It all started with a serious tone.
American author Rob Reid stood on the TED stage, talking about an analysis of “copyright math.”
Minutes later, the audience began giggling, some even laughing.
Why did that happen?
They realized that behind Reid’s serious facade, he was actually being sarcastic, questioning the absurdity of copyright laws that considered every illegally downloaded song as equivalent to stealing USD 150,000.
Just like Reid, how can you (as a speaker) naturally inject the right amount of humor or sarcasm in your speeches or presentations?
Although there is no exact formula to achieve the right amount of humor in your presentations, there are a few tips you can apply to help you deliver your jokes or funny stories as ideally and naturally as possible.
In the book titled, “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking,” author Chris Anderson mentioned that humor is a fantastic tool for connecting with your audience.
Think about your personal experiences. When you laugh with someone, you both feel you’re on the same page―which creates some sort of social bonding.
Imagine having that bond with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people in an audience!
Here are some benefits of adding a bit of humor into your speeches or presentations:
1. It energizes you and your audience.
Humor is one tool to break through your audience’s resistance in focusing on your talk.
By providing them with moments to laugh in some parts of your presentation, you are subtly telling them:
“Join me in this journey, dear friends. It’s going to be a fun and memorable ride!”
When your audience positively reacts to your jokes or funny anecdotes, there’s a high chance that they also like you as a speaker. It’s a sign that you’re engaging with them.
Once they like you as a speaker, they’ll be more open to focus on what you have to say and take your message seriously.
2. It provides emotional relief.
It’s true that speeches and presentations are often serious business, with some information being challenging or even overwhelming for an audience to take in.
We’ve also talked about this in our “Speak on The Shoulders of Giants” article about the Power Wit.
By injecting well-placed humor or wit into your talk, you’re giving your audience an “icebreaker” and time to transition properly from one part of your presentation to another.
This is important because when your audience feels at ease, they’ll be more receptive to your ideas and messages.
3. It helps the audience remember your main points.
Did you know that a good laugh helps in memory recall?
In a 2014 study conducted at Loma Linda University in Southern California, researchers found out that laughing with friends or watching a comedy show for at least 20 minutes helps the body cope with daily stressors.
When the body is less stressed, the brain improves its cognitive and memory function. As a result, it’s easier to remember important details or messages.
Go ahead and give your audience a lighthearted feel to your speech or presentation! Not only will it benefit you as a speaker, but also your audience and their health.
Note: Successfully delivering funny stories and punchlines in one’s talk is a gift or skill that not all speakers naturally have.
If you have that gift, use it properly. However, if you’re not that type of speaker, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of your public speaking career. Also keep in mind that not all speeches or presentations need to have humor. It depends on the topic you’ll present and the occasion you’re speaking at.
Here are a few tips to help you practice tickling your audience’s funny bone:
- The humor should relate to your talk―not the other way around.
Don’t use humor just for the sake of having it in your presentation. In some way, it should relate to your topic.
Tell amusing anecdotes relevant to your subject matter.
If your topic is serious, it’s okay to not place humor into it. You don’t have to be funny all the time!
- Your personal stories can be a source of humor.
According to international speaker John Zimmer:
“Our personal stories are gold mines to be explored.”
Think back to those times when you made a mistake, forgot something, were embarrassed, etc.
What have you learned from those experiences?
Maybe those events also have some sense of humor in it that you can share with your audience.
Keep track of those things. Who knows? Today’s gaffe could be tomorrow’s big laugh.
- Make sure the joke or anecdote is actually funny.
Test it out on your family, friends, or even colleagues first before presenting on stage. If your joke makes them chuckle, that means you’re on the right track.
When not appropriate or relevant to your discussion, avoid making fun of these topics (and other similar heavy and debatable topics): Religion, ethnicity, gender identity, and politics.
Some of the people in your audience might regard these topics seriously and misinterpret your jokes.
One more thing. Don’t make any off-color remarks and use insulting language in front of your audience. Some of them might get offended and once they do, it will be hard for you to earn back their trust.
- Don’t “step” on the laughter.
Timing is an important part in incorporating humor into your speech or presentation.
One of the mistakes a speaker can commit is continuing to speak when the audience is still laughing or clapping at something he or she just said.
What happens then?
The audience will probably not hear the first few words of the speaker. Worse, the laughter the speaker worked hard to elicit could be cut short.
If there’s a funny moment when you’re expecting a reaction from your audience, give the punchline a chance to land and be absorbed. Pause for a bit and let your audience laugh.
For your future public speaking engagements, it’s worth trying to test the kind of styles that work for you and your presentation. Adding a bit of humor could be one of them.
Take note of the tips stated above to help you get your message across and maximize interaction with your audience through jokes and funny anecdotes.
However, if you’re not comfortable with using humor as a speaker, don’t fret! There are still plenty of other ways to connect and engage with your listeners.
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”
In a meeting with one person
…a boardroom with five people
…or a huge venue with hundreds of people
—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.
No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.
What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?
Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.
The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.
(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)
Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.
Have that advantage.
Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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