Don’t be afraid to use humor – it works
You’ve heard it before: “A funny thing happened to me on the way here tonight.” This is a timeless example of how executives use humor as an effective tool. Unfortunately, many people fail to benefit from the value of using humor as a communication tool. A funny anecdote can draw people to your message and can emphasize a critical objective. Further, humor puts an audience at ease and makes them more receptive.
Both political and business giants realize the influence and power of humor. Presidents and chief executive officers not only use humor, but many of them hire professional comedy writers to assist them with speeches and talks. Entertaining stories capture peoples’ attention and can turn a boring topic into an interesting one.
Comedy assures people that you are “one of them.” And what if you don’t have a funny bone in your body? The fact is that not everyone is naturally funny. However, if you have ever told a friend or colleague about an outrageous event, you can learn to use humor effectively. Here are some suggestions on how to make your speeches spring to life with humor:
- Don’t read your joke – Memorize your joke or funny story and tell it as though it really happened. You will sound less stiff and more natural. Take some time with it, just as you would the rest of the speech.
- Keep the story conversational – Tell it the way you would if you were talking to a friend. Humorous personal anecdotes are often much more effective than jokes. Try telling about an odd relative, your first day on the job, job interviews, or maybe even your first date. Don’t try to be a great comedian, just be yourself.
- Find the right material – If you feel the need for more than personal anecdotes, read a few jokes or comedy books. You can always find something that relates to you or your topic. Editorial cartoons are also a useful resource.
- Be consistent with your image – Don’t tell inappropriate or politically incorrect jokes. There is plenty of clean humor to go around. Save the risqué jokes for the comedy clubs. If you don’t, your joke may offend someone and backfire on you.
- Time your punch line – Make sure you tell the punch line at the end of the story, not at the beginning or somewhere in the middle. Practice telling it so it comes off smoothly and so the timing is right.
- Don’t laugh at yourself – Try not to start laughing before the audience has a chance to. While this may work for some comedians, it doesn’t come across too well at the company meeting. Give your listeners a chance to react.
- Keep humor in your back pocket – Create and memorize some ad-lib one-liners to help you get through dead moments in a speech.
Your speech or presentation does not have to reflect an entire comedic sketch. Always use humor in moderation. Typically, a business crowd does not expect humor so a little can go a long way. Use it effectively to provoke your listeners’ interest and emphasize key points. Select appropriate material, practice your delivery and leave them laughing.