What We Can Learn From Comedians About Pacing

I think John Mulaney is one of the best comedians around these days.  What can we learn from him from a public speaking perspective?  Here are three things I think we can take away:

  1. His pacing is very deliberate – Notice the tempo at which Mr. Mulaney speaks.  It’s very measured, but it never feels belabored.  That’s because he is using his tempo to create vocal variety, emphasizing certain words with volume and pitch.
  2. He makes eye contact with his audience –  Pretty straightforward, right?  If you want to create a relationship with the audience, you need to look at them.
  3. He has clearly rehearsed – It’s never a good idea to wing a presentation, but we don’t want to sound too canned either.  It’s often best to rehearse from a set of simple bullet points and allow yourself to improvise within that structure.  Mr. Mullaney clearly has a few “bits” he is working with, but he doesn’t sound like he has thought out each word he is going to say.  He stays loose with his execution.

Madonna’s Aretha Franklin Tribute from a Public Speaking Persepctive

Madonna is getting slammed on the internet for her recent VMA appearance, a “tribute” to Aretha Franklin. Here’s a snippet:

The obvious problem is she spends a lot of time talking about herself, and not a lot about Aretha Franklin.  She has tried to clarify recently, saying that MTV asked her to “share an anecdote” about Aretha, not “give a tribute” but that hasn’t quelled the backlash.  Here’s my take; if you think that your speech has the possibility of being misconstrued, ask the organizers for a clarification!  When you take on a speaking event, it’s important to think very carefully about your material and your audience, and this is doubly true for solemn events like tributes, funerals and the like.  Madonna would have done well to ask directly if her speech was meant to be a tribute beforehand, and then tailor her speech accordingly.

What do you think about her speech?