Using humour effectively in speeches can be really hard. To be honest, using humour in any walk of life can be really hard. However, humour is also a key part of getting your audience to realise and buy into the importance of message you are trying to communicate. Your chances of connecting with your audience and getting your point across increases dramatically if you can work humour into your next speech. So if you’re not naturally a funny, quick witted person, what do you do?
5 Tips For Adding Humour To Your Speech
Although creating speeches that contain humour can be difficult, there simple steps that we can all take to enable us to add some humour into our speeches. We are not comedians. What this means is that unlike a professional comedian, we don’t have to be constantly telling jokes that get laughs from the audience. Instead, our task is much simpler, all we have to do is to include an occasional joke into our next speech that will get our audience to smile and will keep them paying attention to our message. In this weeks post, I’ll give you some advice as to how you can make this happen.
Much of the advice in this post was taken in part from Jan McInnis’ Finding The Funny Fast: How to Create Quick Humor to Connect with Clients, Coworkers and Crowds which I strongly recommend you read if you plan to include humour in your next speech.
1. Use The Element of Surprise
The last thing that you want to do when you’ve worked humour into your speech is to announce to your audience that you are going to be telling them something that will be funny. For those of us that regularly use humour, it is relatively well known that one of the most powerful strategies for using humour is the element of surprise. When your audience doesn’t see it coming, they’ll find what you are saying that much more funny.
2. Make It Relevant To Your Message
A rookie mistake when working humour into a speech comes when we create humorous stories or sayings that have nothing to do with the primary message of our speech. When you do this you run the risk of distracting from your message or reducing the importance of your message. And if the joke falls short of entertaining your audience, it will make the attempt at humour appear forced and less than genuine. Instead, make your humour directly related to topic and that way even the audience doesn’t get your joke or find it funny, it will just be accepted as a part of your speech.
3. Don’t Lie
Humour that is truthful and comes from your own life experience is the best kind of humour. Humour that comes across as genuine will receive the best response from your audience. If the joke comes across as being made up or just too far fetched to ever have actually happened, won’t be believable or received well by your audience.
If the audience doesn’t accept what you are saying, then you’ll fail to get a laugh or provide any entertainment to your audience. This does not mean that you can’t exaggerate your stories a little. There’s certainly nothing wrong with some light exaggeration, and if done well, this can really add to your joke.
I occasionally tell an awkward dating story as part of my more more personal and humorous presentations. The story goes that I take a lovely girl out to dinner one night. Things are going great and we get along really well. At the end of dinner, I offer to pay for the meal and invite her for a drink at a nearby bar. My date quite oddly suggests that we should dine and dash (run out without paying for the meal) and before I know it she’s loudly exclaiming that she’ll meet me in the bar and dashes past the wait staff and out the door. I awkwardly pay the meal and drive straight home while ignoring the text messages from her asking where I was. Needless to say, there was no second date.
I could have exaggerated the above story. It would be easy enough to claim that my lovely date had pushed the wait staff over and smashed a few glasses and bottles against the walls while dashing out of the restaurant. This might sound more exciting in theory but isn’t very believable and really doesn’t add much to the story. The point is, keep it believable and only use exaggeration to emphasise or enhance necessary points in your story.
4. Only Use Good Humour
There are many types of humour. Much of what may seem humorous during the speech writing phase will turn out to be less than funny when you are standing up in front of an audience. Things that can make your humour not-so-funny include telling jokes that are too long, poor taste stories, any political humour that may divide your audience, inside jokes and so on.
5. Practice, Practice and Practice Some More
Did I mention that adding humour to your speech can be challenging? One of the most important parts of adding humour to any speech is making sure that you deliver it correctly. Making good use of timing and using pauses are critical to making good use of humour. The only way that you’re going to get this correct is by taking the time to practice, practice and practice some more. The use of timing and pauses is a topic for another blog post so stay tuned for this.
Humour can be a fantastic way to really connect with your audience and to communicate your message. Keep in mind that humour can be very hard to use correctly so some careful consideration and planning needs to be undertaken to ensure your use of humour is not only appropriate for your audience but also in line with the message you wish to communicate. Finally, the above advice won’t be of any use unless you put it into action and PRACTICE.
The above advice was taking in part from Jan McInnis’ Finding The Funny Fast: How to Create Quick Humor to Connect with Clients, Coworkers and Crowds which I strongly recommend you read if you plan to include humour in your next speech.
If you’ve enjoyed this post you may also want to take a look at my favourite 3 books that will help you overcome your fear of public speaking and my recent post on how to introduce storytelling into your public speaking.