone to pay attention, be alone. We’ll see that. Would a comedian like if you said numerically, we as a company year on year we had a growth rate of 80 percent. You’re stressing that number and people would actually write it down. Whereas if you say 80 to 90 percent growth rate year on year, you can just kind of run into the next sentence when people don’t miss a metric that you are so excited about communicating.


Victor Ahipene: Yeah, I think that’s a super important and powerful. It’s uh, without, without overwhelming people. I think that’s a brilliant amount of things that you can start to work on to improve you humor and just improve. You’d like even if you don’t improve your humor using those same points. Yeah. The role of three and you know, putting things into sentences, it’s just going to make you have a more impactful presentation, which is the goal of this podcast. And everything we do is trying to make presentations less boring and mundane and, and just crap in general. If we’re going to throw three, three words out there, but a little bit about you, what, what keeps you busy these days? I mean you wrote a book and then it kind of puts you on some sort of map and a then there. Do you follow? Have you followed down that path or what? What’s your, your main day to day look like these days?


David Nihill: Yeah, so I started a conference around creating humorous marketing content and kind of like funny Ted talks and I’ve been running that for four years now. And then I primarily what keeps me in business. I have a ghostwriting business where I use a lot of the high level of famous comedic writers did I met along the way from doing standup comedy over the years and we punch up a lot of very high level CEOs talk, so nearly exclusively Ted level speakers or CEOs or influencers and we have a bunch of community copywriters rewrite their stuff and give it back to him. A lot funnier would have been a common done on how they’re delivering it. Yeah, and it’s nearly always just awards make the biggest difference as opposed to how they’re delivering it. So then the stuff I’m telling you guys, this stuff we’re trying to get, you know, when we have a CEO speaking to 25,000 people at his or her own event where they invited everyone does a fair amount of pressure on them and we need to know what’s going to go well and what we’re always trying to do is get stories out of them that they’re comfortable telling already under structure it in the exact same way that I’ve just outlined to you and we’re doing that on a daily basis and it always works.


Victor Ahipene: It’s a brilliant. I mean it’s a smart thing because super busy people who haven’t necessarily got the time to go through it with a fine tooth comb, but the speech is super important. In your 80 20, if you can get somebody who’s already got the comedic structure under control and they can apply it to your talk and then you can go out.


David Nihill: We realized they didn’t want the meetings, they don’t want the coaching, they don’t want to talk, and they’re just like, they literally send us a video of them doing a practice run in front of a live audience. We have a transcribed, rewrite it, treat it as a script and that way we don’t have to do any calls or meetings with them were just like, here’s what you do. I left some notes on there, good luck. And usually they’re all excited about that and they’re like, oh, this is great. This is the minimum amount of time for the maximum amount of results.


Victor Ahipene: it’s super cool. And so, uh, if anyone is out there, see, I was struggling that you’re wanting a bit of a short code for you. Yeah, I’d highly, highly recommend it, but in all seriousness, I would highly recommend David’s book because a lot of people struggle with humor. They think that they need to be funny. I think there’s something that you really emphasized. Well, uh, you don’t have to be the person who everyone goes out for a beer that you’re the oldest center. Funny Man. And the thing you just about your presentation delivery and you and your story structure and if you do that well you know, you can be boring offstage and had them in stitches onstage. Yeah. And last couple of years, last couple of questions. Who do you follow personally? So, uh, you know, from a, from a business or an entrepreneurial or speaking side, who do you or what was the best talk you’ve watched in the last 12 months?


David Nihill: Good question. I like John Akers law as a speaker that I referenced in there because he’s doing exactly the things we’re saying. It’s always short personal stories. I like Gary Vaynerchuk a lot like Scott Stratten. Mary Roach has fantastic talks. Mason Zied, who’s one of the top most viewed ted talks as well. I think she has people laughing on average about four point five times a minute, which is extremely high. We actually correlated all these set golden leading marketing speaker always funding. So sadly I don’t know if they’re good at, but also have a full day. They are the ones I love, either have a sneaky background in comedy or have studied comedians or are sneaky out there doing a bit accommodate themselves and it’s creeping a lot more into the world of entrepreneurship. I think since Gary Vaynerchuk came out in his book and he said, and he would be held up as a as a very good speaker in the world of marketing and he said, I only studied tree people ever to base my public speaking skills on and they are Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock, three famous American comedians. He said, that’s it. That’s the style I’m going for it. That’s what grabs audience’s attention and I just put my content into that. I used those techniques and to be honest, he kind of copy someone’s style so you can copy their technique, so style his personality and it can’t be copied, but once you noted techniques three years and then I think that’s what he means by that, but he’s looking at them and going, what are they doing? Okay, I’m going to try and do that.


Victor Ahipene: Yeah, that’s a powerful. And outside of your own book, what’s, what’s a book that’s had a, had some sort of influence, you have obviously analyze the, a lot of speakers and comedy and then and then books. What’s the one that’s had the biggest influence or you think will have the biggest influence for Ellis?


David Nihill: Yeah, it’s funny. I wrote mine because I wanted to save other people reading the old ones I had to read to try and figure this out, which was nearly too many and they were either over complicated the humorous side of it or they just went, you need humor and then they move swiftly on which a lot of them did that you should be funny. Like even Chris Anderson from Ted or Cameron guys talk like Ted, they’re all like, you should do a humor. What? They don’t tell you how to do it. So Confessions of a public speaker is very good, but Scott Belkin more about some of the stories of his journey kind of debate in a paid professional speaker. But I think the best one for those of you interested in comedy writing specifically is Scott Tickers. He was the founder of the Union and the book is called how to write funny and it’s fantastic. He’s like, there’s 11 ways to make anything funny here they are, and this is what I tell all my interns at the union and his interests include as these and salary, so he had some, some pretty famous interns from the company techniques, but it works, but it’s a bit complicated for the average business person to go through and even the comedian will be like, that’s great, but it is kind of complex. It forces you to really get into comedy writing, but that’s the single best one. I think if you just want to grab it and go, all right, I’m going to get good at writing comedy. This is what I’m going to do.


Victor Ahipene: Yeah, and as I said, I highly recommend David’s book, not just because he’s on the show, just because it does simplify. It does simplify things down and yeah. When I was preparing for my ted talk, I read Chris Anderson’s and radios. That was that and it gave you a lot of the basis and the grounding for it all. So with that being said, we’ll link all of that at and I just want to welcome you to the speaker nation family. If people want to find out a little bit more about you or what you’re up to a week and they go, what should they do?


David Nihill: Yeah. Uh,, Nih. Ilo has everything on there and if you want to get any of the articles I wrote a lot of them speak and you can get luddy Info for free, whatever, reading a book. Just go down to the end of it and it was a bit cold check my blog and that leads you to something called seven number seven comedy And there’s tons of videos and articles and clips and stuff you can watch there for free and go, okay. I get. It’s kind of everything I learned the hard way really. So if you want to share it, cut it and save yourself. Reading a book did. I can’t even get my own mother to read, but you’ve read it multiple times. So happy days. That’s where to go.


Victor Ahipene: Brilliant. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure and as I said, we’ll link all of that where you can grab that and everything else we’ve talked about all the best. Mate, I look forward to hopefully turning up to one of your conferences in the near future, uh, and uh, and improving my own humor.


David Nihill: Thanks very much.