Using Pauses To Boost The Humor In Your Next Speech

Use pauses to make the humor in your speech work harder
Use pauses to make the humor in your speech work harder
Image Credit: Vincent Diamante

All speakers know that if we can work more humor into our next speech we will be able to make our audience laugh and they will have a better chance of remembering what we are telling them. I think that many of us have thoughts on what we can add to our next speech to make it more humorous. However, making our humor work for us can be a big challenge. What we all need to learn is how to make the humor in our speech work for us once we have added it.

Boosting The Humor In Your Next Speech

I think that we all understand that humor is one of the most effective tools for connecting with an audience. It can build bonds and it refreshes the mind. And although choosing the right words can make people laugh, humor is more than just the words that you use; its impact is heightened by how you say those words, what you do when you say them, and also how you use silence … the pause. It turns out that the pause adds punch to your punch line.

One of the reasons the pause can strengthen your laugh lines is that it builds tension in your audience. It’s easier for a speaker to use comic timing when you understand the relationship between tension and laughter. Let’s take a look at this link. Laughter is a natural stress reliever for your audience, because when we laugh, muscle tension simply melts away. It’s one of nature’s ways of relieving the stress. It’s a safety valve for all of us.

Using The Pause With Your Humor

So, how does the pause relate to the tension principle in presenting humorous material? If during your speech you are deliberately building tension, which will culminate in laughter, a pause will heighten the tension and make the laughter more intense. Of course, there will be times when tension is not built through words or a story line. Even then, the magical pause can strengthen your punch line. When you use it before the punch line, a pause sets up the anticipation of “here comes the funny stuff!” It turns out that anticipation is a form of tension too.

The pause plays another important role when you use it this way. The most important part of your joke is the punch line, and more specifically the punch word. The pause focuses your audience’s attention on this key element. The pause also lets your audience laugh. A confident speaker delivers the punch line and then pauses for the laughter because they know that it will follow. Novice speakers often deliver the line and then nervously race on if the laughter doesn’t immediately follow.

So during your next speech, dare to be quiet, allow your audience enough time to respond, and your humor will hit the mark. Additionally, use the pause to let your listeners enjoy their laughter to its fullest. Don’t make the mistake of interrupting the laughter while it’s building, and don’t wait until the laughter has completely finished to resume speaking. One way to make sure that you are not making any mistakes is to create an audio recording of your presentation. This will tell you if you’re discouraging laughter by resuming your speech too soon.

You can also magnify a funny line by using the pause to accentuate your physical delivery of your humor. For example, one thing that you could do would be to raise your eyebrows. Sometimes your pause can be used to do a “take,” or a physical reaction to the situation that you are talking about. Pauses add power to your punch line, give the audience time to recognize the humor and then react to it, and draw attention to your physical delivery. Use silence to strengthen your humor and lift laughter to new levels in your next speech.

What All Of This Means For You

The goal of any speech that we give is to find a way to connect with our audience. One of the most powerful ways to accomplish this goal is to find a way to make our audience laugh. It turns out that just adding humor to a speech is not enough, we also have to find a way to make the humor that we’ve added work. This can be a real challenge. However, the good news is that there is something very simple that we can do that will allow us to add more punch to the humor in our next speech.

When we are giving a speech, adding a pause before we deliver our punch line can significantly boost the impact of our humor. The pause can do this because it builds tension in our audience. Tension and humor are closely related. Laughter is how your audience gets rid of tension once it has been built up. Using a pause before the punch word in your punch line can put a focus on that word so that the audience is anticipating it. A pause can also be used in a speech to give your audience a chance to laugh at what you have told them. A pause can also be used to magnify the physical delivery of the speech.

We all want to find ways to make our next audience laugh with us during our next speech. We know that if we can do that, they will be enjoying themselves and our speech. By adding a few pauses to our next speech we can transform it and boost the impact of the humor that is in the speech. Take the time to find out where you can add pauses to your next speech in order to boost its humor and then stand back and watch your audience laugh.

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

Question For You: How long do you think that you should let your pauses during a humorous speech be?

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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

Let’s face it: adding humor to a speech is a hard thing to do. As speakers we can end up spending a lot of time trying to determine just exactly what will cause our next audience to laugh at the right parts of our speech. There are a lot of different things that we need to keep in mind. Creating effective humor that will work in a speech can be a real challenge. The good news is that this can be done. What you need to do is to follow the following ten-point checklist for adding humor to a speech. Get this right and you can be guaranteed that your next speech will cause your audience to laugh at all of the right spots.