What Does Humor Look Like In A Speech?

Speakers need to remember that jokes can take many different forms
Speakers need to remember that jokes can take many different forms
Image Credit: nvainio

Speakers understand that if they really want to connect with their audience, they need to find ways to make them laugh during their speech. By doing this, a connection between the speaker and the audience will be created and this will open your audience up to hearing what you are trying to tell them and they’ll start to understand the importance of public speaking. However, getting an audience to laugh is never an easy thing to do. It turns out that there are a number of different ways that we can go about adding humor to our next speech. We all have the ability to take the humor that happens in our everyday life and add it to a speech.


We’ve all heard about it, but just exactly what is an exaggeration? When you add an exaggeration to a speech, what you are doing is stretching your audience’s imagination. When you use this type of humor, you are going to want to use items such as numbers, size, facts, proportions, events, feelings, and experiences. You’ll want to overstate them and / or magnify them so much that they quickly become absurd. An example of using an exaggeration would be if you said “I caught a fish as big as my house.”


We are all familiar with the process of going to a dictionary to look up the definition of a word. Well, it turns out that the definition of a word can be used to add humor to a speech. A definition joke is one in which a word is defined humorously. What you need to realize as a speaker is that a definition joke is very similar to an exaggeration joke in that it also distorts an aspect of what is being talked about. An example of this would be “Mother: a person who does the work of many. For free.”


If you decide to use incongruity in a speech to add humor, then you are going to need to first find some ideas. Incongruity requires that you have two generally accepted ideas to start with. As a speaker, you then take these two ideas and associate them irrationally. An example of using an incongruity in a speech would be if you said “Sam Walton, the billionaire who founded the Walmart stores, drove a 1979 Ford pick-up truck his entire life.”

Play On Words

If you feel that you have a good understanding of the English language, then a play-on-words joke might be the way to go for you. This type of joke is based on the simple fact that many of the words that we use often have more than one meaning associated with them. An example of this would be “If you spent your day in a well, can you say your day was well-spent?”


In some cases, less really is more. If you want to add humor to your next speech you might consider using an understatement. When you do this, you deliberately represent something as being less than it really is. An example of this would be if you told your audience “When things were not going my way during the last Superbowl, I ended up punching my TV. I have a little bit of a temper.”


If you want to add an element of sophisticated humor to your next speech, you might consider using implication. When you do this, the jokes that you will be making will make a point, but won’t directly state it. You are going to be relying on your audience to make the necessary connection. An example of this would be “Between two evils, I always pick the one I’ve never tried before.”

What All Of This Means For You

Although speakers know the power of adding humor to a speech, we also understand that doing so can be very difficult to do correctly. In order to be successful in adding humor to a speech, we need to understand the different ways that it can be done. What this means is that we have to have a list of the different techniques that we can use when it comes time to add humor so that we can share the benefits of public speaking with our audience..

One of the simplest ways to add humor to a speech is by using exaggeration. When we do this, we use an extreme stretch of the truth to extend our audience’s imagination. We can also use a definition to define a word humorously. If we have two generally accepted ideas, then we can use incongruity to associate them irrationally. Using our knowledge of the English language would allow us to create a play on words joke that uses the fact that some words have more than one meaning. If you want to make your audience work to get your humor, you can use understatement and make a point without directly stating it.

A speech with humor is one that your audience is going to remember long after you are done delivering it. What this means for you is that taking the time to add humor to your next speech is time well spent. We need to keep in mind that humor comes in many different forms and this means that we can use whatever form we believe best fits our next speech. Use these suggestions to add humor to your next speech and then stand back and watch your audience laugh with you.

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

Question For You: How much humor do you think that you can add to a speech without taking away from your message?

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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

So why do you even bother? Why go to all of the effort to give a speech? I mean, if you agree to give a speech you are really signing yourself up to pick a topic, do the research needed, write the speech, practice the speech, and then finally go to the effort of actually delivering the speech. Man, that sure seems like a big commitment. Why do it? If you are like most of us the reason that you are willing to give a speech is because you understand the importance of public speaking and you see this as yet another opportunity for you to persuade an audience to see the world the way that you do. Great thought. Now just exactly how does one go about persuading an audience?