Humor Is Something That Can Be Learned

The best way to be funny is by not trying
The best way to be funny is by not trying

Image Credit: Roland Harvey

Just about everyone who has ever given a speech knows that humor is a very powerful tool. If you can get your audience to laugh with you, then you will have used the importance of public speaking and grabbed their attention and they will pay attention to what you have to say. Some people seem to be naturally funny and are able to work humor into every one of their speeches. For the rest of us, humor is something that we have to work at. The good news here is that you don’t need to be born funny to use humor in a speech. You can learn to be funny.

Keep It Clean

We live in a modern time in which you can turn the television on and see all sorts of humor being presented. Depending on what shows you watch, when you are trying to come up with humor that you can add to a speech, you may be tempted to cross the line. What line am I talking about you ask? The line into off-color humor. Yes, there are comedians who are very skilled at using off-color humor in order to get a laugh. Bad new for you – you are not one of these people.

When you are creating your speech, you are going to want to make the decision to keep it clean. Yes, it can be tempting to add just a little bit of off-color humor to your speech, but don’t do it. It turns out that creating clean humor material is actually harder to do. The good news for you is that clean humor will go over better with your audience. More talent and skill will be required on your part to create clean humor for a speech. You need to view off-color humor as simply being a cop-out.

When you are creating a speech there is no reason for you to include any jokes that contain four-letter words or refer to body functions. If you use off-color humor, you are going to be putting your reputation as a speaker at risk. Every time that you give a speech your goal has to be to do a good job so that your audience would tell their friends about what they heard and would want to hear you speak again. The rule when it comes to adding humor to a speech is very simple: when in doubt, leave it out!

Use The Pause

For those of us who have to work to add humor to our speech, we may not really understand what goes into getting an audience to laugh. Yes, you need to say something funny. However, what a lot of us then forget is that we need to be careful to not rush our delivery of the funny stuff. What we need to do is to get to the punchline of what we want to tell our audience, and then do the most important thing of all: pause. Your goal here is going to be to wait for the laugh. The good new is that it will generally come.

By pausing, what you are really doing is providing your audience with a chance to “get” your joke. The pause is actually your gentle “push” to get your audience to laugh. What all of this means is that you need to take care that you are not in a hurry to move on to the next funny thing that you have to say. What the professionals call this is being careful to “not step on the laughter”. One way to think about this is that if you try to start to speak too soon after telling a punch line, you are in effect telling your audience “don’t laugh!”

The right way to go about allowing your audience to laugh at what you have told them is to remain quiet while they laugh. What you are going to want to do is to allow your audience’s laughter come to a peak, and then as the laughter starts to fade away you are going to want to start to continue to speak. Note that you don’t want to wait until all of the laughter has stopped – that kind of pause is too long. As you can imagine, this is a bit tricky to do correctly and so it will take experience to get it all correct. There will be times that something that you intended to be funny does not come across as being funny. When this happens, don’t spend any time apologizing or trying to explain what you meant. Instead, pretend that you meant for the statement to be serious and then continue on with your speech.

What All Of This Means For You

We want every speech that we give to thrill and delight our audience. One of the most powerful and effective tools that we have at our disposal to make this happen is humor. However, although humor seems to come easily to some people, the rest of us have to work at it. The good news is that it turns out that being funny is a skill and just like every other skill it is something that can be learned so that we can share the benefits of public speaking.

One of the first things that we need to learn about how to be funny is if we’d like to work some off-color humor into our next speech. The answer to this question is quite simple: don’t do it. Adding clean humor to speech is actually harder to do; however, it will go over with your audience better. If you did use any off-color humor in your speech, you would be putting your reputation as a speaker at risk. When we use humor in a speech we need to take the time to deliver our punchline and then do the most important thing: pause. When we say something funny, we need to give our audience a chance to laugh at it before we continue with our speech. The right way to deal with laughter is for you to remain quiet while your audience laughs and then start to speak again after their laughter has peaked.

If we can find ways to add more humor to our speeches, we will have boosted our chances of delivering a speech that our audience will be able to remember. The good news is that even those of us who are not considered to be funny people can add humor to a speech. If we keep our humor clean and make sure that we provide our audience with a chance to laugh at what we have told them, then our next speech just may have our audience rolling in the aisles!

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

Question For You: Do you think that it would be possible to add too much humor to a 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

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.

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