The Problem With Using Humor In A Speech

by drjim on August 23, 2011

Sometimes Speakers Can Hang Themselves With Humor

Sometimes Speakers Can Hang Themselves With Humor

You are a great speaker. It’s just that if you use humor incorrectly, that might screw everything up. We’ve all been told that humor is a powerful tool that can make a speech that much more enjoyable for our audiences. That makes us all want to use humor and to use it more. However, if you screw it up, you’ll have to stand around and watch your next speech go up in flames.

Why Humor Does Not Always Work Out For A Speaker

Why can’t we all be stand-up comedians? Actually, the reason that we can’t is because as speakers we have a different goal than a standup comedian does: they just want to entertain their audience, we want to communicate information and motivate our audience to take action.

The biggest problem that I see speakers having with humor is when they simply try too hard. This unfortunately becomes obvious all too early on in a speech. What we see happening is when a speaker tries to tell a joke or use humor that they’ve seen somebody else use and for some reason it just doesn’t work – it’s not funny and the audience doesn’t laugh.

The problem here is that the speaker is trying to use humor that was not created for them. Humor is very much like a custom piece of clothing. If clothes have not been designed for your body shape then you’ll look funny wearing them. The same thing goes for humor. If you try to use humor that wasn’t designed for either your delivery style or the type of speech that you are giving, then it’s just not going to work.

What To Do If You Are Not Naturally Funny

Which leads us to the heart of our discussion. What should you do if it turns out that you are not a naturally funny person? We all know that humor is a powerful tool for speakers to use and each of us would like to be able to make the most of this tool.

If it turns out that you are lacking whatever it is that makes some people funny then don’t despair! Instead, understand that you can still use humor in your speech – you are just going to have to be very careful how you go about doing it.

The simplest way for all of us to incorporate humor into our speeches no matter how funny we may (or may not) be is to tell stories. The best kind of stories to tell are stories about things that have happened to us. Ultimately your goal needs to be to get the audience to laugh at the situation that you found yourself in. It’s easy for an audience to relate to you and so it’s just a small step to getting them to laugh at your story.

What All Of This Means For You

As someone who is willing to get up there and give a speech, you know how powerful humor can be. However, that power comes with a steep price – blow it and your whole speech can fall apart.

Humor does not always work out for speakers who try to use it. There can be a lot of reasons for this includes a failed attempt to use a canned joke that was created for somebody else’s style of speaking. Speakers who are not naturally funny can solve this problem by telling stories about themselves in a way that makes the audience laugh at them.

Yes, humor is a powerful tool. However, as speakers we need to realize that humor is simply a tool that can make our next speech that much more powerful. Taking the time to craft humor that works with our speaking style and the type of speech that we’re giving is the key to delivering a speech that will not only make our audience laugh, but also will make them remember what we had to say.

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

Question For You: What’s the best way to find out if the humor that you want to use will work with your next 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 www.Toastmasters.org. 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 speakers we prepare and practice for all kinds of speaking situations: equipment failures, hecklers, unforeseen events, etc. We are all working all the time to become as good as Tony Robbins is. However, where I see more and more speakers screwing up is the one place where it should be easy for them to shine: accepting awards.

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