Public Speaking Training:
How to Deliver a Punch Line
My public speaking training shows you how to emphasize, use good timing, and
know when to pause when delivering a punch line. Delivering a good punch line is
a crucial skill learned in my public speaking training. The term punch line was
derived because, you must punch the line out a little harder and with a slightly
different tone than the rest of the joke. Try leaning into the microphone to say
the punch line a little louder and clearer so the audience can understand you.
If the people in the audience do not hear your punch line, they aren't going to
laugh. Right before you deliver the punch line you should pause slightly (see Timing
article on this website) to draw special attention to what you are about to say.
Learning how to deliver a punch line well should be mastered in your public
After you deliver the punch line, resist the urge to continue talking in
order to give the audience a chance to laugh at what you said. Words or phrases
added after the climax of the punch line tend to delay or impede laughter. Until
you get some experience, it is really tough to wait. Beginner speakers tend to
be afraid that no laughter will
come, so they keep on talking. If you keep speaking during this period, you will
easily squelch the laughter. As your confidence builds, pausing will become
easier. Sometimes waiting the audience out will actually give them a cue to
laugh even if the joke wasn't that great.
Deliver the line to one person.
A good tip from my public speaking training is to look at only one person in
the audience when you deliver your punch line. It doesn't matter how big the
audience is, you can still look one person right in the eye and deliver your
As you master what you have been taught in your public speaking training, you
learn the audience member is not randomly chosen.. I deliver punch lines
to a person I know is going to laugh. How do I know? I pay attention. It all
starts with my pre-program research. If I have spoken to any of the audience
members and they were laughing with me on the phone, I'll seek them out before
the program so I know where they are sitting. That way I can look directly at
them during the program. Before the program starts, I mingle with the
participants, not only to meet them, but to see who is and who is not in fun
(mingling with them helps to put them in fun (see the "in
fun" article on this website).
You can watch the audience members while the emcee or program coordinator is
talking and take a mental note of who is having fun and also paying
attention to what is being said.
Watch out for alcohol
Look out for an audience that appears to be having a ton of fun. It might
have been induced by alcohol instead of your witty program. They may be
oblivious to what's actually happening on-stage.
After you have started your presentation pay attention to the audience
members who are really in tune with what you are saying, because they will nod
their head gently in approval. You should have great success delivering to these
people. Your skills from your public speaking training should include seeing who
is most receptive to your message, to help you lead the others in the audience.
Why deliver to the laughers?
There are two main reasons for saying your punch line to someone you know
will laugh. The first and most important reason is because you want that person to be a good
example for the everyone else. If you direct a punch line or comment to a person
in the audience, the other members of the audience will naturally look in that direction. If they see someone laughing,
there is a high probability they will laugh too. If you deliver your line to
someone who hasn't laughed for 20 years, the rest of the audience will see an
example of someone NOT laughing and they will be influenced in a bad way.
A 1976 study by Antony Chapman and D. S. Wright supports the notion that the
lack of laughter or inappropriate laughter (the kind of laughter you would get
if you pick on someone or some group inappropriately and they laugh to save face) will inhibit the laughter of
others. You will learn about this study and more during your public speaking
The second reason is because there is little chance that you will get
old sourpuss to laugh no matter what you do. If you kill yourself trying and
fail, as you probably will, it will knock your confidence level and affect the
rest of your performance. Combine this with the fact that you will be ignoring
the rest of the audience, who will be watching this person not laugh, and
probably squelch their laughter. Deliver to the ones that appreciate you!