What’s So Funny?

Injecting humour in your speech is a great way to wake up the audience to the sound of your voice!

We’ve all been there at one time or another, suffering through a droning presentation, daydreaming about some fantasy island, basking in the sun …. but I digress! I know of people who’ve even snored through presentations and who can blame them!

Humour can be valuable tool in public speaking.  Adding a dash of humour here and there can spice up your presentation.

Appropriate humour relaxes an audience and makes them feel more comfortable with you as the speaker; humour can bring attention to the point you are making; and humour will help the audience better remember your point. It can break down barriers so that your audience is more receptive to your ideas.

Incorporating humour into a presentation doesn’t mean you take your audience or the topic lightly – it just means you’re skilled in effective communications, and you know and respect your audience enough to want to give a memorable presentation.

Humour is an easy game to play – all you need is practice. The best and most comfortable place to start is to draw from your personal experience. Think back to an embarrassing moment in your life  – while it may not have been funny at the time, it’s likely that you would have grown from the experience and can laugh about it now.  Think about the punch line and use it in your speech.

If you’re still uncomfortable or unsure about using humour in your presentations, fret not – here are some tips to get you started.

  • The first step is to feel confident in yourself.  Self-confidence is key to contemplating yourself successfully at the stage. Confidence is vital to deliver the desired and natural humour so the public explodes in laughter.
  • Create your speech first, then think about the humour.  If you try and be funny first, before getting your message clarified, you can run aground. You’ll spend more time worrying about how to be humorous rather than focusing on your message.
  • Test your speech with a small group of people. Don’t get discouraged – sometimes it’s not about the humour, it’s the delivery.  Pace yourself, speak clearly and aim to deliver the punch line at the right time.  I’ve changed the timing of my punch lines on occasion.  I would study the audience before my presentation, and strike a conversation with an audience member while on stage – drawing him/her to a joke I’m sharing, at times with hilarious results.  This not only gets the attention of the audience but also engages them and it lightens the atmosphere.
  • When making a presentation, you generally make your point through the use of presentation tools like powerpoint – don’t be afraid to incorporate funny graphics, captions or cartoon clips.  Remember, the aim is not to be a standup comic.  Graphics and cartoon images make it easy for your audience to pay attention, relate and remember your point.
  • While everyone loves a good laugh humour can be risky because a poorly placed comment that you intended to be funny could backfire on you. One way to avoid this is to ask the hosts if there are any topics that are off limits.
  • Make sure the humour relates to the point you’re making. Don’t use humour that is simply there to make the audience laugh. The humour should tie in with some aspect of your speech. For e.g., I was once speaking at a seminar about physical activity – I talked about myself being accident-prone, always tripping on shoe laces and publicly pledged my undying gratitude to shoemakers who revolutionized the world with Velcro for sports shoes!  The audience laughed (presumably from visualizing my falling flat on my face!), but more importantly they remembered the point I was making about the importance physical activity in our daily lives. You have to tie in appropriate humour with your presentation – so that the audience goes home with your key takeaway messages.

It doesn’t matter which of the many available devices you use to inject humour as long as they’re in good taste, relevant to your presentation and your audience, and help to illustrate or convey a key point.

A good point to note is make sure the humour you use is funny to you. If it doesn’t get you laughing then you cannot expect the audience to do so.  You want them to laugh with you, not at you!

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