Using Humor in Public Speaking

There is no greater joy to me, than hearing someone laugh, and knowing I made it possible. As a public speaker I look forward to every opportunity I have to make people smile.

Far too often public speakers fail to connect with their audience and therefore they fail to deliver their message. Humor can be a great tool in helping to accomplish that purpose. However, there are some important points to remember when attempting to use humor in public speaking. The following points will help you on your journey to become an effective public speaker. You may not be able to apply them all, but I have no doubt that you will benefit from some of them!

1. Avoid the use of crude, profane, or intentionally offensive humor. Unless you are on late night television, or doing stand up comedy in a night club, most people do not appreciate inappropriate humor. Best to keep it clean.

2. Use humor that is appropriate to the message. Identify your topic and your audience and use humor that supports what you are trying to say. In other words, do not just use humor for the sake of using humor.

3. Use humor at strategic intervals. If you topic is not strictly humorous, then insert humor at strategic places in order to keep the mood light and to keep your audience’s attention. Nothing gets attention back any quicker than a well timed joke.

4. Avoid stale, overused humor. Stay away from knock,knock jokes, and “Why did the chicken cross the road” jokes. They have been told over and over, and you will no doubt come across as irritating or out of touch, but not funny.

5. Work hard to develop extemporaneous humor. Read good joke books and listen to humorous speakers. Learn to look for the humor in everyday life. Even if you have no public speaking engagement booked, it is good practice to get in the habit of looking for humor. Consequently, humorous things happen every day. It all depends on your point of view. When something serious happens, look for a way to turn it into humor. (Although doing so at the time may not be such a good idea!)

6. Don’t be discouraged if you lay a few eggs. As the saying goes, “If you want to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs!” Well the same is true of humor. “If you want to make people laugh you have to lay a few eggs!” Learning what is funny and when it is funny is part of your growth as a public speaker. Don’t give up!

Ultimately learning to use humor takes time. Some people are naturally funny. Others have to work at it. It is my belief that everyone can learn to use humor. If you can laugh, then you recognize humor. If you recognize humor, you can learn to provide humor to others. If something is funny to you, chances are it will be funny to someone else. Now go make someone laugh today!

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