How To Use Irony In Your Next Speech

Using irony can add opposites to your next speech…
Using irony can add opposites to your next speech…
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As speakers we are always looking for different ways to use our #1 tool: words. The English language is filled with literary devices that we can choose from in order to help us to communicate the importance of public speaking. It’s important that we take the time to think about our audience and then select the proper word tools that will allow us to make the greatest impact. For the right speech, for the right audience, sometimes the right technique to use is irony.

What Is Irony?

Irony is a literary device that speakers can use in order to better capture the interest of their audiences. However, before we can talk about how a speaker can go about doing this, perhaps we need to first take just a moment and make sure that everyone understands just exactly what irony is.

The best way to gain an understanding of what irony is can be to go to a dictionary and look it up. Over at Merriam-Webster, they define irony in the following way:

iro•ny noun \ˈī-rə-nē also ˈī(-ə)r-nē\:
the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny

: a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected

The most important thing that a speaker need to realize about irony is that this is not something that it will be easy to just drop into a speech. Rather, irony is more often than not a literary device that you’re going to have to plan on how you want to use it. This is a tool that takes some getting used to in order to use it properly.

How Can You Use Irony In A Speech?

As speakers we need to understand just exactly what kind of tool irony is. Irony is a subtle and if your audience is not paying careful attention to what you are talking about, just might end up going over their heads. What this means for you as a speaker is that you need to take the time to allow your audience to detect the fact that you are using irony in your speech.

When a speaker is using irony in a speech, what is most important is to make sure that the scenario that you are talking about does not unfold like your audience expects it to. It’s the disparity that allows you to add the irony to your speech.

Examples of this include what your audience thinks about a situation and how you view the reality of it being (having that gas station built in the neighborhood will be convenient and a magnet for criminals). Another example is what the intended outcome of an action is when compared to the actual outcome of the action (serving a fancy meal to a dinner guest only to find out that he prefers McDonald’s hamburgers). Finally, the classic case of where irony can be used is when what is said by the speaker is very different from what is meant by the speaker (thanking someone for not inviting you to an outdoor party so that you’ll have time to spend at home working on your taxes).

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Speakers need to understand who they will be talking to and use this information to build the best speech for that type of audience. One of the benefits of public speaking that we have available to us is irony.

Irony is when we use words that mean the opposite of what we are really trying to say. It may take just a bit for our audience to catch on to what we are talking about, but once they do, then they’ll be “in” on the joke. Irony can be a subtle tool that we use to draw attention to something without pointing it out.

As speakers all we really have to work with are our words. Irony is a powerful tool that we have available to add impact to our next speech. Carefully evaluate your audience and then, if it’s appropriate, add some irony to you next speech and watch the magic happen.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it might be possible to use too much irony in a single speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As public speakers who are constantly looking for new ways to connect with our audience, literary devices such as satire, irony, and sarcasm can seem like tempting tools to use. However, when it comes to sarcasm we need to tread very carefully – this is a public speaking tool that can come back to bit us if we don’t use it correctly!