Story ideas for public speakers

Organic Humor: 5 Ways to Add Humor to Your Next Presentation

I am constantly asked by participants in my workshops and seminars, “I’m not very funny. How can I add humor to my speech?” They understand the concept that humor helps audiences remember their message.

The old adage of starting a speech with a joke is a bad one. Unless you are Jerry Seinfeld, don’t crack jokes or you jeopardize cracking your speech.  Leave the jokes to the professionals. The best way to make your audience laugh is to be organic. That’s right, natural humor is something everyone can do.

I define organic humor as your very own personal stories and anecdotes that are humorous, strategies that the pros use to get giggles, and self-deprecating humor. Let’s look at my tips to help you make your audience laugh.

1 – Use personal stories that you find funny.
If you and your friends think these stories are funny, undoubtedly so will your audience. I’ve detailed the art of storytelling in other articles. Keep a story file and keep those humorous stories handy.

2 – Keep it clean.
This should be a no-brainer, but not always is. Don’t be crude, use bad language, or explicit situations in your stories in a business situation. The quickest way to lose an audience is to offend them with poor taste.

3 – Use self-deprecating humor.
Don’t make fun of others because you may offend someone. That being said, feel free to make fun of yourself. Your audience will see that you don’t take yourself too seriously and will laugh with you. It’s a great way to endear yourself to your audience.

4 – Be unexpected.
Throwing your audience off track with something unexpected always works.  For instance, you may use a series of three with the final one being out of the blue. Example from one of my speeches – “I learned that in order to be a good driving instructor for your child, you need patience, perseverance, and (pause slightly) valium.” Valium wasn’t expected and led to laughter. Have fun in creating these scenarios. The more off-beat, the funnier.

5 – Don’t step on your laugh.
You say something that you expect to be funny, and before you give the audience a chance to enjoy and laugh, you start talking again.  This is “stepping on your laugh.” Don’t do it. Sometimes it takes a second or so for the humor to kick in. Always pause for a two-count after you expect a laugh to make sure they get it. AND, wait for the audience to finish laughing before you re-start. Why? Because if you cut them off while laughing, you are discouraging them from doing it in the future. You want them to laugh. If you do a good job to get them to laugh, let them.

Follow these five strategies and you will find your audiences on the edge of their seats waiting for that next laugh.

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(c) 2009 Dan Weedin – All Rights Reserved. ~ Dan is a co-author for the fabulous new book, Go Ahead and Laugh: A Serious Guide to Speaking with Humor.

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