How To Work Stand Up Comedy Into Your Next Speech

If done right, you can incorporate stand-up comedy techniques into your next speech
If done right, you can incorporate stand-up comedy techniques into your next speech Image Credit: Henrik Ismarker

If there is one thing that we would all like to make happen, it’s getting our audience to go along with us. Whatever that really means. I think that we can agree that stand-up comedians know how to do this. If you’ve ever seen a comedian having a good night, you know that the words just seem to flow from their mouth and each time that they say something their audience laughs more and more. There is a real connection there. We’d like to have that same connection so that we can share the importance of public speaking. Perhaps working some stand-up comedy techniques into our next speech would allow us to connect with our audience better.

The Goal Is To Make Your Audience Laugh

So, how do you go about adding really good humor to a speech? Before you write one joke for your next speech, you need to make sure that you have a message that makes sense. The reason that you have to do this is because a confused audience simply doesn’t laugh. Once your speech is coherent, then you can do a “comedy pass”. What speakers need to realize is that making a great message funny isn’t as hard as it sounds. The good news for all of us is that using a few basic comedy formulas, you can add clean, observational punch lines to your speeches. You’ll want to keep it clean because you want to get paid, and observational because you want to convey confidence and spontaneity to your audience.

When speakers hear that this is what they need to do in order to add comedy to their speech, they quickly start to push back. “Spontaneous observational humor?! But I’m not a stand-up comic!” Hang on for a moment: it turns out that getting laughs as a speaker is a lot easier than doing stand-up. What you need to realize is that speakers aren’t expected to get laughs every 10 seconds, so when you do deliver a funny line, it’s a happy surprise for your audience. Plus, if you are able to use real-time observations in your speech, then you can win an audience over. They appreciate being in on your joke. They appreciate your awareness of their current surroundings. Where will this humor come from? Simple – if you know how to look for it, there’s “funny” happening all around you. There’s funny in the lobby of the building that you are in. There’s funny in the bathroom that you just got done using. Hey, take a look at yourself! Now that’s funny. So be brave and add these comedy formulas to your next speech.

How To Use The First 10 Seconds Of Your Next Speech

One of the most important lessons that speaker needs to learn is that you don’t have to wait to start to get your audience to laugh with you. From the moment that you are introduced, you can go for your first observational laugh by thanking the emcee and pointing out an obvious (and positive) feature about him or her. You can pretty much ask the audience to applaud anything no matter how silly it is – and they will. Audiences like to be in on the joke, so mentioning something obvious and inclusive accomplishes that goal. When the audience knows you just made something up, they are willing to give you a lot of leeway. You don’t always plan the first thing you’ll say. Instead, allow for spontaneity as a result of what you observe before you step on stage. Yes, it might scare you, but don’t worry – your audience will love you. Let’s face it, that’s a great way to start off your keynote.

In all honesty, spontaneity is a skill of an experienced speaker. Your ability to risk being spontaneous in the first minute will grow with the more stage time that you have. Eventually you will need to take this courageous step and learn to trust your instincts. Don’t forget that you’re the outsider. Always be respectful of where your clients live, how they talk and how they may be different from you. One of the most important rules of comedy is that you need to be the butt of your own jokes – not your audience.

Always Remember That The Speaker Is The Joke

If you are searching for material that you can use to make your audience laugh, I’ve got some good news for you. What you need to do is to make fun of what the audience is looking at – you! When a speaker steps onstage, they face an inherent hostility toward “know-it-alls.” The best way to curb this judgment is to engage in some light-hearted self-mockery right off the bat. Having the guts to get a laugh at your own expense not only creates laughter, it can create likeability.

Always Include A Mash-Up

When giving a speech, comedy is gold. That’s why it is so hard to listen to speeches that don’t have any gold in them. It can be hard to listen to speakers who drone on and on with lists of information that don’t include a laugh. They have lost an opportunity to get a laugh! You do want to introduce yourself, you just don’t want to bore your audience as you do it. This is where the technique called the “The Mash-Up” comes into play. As an example, let’s say you want to tell the audience you’re a doctor and a stand-up comic. You can do this by adding the words “so that means I …” and then add the mash-up of the stereotype. For example, “I’m a dentist and I like sharks, so that means … no mouth can scare me.”

Don’t Forget The List of Three

Just about every speaker knows that three is a magic number when giving speeches. It turns out that it’s also magic in the world of stand-up comedy. When you are using the “List of Three” formula, a speaker can set up a pattern with two serious ideas, and then adds a twist on the third. If you want to make this formula to work, it’s an absolute necessity that your first two statements be real and serious. Your goal is to lead the audience down a path of sincerity and then surprise them at the end with a joke! What you never want to have happen is for them to see the funny coming. Keep in mind that the surprise is what makes people laugh.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers we are always looking for ways that we can do a better job of connecting with our audience so that we can share the benefits of public speaking. It turns out that stand-up comedians are also trying to do the same thing. If we take the time to study how stand-up comedians go about doing their job, we just might learn a thing or two. With a little bit of effort, we can incorporate stand-up comedy skills into our next speech.

When we are creating a speech in which we want our audience to laugh, we have to first make sure that the message that we are delivering is clear – a confused audience never laughs. The best kind of humor for a speaker to work into their speech is real-time observations. This will make the speech appear to be fresh to your audience. Speakers need to realize that they can be working to get their audience to laugh from the start of their speech. Your best source of humor is often to get your audience to laugh at you. Feel free to include a mash-up in your next speech. Don’t forget that both speakers and comedians like to make use of the rule of three.

Any time that our audience laughs with us, we know that we’ve been able to connect with them. Stand-up comedians have to do this during their entire act. Speakers don’t have to get that many laughs, but if we can make our audience laugh then we know that we’re doing a good job. Take some tips from stand-up comedians and work some more humor into your next speech.

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

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to put too much humor into a speech?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!
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

All speakers would like their next speech to contain more humor. We realize that it is humor that allows us to connect with our audience. If we can find ways to work more humor into our speech, then we will be able to do a better job of sharing our speech and the importance of public speaking with our audience. However, humor is a tricky beast. If we are not careful, we can work material into our speech that will either turn off or turn away an audience. What are the rules for adding more humor to your next speech?