The surprising metric presenters should analyze

Have you ever wondered what leads to presentation success? There are of course many factors but one stands out: humor.

Humor wins – in itself this is nothing new. However, after having done a little analysis on this topic I was surprised by the extent of just how important humor is.

The key metric I recommend all advanced presenters to look at is ‘laughs per minute’, or LPMs. For instance, if a speaker gives a 10-minute presentation and has 3 laughter moments, s/he would have an LPM of 0.3 for that presentation.

Let me share with you an example of this metric: This summer I had the chance to be one of the keynote presenters at the International Toastmasters Convention in Orlando, Florida.

Every year, the 270 000+ strong Toastmasters organization also holds an annual competition on public speaking to determine the ‘World Champion of Public Speaking.’

I took the opportunity to watch some of the semi-finals and did an analysis of the LPMs of the contestants. I was surprised by the results and shared it with the audience during my own keynote presentation. Watch the 2-minute snippet of the presentation here to get an idea:

For background, the amount of laughs or even humor itself is even not a judging criterion per se. But the results are clear: the more laughs, the higher placed is the speaker. Looking beyond these semi-finals we find the same pattern everywhere: The TED talk with the most views? Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity and the education system. It has a very strong message and a staggering LPM of 2.5. The highest rated presentation of a business conference? Usually the one of the most entertaining and humorous speaker.

Just to be clear: humor in itself is not the goal of a presentation – in the end presenters want to share a message and are not comedians. And creating humor is of course far from being straightforward (more on this soon).

But if your speech has currently about 0.0002 LPMs you might want to put some additional effort into your preparation.

Here some target ranges for LPMs for your inspiration, based on my experience:

  • Top speeches at the world championship: 1.5 – 2.0 LPMs
  • Powerful TED talks: 0.5 – 2.0 LPMs
  • Keynote presentations by professional speakers: 0.5 – 1.5 LPMs
  • Great conference business presentations: 0.3 – 0.5 LPMs

It is definitely worth thinking about humor strategically. So pump up your LPMs!

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