JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Get Laughs, Get Attention, Get Your Message Across

Find out tricks that actors and professional speakers use to compel people to pay attention. Every bit of focus you gain helps to get your message across. Whether you’re speaking to one person or one-hundred, there are some universal truths about communicating and human biology.

Make your point heard

Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to spread your view of the world. Your aim is to generate a neural pattern in someone else’s brain that is similar to yours, and the only medium you have is pressure waves sent through the air from your mouth to their ear. Your larynx makes vibrations, and their ear drum picks the patterns up, but there’s coding and decoding at each end of the transmission, and problems occur at each step along the way.

It’s no small undertaking, and if the message is complicated, it taxes human brains close to the limit. Two people walking will unconsciously slow down as a discussion shifts to more complex material. Walking is something a toddler can do, but we can’t even walk fast when we are listening intently. Our brains work hard enough in a conversation that talking on a mobile and driving a car increases your risk of an accident four fold. (And it’s even worse if you use a hands free kit.) Clearly the old cliche that ‘we only use 10% of our brains’, is rubbish.

By exploring the limits of human neurology its obvious that we sometimes tax our listeners unnecessarily and lose the impact of our message. So it helps if we can make it easier for people to follow us; Find out why verbal clutter costs us dearly as speakers, and hear how achieving simplicity can make you look smart.

EEG Graph
An EEG shows that brain activity forms a reliable pattern when someone ‘gets’ a joke that will generate a laugh.

The science of “funny”

Sometimes the best way to get attention is to get them to laugh. It’s also a great way to make a point. There are ways to bring out the funny side of serious ideas. You’ll need two essential ingredients to create funny moments, and there are three critical parts in every joke.

We all know the delivery of a makes or breaks a funny line. But why? And what is it exactly that converts a killer line into a dud? Again, science helps. EEGs show us why that famous ‘pause’ is essential and timing is so important. There’s an unmistakeable ‘joke pattern’ in a brain scan, and when we understand what it is, we can appreciate the essentially difference between a great delivery and a dud.

Audience demographics matter too. The age, sex, and socio-economic status of your listeners affects how you will be received. We’re a social animal, and studies on laughter explain why some people laugh more than others and show how you can set up the situation to help bring out the giggles.

Speak with authority

Learn how to use your voice to keep them listening longer. A few simple methods add authority and bring out your inner ‘anchor-person’. One instant technique is especially useful for women who want to be taken seriously. Don’t suck in your stomach. Think ‘fat’, poke out that tummy and sound like a newsreader! (It works for guys too. Try it, you’ll hear your voice deepen immediately.)

The right time and place

Is the room working against you? Is your message lost in the traffic? If your point is important it deserves to be heard in the right environment. The wrong venue will suck out the impact from any presentation and strip you of your presence. A punchline can bring down the house one day, and go flat the next thanks to the venue.

Be a powerpoint professional

  • Create funny slides, and make a ‘punch-picture’.
  • Use tricks that graphic designers use.
  • Make your message stand out with the best fonts, and colour combinations.
  • Avoid being caught in a linear rut. Set up your show so you can change directions, answer questions and go-with-the-flow!

Joanne can deliver the message through a keynote, a seminar or as an after dinner speaker.


To get more information or make a booking email joanne AT joannenova.com.au,

(Swap the ‘AT’ for ‘@’ to help foil the crawlers)

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2 comments to Get Laughs, Get Attention, Get Your Message Across

  • #
    Edward Jensz

    I am an engineer and I am concerned by the mis-representation of exact science especially, definition of terms, experimental boundarys and conclusions drawn.

    My view is that the CO2 to temperature relationship is well reaearched and reported but I disagree with the conclusion that because a relationship exists then it must be the cause.
    My conlusion is that CO2 acts like a temperature thermometer in being an indication of the temperature vis a result of temperature change not the cause.

    Science suggests that if all the H2O vapour was removed from the troposphere then the temp would be about Kelvin 260. I have not seen any reference to the effect of just removing all CO2 from the troposphere but my understanding is that, if CO2 acts as a thermometer as well as being a greenhouse gas, the current temp without any CO2 would be Kelvin 286 to 288.

    Any Comments or am I looking at this problem in the wrong way?

    Ed Jensz


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