Use Humor In Your Next Presentation

by Stephen Boyd | April 30, 2006

You don't have to be a comedian to use humor in a speech.If you want to add a new dimension to your next presentation, consider the use of humor. Here are some methods to begin putting humor in your speaking.

A good place to begin is to think of an embarrassing moment that happened to you. Usually there is an element of surprise, incongruity, or a contradiction which can be funny since humor often contains these elements.

A recent embarrassing moment may hurt too much for you to see much humor, but think of one that occurred several years ago. By now you might be able to see the humorous aspects. Remember the old adage: 'Humor is simply tragedy separated by time and space.'

Another value of using the embarrassing moment is that you are poking fun at yourself, not a member of the audience. Don't risk picking on someone in the audience, even if everyone laughs. You never know when some statement can hurt someone's feelings or seem inappropriate to an audience. Another way to use humor is to try a one liner. Certainly give credit to the person who said it, but having another source for the humor takes the pressure off of you and you can get experience before going on to more risky aspects of humor. For example, in talking about the importance of paying attention, I sometimes use the line by Yogi Berra, 'You can observe a lot just by watching.' The same thing can be true of referencing a punch line in a sitcom you have watched.

This gives you a chance to practice setting up humor, but again, since the humor did not come from you, you feel little pressure for people to laugh.

Make sure that whatever your choice of humor is, you must be able to connect it to the point you are making. Keep your humor short. If what you do does not go over well, it is a lot easier on you and your audience if the humor is short and not a three-minute flop. Don't preview your humor by saying, 'This is a funny line.' That puts too much pressure on you for it to be funny. Without a preview, if no one laughs, it was meant to be serious!

Go for it! Use humor in your next speech. Audiences enjoy having fun. There is a good chance they will go home remembering your points better and feeling good about you and your presentation.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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