As a stay-at-home mom and writer, I am definitely not the target audience for Do You Talk Funny. But I still somehow, amazingly, found this book to be relevant to my life, and I ended up really enjoying it. I think a big part of the book’s appeal is that it is written with the novice in mind. I am pretty much terrified of public speaking, as Nihill was, so I could easily identify with his situation. Moreover, I absolutely appreciated his willingness to put himself out there so he could overcome his fear. I thought that was admirable. Right off the bat, I wanted to listen to him, because I felt like he was not only speaking from personal experience, but that he was genuinely interested in helping others to become better speakers and feel more comfortable in front of crowds.
His tips are pretty straightforward, and other reviewers have outlined most of them. So, for the sake of brevity, I’ll just list some of the points that I found helpful. In general, I really liked the chapters on how to write with humor and how to deliver your message/speech/whatever effectively.
- Work in references to the local area whenever possible.
- Use words with attitude.
- Give clear takeaways.
- Reference items that got a good reaction earlier.
- Use different voices when possible.
- Always write in the present tense.
- Start strong, since the first 30 seconds make or break you with the audience.
- Try and get a quick laugh.
- Call the room, i.e., acknowledge the obvious (e.g., a sneeze, room temp)
- Make sure you are fully visible.
- Talk with your hands.
- Record your performances so you can analyze them later.
- Rehearse and practice; all the best performers do.
- Plan for audience laughter or participation.
- Memorize your jokes or speech using the Memory Palace technique.
Maybe these tips seem obvious to some people, but they weren’t obvious to me. And I liked that Nihill presented them in a way that made it easy for me to incorporate them into my “non-performer” life. I think that’s one of the things I liked best about this book: it all felt very doable. Nihill kept repeating that if you incorporate even one or two jokes into your business presentation, you are going to be better than 90% of the speakers out there. That’s a pretty big payoff for only a little bit of effort.
And I loved this quote from Tim Ferris: “If you’re getting chased by a lion, you don’t need to run faster than the lion, just the people running with you. Speaking to other people is similar: you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be better than a few others.” Nihill kept the stakes manageable enough that I was never intimidated. Perfect public speaking? No way. But adding one or two good jokes to a speech felt entirely possible.
Overall, I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a non-threatening way to improve his public speaking skills.