Whats the best ending to a good joke? Laughter. Whats a dream come true for a banquet speaker? An attentive and engaged audience.
Last night, I was blessed with both. I was the after-dinner speaker for the convention banquet for the American Council of the Blind, held in Columbus, Ohio. For weeks, I had been polishing and practicing, rewriting and reworking a speech about a group of women who hike together each year. The uniqueness of this group is that half of us are blind. The endearing quality of this group is that we know how to laugh, but more importantly, how to laugh at ourselves. My goal last night was not only to entertain, but also to inspire my audience to try new endeavors and to have fun while theyre at it.
To my delight, my audience was eager and willing to hear my stories and to laugh at all the right places. In fact, they did such a good job of laughing, I often had to wait for the laughter to calm down before I delivered the next line. I felt like a real comedian standing up there, and I was loving it. The more they laughed, the funnier I felt. Im sure that part of my success was due to surprising them with humor. Who knew that a former executive director of a state affiliate would ever talk about 12 post menopausal women harmonizing to Girl Scout songs or hiking to the nearest liquor store to replenish our supply of wine and cheese.
What really set me up for success though was that most of the people in my audience were blind. Blind people naturally communicate with each other verbally. A smile or a nod means nothing unless it is accompanied by something I can hear. When I speak to a sighted audience, there may be reactions of smiles and expressions of interest, but if I can hear it, I might think Ive bombed. This audience, however, let me know, each and every time, when something I said peaked their interest or tickled their funny-bone. The feedback was fantastic. Fortunately, they liked what I said, so everybody was happy. The best part was that they knew it and I knew it, because they laughed out loud. What a compliment. When I got home and played back the tape I had made of myself, I basked in the sound of laughter at my humorous speech. Laughter feels good, especially when youre the one telling the jokes.