Tuesday’s Teaching Tip: 6 Safe Ways to Use Humor

I recently led a group of employees to read the book Talk Like TED. It’s a summary of the nine best practices of the top TED Talk presenters. I’d highly recommend the book to anyone who speaks in front of groups. It will help you in the workplace, and it will help you as you lead your Bible study group.

One of the common characteristics of the best presenters is their use of humor (chapter #6). But they aren’t acting like stand-up comics. In fact, just the opposite. They’ve learned that telling jokes often backfires.

So if laughter is good, how is a presenter supposed to create a bond between himself and his audience without taking the chance that a joke falls short? There’s nothing worse than telling a joke you think is funny, only to hear the “cricket-cricket” when you pause after telling the punchline.

It’s important that you use some humor, because people warm up to you and your ideas faster than without it. The human brain loves laughter and humor. How can you make your presentations more engaging without being too “canned”?

Here are 6 ways to include humor in your Bible studies without taking a big risk personally:

  1. Show a cartoon
  2. Tell a short story
  3. Read a quote (Mark Twain is great to quote!)
  4. Display a photo
  5. Show a short video clip
  6. Make an observation

Remember, if something makes you laugh, it will probably make others laugh, too.

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Become a Master of Multi-sensory Experiences

Tuesday’s teaching tip is sensational – literally. It’s about using the senses to unlock a group member’s mind in order to serve that person and communicate biblical truth. “Each sense organ is a gateway to the mind of the pupil. The mind attends to that which makes a powerful appeal to the senses” (The Seven Laws of Teaching, pp.32-34). Our five senses are a gateway to our minds. If you want to get truth into a person’s mind, you must do it using one or more of the five senses.

In the book Talk Like Ted, nine “secrets” of effective communicators are discussed. One of them is the skill of using multi-sensory experiences to communicate more effectively. It’s a skill that all good communicators possess. If you’re going to be an effective Bible teacher, it’s one you’re going to have to master this well.

“The brain does not pay attention to boring things. It’s nearly impossible to be bored if you are exposed to mesmerizing images, captivating videos, intriguing props, beautiful words, and more than one voice bringing the story to life…the brain craves multi-sensory experiences. Your audience might not be able to explain why they love your presentation; it will be your little secret.” (Talk Like Ted, pp.204-205).

As you craft your Bible study, think about ways you can use people’s senses to communicate biblical truth. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What interesting objects can I use to illustrate a point?
  2. What smells might I introduce through the use of candles or other means?
  3. What visuals will I use?
  4. What sounds or music will I incorporate into the Bible study?
  5. Are there any foods or tastes that I can allow my group members to experience in order to help them understand a particular part of the study?

Do this regularly, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a master of multi-sensory experiences!

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Tuesday Teaching Tip: Don’t try to be Jerry Seinfeld

Today’s teaching tip is all about the use of humor in your “presentations.” I recommend the book Talk Like Ted to you – it contains the 9 secrets of the best Ted Talk presenters, and humor is one of the common characteristics of good public speakers.

Don’t take yourself (or your topic) too seriously. The brain loves humor. Give your audience something to smile about…Humor lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message. It also makes you more likable… (p.180)

But the use of humor comes with a warning! As the author says, “Don’t try to be Jerry Seinfeld.” Leave the stand-up routines to the professionals, but do infuse your presentations with some humor. Here are several safe ways to cause people to grin, smile, and laugh – which helps them warm up to you and your message:

  1. Display an image – let the picture make the people laugh
  2. Show a video clip – choose a funny moment from a movie or other source and let it create the humorous moment
  3. Share a quote – use someone else’s words to create the funny moment
  4. Tell a personal story – let the audience know you make mistakes and are human
  5. Make an observation or share an anecdote – point your audience to the obvious – or not so obvious – to create humorous moments

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“Stay In Your Lane” as a Communicator of God’s Word

I just completed reading the book Talk Like TED. It is a summary of the 9 communication practices of the persons who have delivered the best TED Talks in the history of that event. I highly recommend this book to anyone who speaks publicly. It’s full of practical insights, advice, and science. The ninth and final secret of great presenters is that they “stay in their lane.”

What does it mean for a communicator to stay in his lane? Since you and I lead groups to study the Bible each week, this is something we must do if we want our group members to buy in to our message. According to the author, Carmine Gallo, staying in your lane means you are “authentic, open, and transparent…most people can spot a phony. If you try to be something or someone you’re not, you’ll fail to gain the trust of your audience…Now I’d like you to set aside the techniques and the science and speak from the heart. That’s right, everything we’ve discussed will be meaningless if you are putting on an act” (p.240).

3 Ways to Stay in your Lane as a Bible Study Leader

Staying in your lane means being the authentic you. It means being real. It means that you make mistakes. It means you don’t always have every answer. It means you’re on a journey to spiritual maturity, just like your group members. To “stay in your lane,” do the following:

  1. Speak from your heart.
  2. Share stories and illustrations from your life.
  3. Bare your soul (within reason) so the people see “the real you.”

If you do these three things, you’ll be well on your way to staying in your lane. If you’re ever tempted to exaggerate, don’t. If you think embellishing a story will make you look bigger in the eyes of your group members, reconsider. If you believe playing the part of “the sage on the stage” somehow makes you more admirable, it doesn’t. Just be you. The real you.

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Tuesday teaching tip: Become a Masterful Storyteller

Today’s teaching tip is from the book Talk Like Ted. I’m taking a group of leaders through this informative book that is based on the top TED Talks. There are 9 characteristics of people who are excellent at public speaking (that’s what you do as you teach your Bible study group). The first tip in the book is “master the art of storytelling.”

Tell stories to reach people’s hearts and minds. Bryan Stevenson, the speaker who earned the longest standing ovation in TED history, spent 65 percent of his presentation telling stories. Brain scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view…You have to get folks to trust you…storytelling is the ultimate tool of persuasion…part of the solution to winning people over to your argument is to tell more stories…stories are just data with a soul (pp.44-51).

The author goes on to point out the three kinds of stories that catch people’s attention and their hearts:

  1. Personal stories – Take the audience on a journey. Make it rich and descriptive.
  2. Stories about other people – Help people connect with your point by sharing stories of people with whom they can empathize. Help them put themselves in the shoes of others.
  3. Stories about brand success – The author says, “When I give a keynote presentation I tell stories, stories about other individuals whom I know personally, have interviewed, or have read about, and stories of  brands that have successfully leveraged the business strategy I’m talking about” (p.59).

So what kinds of stories might you tell this week in your Bible study group? Will they be personal? Or will they be focused on someone else? Or will they be the stories you allow your group members to tell about themselves?