Humour in Speeches and Conversations

For public speaking at work, meetings, social occasions and within the community

Do you dislike laughing? No. We all love to laugh. Humour is a choice and a skill. You can make other people laugh.

Has an immediate question arisen?

Are you asking yourself, ‘How can I be funny? I am not a comedian. I’m not a naturally funny person. Can an introvert be funny?’

You may be thinking that you’re not a natural creator of laughter, however, anyone can learn how to be funny. Learn how to add humour to your speeches and conversations, and follow the tips.

Why is humour valuable?

Public speaking can incite fear in many speakers. Knowing you can make other people laugh, smile and receive enjoyment helps reduce anxiety.

Humour relaxes your audience, makes them feel comfortable with you as a speaker and connects you with your listeners. It makes people more receptive of your ideas.

Humour can enhance a point, your idea or evidence so that it is memorable. Laughter has been shown to improve memory and cognitive function.

It energises your audience and keeps them engaged. Heart rates increase and your audience is stimulated and remains alert. You will feel more confident knowing you have variety in your speech which includes humour.

Humour can provide emotional relief for the audience if the speech or conversation is serious

Humour leaves the audience with a good impression of the speaker.

Maya Angelou, an American poet, said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

 Humour is a skill

It is a skill you can cultivate and develop. There are several ways to create humour. Here are five methods.

1. Developing personal anecdotes.

Personal experience is an excellent way to generate laughter. Remember an embarrassing moment, yours or another person’s encounter. Think back to when you made a mistake or forgot something and what you learned as a result. Recall a funny conversation.

Keep your personal stories and experiences electronically or in hard copy as your next gaffe may be your next big laugh.

2. Other sources for humour

Cartoons and captions which summarised a situation, internet articles or other people’s anecdotes may bring a chuckle and you can put your own perspective on it.

3. Super exaggerate

Exaggeration involves overstatements. Overstate the size, the proportions, facts or feelings so they sound absurd.

4. Self-deprecation

This is where you poke fun at yourself. It may be based on making a mistake, getting ‘egg on your face’ or you as a loser or victim. Sending yourself up will assists the audience to identify with you. It is the least risky method to offend others, and if it is not received as funny, it will only been seen as part of your presentation.

5. Ambiguity and innuendo

Using ambiguous words with more than one meaning or interpretation can cause the audience to think of one meaning while the speaker means another.

Innuendo refers to an allusive remark or hint which is suggestive of something else. Sexual innuendo is a risqué double entendre by playing on a sexual interpretation of an otherwise innocent uttering.

Honing your delivery

As with all public speaking, it is important to practise, practise. If it is possible, practise your presentation with a small group of people.

If your support group does not laugh or smile initially, consider the following:

a) Your aim is to paint a mental picture of your humorous situation. Review your wording to see if you can improve your word pictures. Is your story-telling too long?

b) Are you delivering your humour in a conversational manner and blending it seamlessly with your other content?

c) Persevere with your original content because the problem might be in the way you are delivering your humour. Practice will improve your delivery.

d) Work on your subtle intonations; pauses which allow just enough reflection before the punchline.

Don’t preview your humour by saying ‘Let me tell you a funny story.’ Don’t state, ‘This is very funny.’ Let the audience embrace your story and decide for themselves if it is humorous.

Smile, relax and feel confident as you launch into the humour.

If no-one laughs or smiles, then continue speaking as if you meant it to be serious. There is no pressure or feelings of ‘it didn’t go well’ with this attitude. Humour is only a tool in your kitbag to assist the audience to remember your content and to keep them alert.

Tips for using humour for speeches and presentations

Identify things that make you laugh. These may be TV shows, comedians, movies, books, certain blogs, puns, double entendres or use of innuendos. Pay attention to the situations in which you laugh, and ask yourself, ‘What is it about these things that make me laugh?’  If it makes you smile or chuckle, chances are it will make others laugh too.

  • Collect funny stories, situations, ideas and anecdotes and keep them in an electronic or hard copy folder.
  • Look for humour from the people with whom you interact.
  • Observe the dramas and idiosyncrasies in daily life, including children who often create humorous situations or make funny comments.
  • It is not about telling jokes. Unless you are a stand-up comedian, who practises their jokes over and over and over, then jokes are probably not for you.
  • Your humour must relate to your content. Don’t use humour for the sake of using humour.
  • Your humour must not offend. Consider your audience; their cultural background, gender, age, et cetera.
  • Don’t use sarcasm or put-downs. Too much humour will result in an overdose of it with your main points lost.
  • As with your speech or conversation content, your humour must be appropriate for the audience and the occasion.
  • Above all, make sure your chosen humour is funny to you. Sincerity and your belief in the humour will be relayed to your audience
  • Allow your audience to laugh. Don’t continue to speak when the audience is still laughing at something you said. If you receive a laugh, pause and let the laughter flow.
  • Remember if people don’t laugh, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t think it was funny. People are often shy when it comes to laughing, especially when the audience is small. Just smile and continue. You are not there to do comedy; you are there to give a talk.
  • Don’t expect everyone in the audience to enjoy your humour.

In conclusion, speaking humorously is, like most things, a skill that can be learned. Practise by telling humorous anecdotes to family, friends or colleagues.  Join Speaking Made Easy where you can practise giving humorous speeches and include humour in your conversations. Learn from others at Speaking Made Easy and watch examples of humorous speaking online or on the television.

Remember that when it comes to getting your message across, good humour is seriously effective. Be yourself. Own your own brand of humour. Use what makes you laugh.

To put these tips into practice, click here to find a Group near you

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