As you can tell from it’s title, “A Jewish Comic And A Muslim Researcher Walk Into A Party …”, was a charming NPR story earlier this month that showed how people from very different backgrounds can work together. It’s also worth a listen because it offers some great advice to executives who want to become better public speakers.
The piece told the story of Dalia Mogahed, a Muslim policy analyst who has advised the White House, and Judy Carter, a Jewish comic and author who teaches people to make use of humor in public speaking. Through a combination of circumstances, they met, managed to overcome misunderstandings, and wound up working together as Judy helped Dalia become a better speaker.
Judy’s challenge was that, as a professional policy analyst, Dalia was most comfortable using statistics, PowerPoint, graphs, and more statistics. But Dalia came to realize she needed to connect with audiences in a more human way.
Judy worked with Dalia, helping her unleash her sense of humor and fold it into a presentation. (Note to readers, I generally advise speakers to be very cautious about humor. But if you use it, it doesn’t hurt to work with a humor professional.)
In addition, Judy said, “But humor is only part of the formula needed to captivate an audience. [Dalia] also needs to reveal of herself some personal heart stories that dig deeper into her life.”
Dalia was reluctant to do that, too, but eventually came around. When she spoke to a huge meeting, in front of 7,000 people, Dalia not only included humor, she told the story of being warned not to go to the mosque the day after 9/11, because it would be too dangerous. But when she got there she found “half the mosque was filled with members of other faith communities” who had come to demonstrate support. At that moment she realized that in that mosque she was face to face with America’s promise.
Every speaker can learn from Dalia and Judy:
- Cut way back on the statistics
- Use humor (carefully)
- Find personal stories that connect with your topic and the audience.