The highest-earning stand-up comedian in the world last year was Michael MacIntyre, with an estimated income of twenty-one million pounds from his nationwide tour and product sales. That's pretty good going for a man who skips on stage and tells a few stories. I watched him live last month, and noticed seven things that we can all emulate in our speeches.
1) Be in the moment One of the things that Michael does brilliantly is to react to what is happening. He prompts this by asking questions of people in the audience, and returning to them at points throughout his act. Remembering names and comments is a crucial skill, and helps to keep the whole audience feeling "connected".
2) Use your own stories You will never hear someone else's joke or story at one of Michael's gigs. All of his stories are personal experiences, though they have always been embellished to create more humour. Speakers can do exactly the same thing by keeping the essential truth of a personal story, while adding elements that engage and entertain.
3) Change your material Everyone knows that wherever he appears, Michael starts by announcing that he's in his favourite city. It's become a standing joke and always gets a laugh. However, he then goes on to include local references before returning to his regular material. When speaking, it's always a good idea to include something local and/or topical to show that you aren't just turning out the same old stuff.
4) Stick with it Despite the allure of X Factor, there is no real overnight success. Everyone who makes it to the top of their profession, just as Michael has, knows that it takes hard work and a lot of repetition. You need to learn the basics, add your own uniqueness. and practice, practice, practice.
5) Develop your own style Many people start out by copying other successful artists. That's OK if you're an impersonator (in fact essential), but otherwise you need to develop your own unique style. That's what people want to see. No-one else arrives on stage like Michael.
6) Try out material, and cut out the rubbish All performers include new material to find out how an audience will react. Michael tries out his routines in small venues before using them in his big tours. He keeps what works, and discards what doesn't. Successful speakers do the same.
7) It's not just about stage time Your audience will want to take you home (some literally), so you owe it to them to do what Michael does, and offer DVDs and books. It's a way of keeping the connection off-stage as well as on-stage/
You may not earn over twenty million (though I hope you do), but you can make your audiences more appreciative.
Image of Michael MacIntyre - Creative Commons via Last.FM