Public speaking humour

How to use humour in your Speeches and Presentations.

public_speaking_humourIf you want to see humour used with surgical precision, look back to the 1984 US presidential campaign between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale.

In response to Mondale’s comments about his age and his capacity to endure the gruelling demands of the presidency Ronald Reagan said…

I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.

Did that make you smile? Did it make you think that this man is someone worth listening to? Did it make you stop thinking about the “age thing” and start listening to the debate?

Sure, Ronald Reagon knew how to deliver a line and his team of speech writers would have been working on it for weeks, but do you see how humour can make a point, answer an unspoken question, grab your attention and amuse you, all at the same time?

An example from the world of showbiz.
The singer Helen Reddy, who is a well known champion of women’s rights used the following line when she accepted her statuette at an awards ceremony…

I’d like to thank God.
I couldn’t have done it without her.

How clever is that? No lecturing, no preaching, no moralising just a couple of short sentences garnished with a slice of humour and the point is made.

The examples above are classics and I’m not saying that you or I could have come up with them. What I am saying is that humour is such a poweful tool for your speeches and presentations, you really can’t ignore it.
So lets jump in, see what a serious business humour is and hopefully… have some fun along the way.

Why use humour in your Speech or Presentation?

why use humour in your speech or presentation
So what’s the big deal? Why should you use humour in your speech? Why not just give the audience the facts and figures, give ’em your point of view and let them go home…. job done.
Because as a Public Speaker your job is to bring meaning to the facts, make the figures come to life, to add drama and emotion to the whole event and watch the audience leave… feeling better than when they arrived.
No pressure then!

Speakers are in show business, whether they admit it or not and because they like the sound of it, they admit it.
Melvin Helitzer

Here are a few of the benefits of using humour in your speeches and presentations

  1. Makes you more likeable – this one is a no brainer. We all like people who make us laugh and believe me, you really do want the audience with you not against you.
  2. Helps you connect with the audience – as the audience start to relax they start to see you as someone they know, a friend.
  3. Arouses interest and keeps attention – if the audience are having a good time they want more, so they are more inclined to forget about their worries and listen.
  4. Helps emphasise points and ideas – if you emphasise the main points of your speech with a little humour the audience will actually remember what you’ve said.
  5. Disarms hostility – you won’t always be speaking to an audience who are on your side, but if you’ve made them laugh they will be more sympathetic.
  6. Shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously – nobody likes listening to a stuffed shirt. A little self-effacing humour will let the audience know that you are just like them.
  7. Makes information more memorable – if you illustrate the main points of your speech with a little humour, the audience are more likely to remember those points.
  8. Lightens up heavy material – nobody wants to listen to a heavy message for twenty minutes but if you start with a little humour, hit the audience with your main message and then finish with something light hearted… they might last the distance.
  9. It answers the question everyone wants to ask – when Abraham Lincoln was accused of being two faced, he answered with the now famous…
    Friends, I ask you, if I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?
  10. Gives the audience some shuffle time – during the laughter the audience can shuffle around and get comfortable in their chairs.

Have I convinced you? I hope so because even a small amount of humour can turn a good speech into a great speech.

Where to use humour

Where to use humour in your speeches and presentations

You can use humour anywhere in your speech. You can use it at the beginning, you can use it at the end or you can sprinkle it throughout.
You can play with the audience’s emotions by grabbing their attention with humour and then hitting them with a heavy message – make them laugh, then make them cry.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Beginning of your speech

Use humour at the beginning of your speech to let the audience know that they are going to have a good time.
It will also help you relax by giving you what Peggy Noonan describes as “the quick victory of laughter“.

For an impromptu speech….
At the very start, let me say that we both have something in common.
You don’t know what I’m going to say… and neither do I.

Robert Orben – Speaker’s Handbook of Humour

A speaker gave a speech to 2,000 prison inmates. He began……..
Now, gentlemen, there’s one big difference between all of you and me…..
you got caught.

At the beginning of an acceptance speech….
I’m not one of those people who say I don’t really deserve this honour… because that would be duplication of effort.
I have a wife for that.

Robert Orben – Speaker’s Handbook of Humour

Middle of your speech

The middle of your speech is where you present your main points and material to back up those points.
Use humour to make those points expressive, graphic and unforgettable.

A speaker talking about eliminating those people who won’t subscribe to the team spirit said
We used to say on the farm that you can’t teach a pig to sing.
It wastes your time – and it irritates the hell out of the pig.

Gene Perret – How to Hold your Audience with Humour

For a talk about the supernatural
Would all of you who believe in telekinesis… please raise my hand.
Rosemarie Jarski – The Funniest Thing You Never Said

In a speech about regulatory reform the speaker used an analogy
Being a regulator these days is a lot like being the nearest fire hydrant to the dog pound. You know they’ll have to turn to you in an emergency, but it’s sure tough dealing with those daily indignities.
Malcolm Kushner – Public Speaking for Dummies

End of your speech

The end of your speech is what the audience remember most. It’s the bit they take home with them, so why not leave them laughing?

Ladies and gentlemen I leave you with a thought.
As you slide down the banister of life… may all the splinters be facing the right way.

Ladies and gentlemen you’ve no idea how it feels to come to the end of another brilliantly written and impeccably delivered speech.
Unfortunately… neither have I.

Ladies and gentlemen there are two types of speaker I can do without: those who never stop to think and those who never think to stop. I sincerely hope I haven’t been either.
Thank you and good night!

Once you’ve delivered your final line, wait for the standing ovation to die down and return to your seat – bravo!

How to use humour when things go wrong

No matter how much you practise and prepare, check the visual aids, talk to the event organisers, something will go wrong. The microphone won’t work, one of the waiters will drop a tray during your talk or your magic marker will lose its magic.
When something like that happens you can ignore it and the audience will wonder why you’ve ignored it, or you can use one of your prepared adlibs.
Don’t worry, you don’t even have to prepare your own adlibs. In her book “What to Say When You’re Dying on the PlatformLilly Walters gives you a humorous line to use in just about any situation.

  1. You are given a terrible introduction – “Sometimes I wish I was one of those men (women) who need no introduction.” Roger Langley
  2. You trip on the way to the lectern – “Like our LSD guru used to say: That was some trip.” Roger Langley
  3. Your funny line or story bombs – (Pull out a pen and pretend to jot down a note) “I like to keep track of the jokes that go over really big.” John Nisbet
  4. An audience member walks out during your speech – “Honest to God sir, I get better.” Gene Perret
  5. There’s a sudden crash from outside the room – “You can’t scare me… I have children”

Take a look at Lilly’s book or write your own and have them ready!

Types of humour

Types of humour for speeches and presentations

What do you think of when you think of humour? I’m guessing that you think of jokes. Most of us do and when speakers start using humour in their speeches, they add jokes.
They give a bit of their speech, then tell a joke, then another bit of their speech, then another joke… and that’s what the result sounds like… speech. joke, speech, joke….
Forget jokes, look for humour that adds to your speech, makes a point or illustrates something you’re saying.
Here are a few types of humour that fit the bill.

  1. Self – effacing humour – if you want to have a little fun at someone’s expense, make sure it’s at yours. As the speaker you should be big enough to take a little ribbing and the audience will admire you for it.
    I’m a Yorkshireman and Yorkshiremen have a reputation for being fiercly proud, loud and opinionated so this is an example I use occasionally.

    Never ask a man if he’s from Yorkshire.
    If he is… he’ll have told you already and if he’s not… why embarass him?

    Roy Hattersley

  2. Personal anecdotes – we’ve all had humorous experiences or heard people say funny things, so weave them into your speeches.

    My old boss used to say, there are only two things you need to know about life.
    Where there’s money there’s corruption and where there’s men and women… there’s hanky panky.

  3. Similes / metaphors – similies and metaphors are a great source of humour on any subject you can think of.

    Life is rather like a tin of sardines – we’re all of us looking for the key.
    Alan Bennett

  4. Quotations – there are huge volumes of quotations out there just waiting to be used to illustrate your points and add humour to your speeches.

    I’m a kind of paranoic in reverse – I suspect people are plotting to make me happy.
    J.D. Salinger

  5. Lists – whenever you use a list of at least three items you can inject a little humour. The first few items follow a pattern and the final item catches the audience by surprise.

    It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence never to practise either of them.
    Mark Twain

  6. Predictions – the pronouncements of experts have left us with a wealth of funny material.

    Computers in the future will weigh no more than 1.5 tons.
    Popular Mechanics, forecasting advance of science, 1949

  7. One liners – I know I’ve told you not to tell jokes, but one liners are short enough not to interupt the flow of your speech.

    Start every day with a smile… and get it over with.
    W.C. Fields

So forget the jokes and start looking for humour that you can weave into your speeches…. without the audience seeing the join.

Pitfalls of Public Speaking Humour

Pitfalls of public speaking humour

I know I’ve waxed lyrical about using humour in your speeches and presentations but don’t overdo it. Here are a few tips to help you use humour to its best advantage.

You are not a stand up comedian

Although I’m advocating the use of humour, I’m not trying to turn you into a stand up comedian. A stand up comedian is there to make the audience laugh. Your job as a Public Speaker is to get your message across and make sure that people remember that message. For you as a speaker, humour is a tool, a means to an end.

When the mouth is open for laughter, you may be able to shove in a little food for thought.
Dr Virginia Trooper

Humour is the salt on the salad, the icing on the cake, the black velvet cloth that shows off the diamonds the…. sorry I got carried away.

All speeches should contain at least one serious point

You may be thinking …. the purpose of my speech is to entertain, so why do I need a serious point?
Even if your primary purpose is to entertain, you still need a serious idea to hang the humour on.

Speeches that entertain, do more than entertain: They also create social cohesion by generating good feelings…….
Even when your main purpose is to be entertaining, you should still include at least one serious idea in your speech. Why? A speech that is all fluff can sometimes become tiresome and vacuous.

Laurie Rozakis Ph.D.

Your serious message provides a contrast to your humour and both humour and message are more powerful because of that contrast.

Never use offensive humour

The pendulum of acceptability is forever swinging and whilst stand up comedians are there to challenge and push the boundaries, you aren’t. Don’t be tempted to use the verbal exhibitionism demonstrated by modern comedians – never use offensive humour.

I’m beyond being shocked – but I’m not beyond being offended.
Robert Orben

If you are in two minds about including a piece of humour remember… “if in doubt, leave it out.”

Don’t stop the audience laughing

When you say something funny the audience will laugh, hopefully. Don’t say another word until the laughter has died down.
If you interupt the laughter the audience won’t be able to hear you, but more importantly, you will be training the audience not to laugh!
During the laughter just look round the audience, shake your head or you can even laugh yourself.

Use bombproof humour

One of the reasons speakers don’t use humour is that they are afraid of not getting a laugh.
This is Malcolm Kushner’s advice…

If you use humour to make a point, then you won’t bomb.
When you tell a joke that makes a point, people recognise that fact. So even if they don’t find the joke funny, they still realise that you’re making a point.

Malcolm Kushner – Public Speaking for Dummies

So make sure that your humour serves a purpose… and you won’t bomb!

Final words… honest!

If you think that the topic of your speech is so serious that you couldn’t possibly use humour, this is what William Zinsser has to say about humour….

One Catch-22 or Dr Strangelove is more powerful than all the books and movies that try to show war as it is. Joseph Heller and Stanley Kubrick heightened the truth about war just enough to catch its lunacy.
The joke is no joke.

William Zinsser – On Writing Well

So maybe that’s it… The joke is no joke.
Still think your topic is too serious to include humour?

Let me have your thoughts

Let me know what you think and let me have your favourite humourous openings, closings and the bits in between.

My thanks and gratitude to:
Sara of a sharing connection for mentioning the use of humour in one of her comments and prompting this post – thanks Sara.
Hannes Eichinger for Smiling lady photos on photoXpress
And the following authors whose books I have used as references and quoted throughout this article.
Malcolm Kushner – Public Speaking for Dummies
Lilly Walters – What to Say when You’re Dying on the Platform
Gene Perret – How to Hold your Audience with Humour
Robert Orben – Speaker’s Handbook of Humour
Melvin Helitzer – Comedy Writing Secrets
Tom Antion – Wake Em Up Business Presentations
Rosemarie Jarski – The Funniest Thing You Never Said

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  1. possibly the best article on using humour in speeches that I have ever read. There is a vast difference between being a “witty” person and being able to use humour successfully in speeches. The secret is, I think, to make it seem as though it is something you have just thought up and often using someone else’s material seems just that – not your own. Now where was I up to in that witty speech??

    • Hi Gwyneth
      Great contribution and many thanks for your kind words.
      Having heard you speak in the past… you don’t need my advice on using humour in your speeches.

    • Hello Keith,

      One of the most difficult areas of speaking for sure, especially I feel for women. Unless you have an accent, look a little quirky or have something unusual about you. Totally agree though that it is an invaluable tool for successful speaking. Give it a try – you only need to make sure you have your car running outside if it all goes pear shaped.

    • Nice one Debra
      Not only do I keep the engine running, I also pay a driver to have his foot on the accelerator. LOL
      BTW – many congratulations on your new role as the National Development Office for the Association of Speakers Clubs.
      Well deserved.

  2. I’m a big fan of personal anecdotes…so thanks much for the reminder to weave them into the speeches we do.
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..What Does It Start With? =-.

    • Hi Lance
      Good to hear from you again.
      Personal anecdotes are a fantastic source of humour…. and so easy to remember!
      Even better if your anecdote illustrates a point you are making in your speech.

  3. Hi Keith,

    This is a great post on an awesome topic. I’ve always naturally used humor in my presentations.

    While I don’t have one liners or jokes, it makes it so much more enjoyable to work in a bit of humor.

    I find it works very well with telling a story of some kind – always a winning combination.

    Mainly, it goes well with my “style” which is relaxed and casual.

    After reading your article, I’m feeling inspired to perhaps add other aspects of humor.

    Humor is simply one of the best things on the planet. It can help make the unpalatable more palatable and it is just plain FUN!

    Thanks for a great post!

    .-= Lauren´s last blog ..Love and Hugs From Esalen =-.

    • Hi Lauren
      “Relaxed and natural” sound to me like the perfect style.
      Go for it – try a few other types of humour.
      If they don’t work, try something else.
      Let me know how it goes.
      Thanks for visiting.

  4. Keith,

    Thank you for the mention and the link. I really enjoyed this post. While I loved your suggestions and all the wonderful, funny quotes, my favorite line of this post was:

    “Humour is the salt on the salad, the icing on the cake, the black velvet cloth that shows off the diamonds the…. sorry I got carried away.”

    This line made me laugh. I love it when a writer perfectly times a line to make a reader smile or laugh, just as much as I love it in public speaking:~)
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..One Cute Squirrel =-.

    • Hi Sara
      For the mention and the link, the pleasure is all mine.
      Glad you spotted “Humour is the salt on the salad, the icing on the cake, the black velvet cloth that shows off the diamonds the…. sorry I got carried away.”
      I love that line and it is exactly the sort of thing I would use in a speech.
      It’s the sort of line which allows you to “act it out” as you deliver it.
      Perfect material for any speech.
      Thanks Sara

  5. What an excellent article! I think a few of our politicians (and their speech writers) could learn a lot from this. They make jokes aimed at the ones unaligned with them to the ones aligned and make the chasm even larger.

    When I was being wheeled into the OR for brain surgery, my daughter said I was cracking jokes the whole time. It was an effective coping mechanism and on top of that, all the staff loved me. 😉

    .-= Sliloh´s last blog ..Migraine Preventives =-.

    • Hi Sliloh
      Good point about creating an even wider chasm – humour should never be used to do that.
      As you point out “all the staff loved me” – we all like people who make us laugh.
      Live long and comment often.

  6. What a great article, Keith. The examples you cited had me chuckling. I’ve found a properly placed personal anecdote is a great way to engage an audience. When I can be self effacing it breaks down the barrier and shows how human and vulnerable we all are. When the subject gets heavy, the audience can feel overwhelmed. A self effacing anecdote shows that is OK to make mistakes and Oops your way to success.

    I have never tried the ‘Lists’ method and think it is one I could incorporate. Thanks, Keith
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..What does a Panda car have to do with me? =-.

    • Hi Rob
      Fantastic contribution to the comments – self effacing humour always goes down well.
      The list method is something I picked up from producing static html sites. Good thing about lists is that they break up the content and provides a bit more whitespace.
      I actually like your “cartoon character” method. Not seen that on any any other blogs.
      BTW – love the title of your latest post “What does a Panda car have to do with me?”
      I really must give it a read.

  7. H Keith .. finally got here .. this is great and really informative. Public speaking is not my forte, but I guess I’ll get used to it when I start .. which is in the future plan. I can talk adequately & that at least is something .. I hope?!

    No – really pleased to read this – you’ve set it out so well .. and it’s a good reference point.

    I need time to read some of your other material .. but I’ll get there in the future ..

    Thanks – the new layout looks good too .. have a great sunny day! Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..The Silent Pianist Speaks … =-.

    • Hi Hilary
      Good to hear from you again and thanks for your comment.
      Glad you liked the post and the way it’s laid out.
      Can you believe this weather?
      Is this the start of another barbecue summer? LOL

  8. H Keith .. no no no – I’m afraid 12 deg lower tomorrow .. quelle horreur .. it’d be great if we had some regularity in our weather .. but I suppose it’s a talking point or blogging point!

    Enjoy the warm evening .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..The Silent Pianist Speaks … =-.

    • Bonjour Hilary
      Tu etais vrai concernant le temps.
      Barbecue summer gone already!

    • mon francais c’est a la Blue Bunny manigments .. tres pauvre .. et c’est nearly! pleut!! Nil de barbq ..

      Je parlais francaise et afrikaans – c’est a magnifique mix!

      Give up now .. have a good evening .. cheers Hilary
      .-= Hilary´s last blog ..The Silent Pianist Speaks … =-.

  9. Keith,

    Yes, what you said about the contrast is very interesting! And not just when it comes to humour and the message.

    And with laughter, a man does not need to push people, but allow them to follow naturally. They just fly with their own wings, but much higher.

    Do you remember a joke Reagan told about three dogs – an American dog, a Polish dog and a Russian dog? Haha, it was hilarious and he certainly made his point 🙂

    Thank you for the article 🙂

    Besos, Martyna

    • Hi Martyna
      Glad you liked the article.
      Humour will do a lot of the hard work for you and get people to go along with your message.
      I’ll Google the Ronald Reagan joke.
      Besos, Keith

  10. Hi Keith,
    Your best article yet! Well written, really thorough, covering lots of different aspects of humour and extremely inspirational! I agree with a previous contributor Sara – I really liked the line “Humour is the salt on the salad….etc”.
    I recently read an article by Bill Murray (Groundhog Day) who said “Laughter and the lighter moments of life always seem easy to deliver” (but he meant they aren’t) and “Comedy never gets the Oscar”. You have certainly made it a little easier for us all Keith.

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Carol
      Thanks for your kind words.
      As you say, humour looks easy when it’s done well.
      Watching the professional stand ups can lead us to think that anyone can be funny.
      Takes practice, lots and lots of practice.

  11. Hi Keith,
    Another great article! And as always, I really love the layout of the page.
    .-= Ryan Cowles´s last blog ..Hiking to Headstones – Granby and Simsbury, CT =-.

  12. Keith,
    What a well-thought-out and super comprehensive article on the use of humor. I am going to Stumble It so that many others find it. You have covered so many details, so many tips, so much useful information and technique and tactic that I can hardly add to this list. I think the self-deprecating aspect of the humor is the most important and safest choice. Great job. Thank you for all the effort you put into this!

    • Hi Farnoosh
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Hope you find the article useful and thanks for the Stumble.
      Self deprecating humour works every time. The audience love it.

  13. Hi Keith,

    I was tickled by your article! You provide many useful reasons to include humor in public speaking.

    My life on stage has been one of dancer or musician — different forms of communication, but introduce humor at the appropriate moments and your bound to connect with the audience in a dynamic way 🙂

    Thank you for the valuable tips!

    • Hi Kim
      Great to get a comment from a dancer and musician.
      As you say “different forms of communication” but all about entertainment.
      After a good speech the audience should feel entertained.
      Hope you’ll visit again.

    • Absolutely Keith! I enjoy the camaraderie of our online community. “See” you soon 🙂
      .-= Kim´s last blog ..Develop Your Creative Mind =-.

  14. Hi Keith,
    Brilliant suggestions!
    I love humor; I weave it into my life, I find it every where, so when speaking about subjects I am passionate about it naturally flows. A laugh in a speech is like a physical stretch, allows your mind to take a quick break/release tension, then be more focused on the subject. And humor can be an awe-some bridge between the speaker and the audience as well as between two points in the speech.

    • Hi Joy
      Great comment “allows your mind to take a quick break/release tension”
      Shakespeare used comedy in his plays to achieve just that – a break from the tension.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.
      Hope you’ll become a regular visitor.

  15. Hi Keith,

    great post and some of the jokes are really hilarious:)
    From my own observation and experience it made me feel more relaxed when I used humor when speaking publicly, especially when I noticed my audience smile or laugh :).

    .-= Justyna´s last blog ..Creative Problem Solving Steps not only for internet marketers =-.

    • Great to have you back Justyna
      Certainly relaxes you when the audience laugh “the quick victory of laughter“ as Peggy Noonan called it.
      Glad you liked the jokes.
      Lots of Greets

  16. Hi Keith,

    I agree. Humor can make a speech, especially if it’s on a “dry” subject a lot more interesting. Plus, like you mentioned, it helps to add that human element.

    Great post. I love how you included all of the funny little quips.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..Are Blogs Dying? =-.

    • Hi Barbar
      Always good to hear from you.
      The human element is so important, the speaker becomes our friend.
      Can’t resist adding quips… comes from reading too much Woody Allen!

  17. I have a big smile on my face, some of those quotes are brilliant!
    It also had me thinking about all the speakers I have seen – and the ones which really stand out definitley used humour. For me the main thing is does is give the likeability factor – I can’t be motivated or inspired by someone I don’t like!

    Many thanks,

    • Hi Kate
      Glad you liked the humour enough to smile.
      Once you can combine humour with a serious message, you have become a real Public Speaker.
      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I’ll pop over and check out your blog.

  18. Great article.

    Just coming up to the use of humour in my speakers club assignments. My sense of humour is often too oblique; so it is good to see some great quotes and where to put them in a speech.

    I will be reading it again!

    • Hi Richard
      Good to have a visitor from Solihull Speakers Club.
      Thanks for your kind words and good luck with your “Use of humour” speech.
      Break a leg.

  19. There is so much here that I just don’t what to say. 😉

    Humor does help to remove barriers bringing us all to the same level. It’s a great ice breaker. It helps to break the monotony of any particular speech once again gaining peoples attention.

    Oh, and just so people know God was actually a man 😉
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..WassupBlog’s Posts Are Copyright Protected With Digiprove =-.

  20. I always miss a big retweet button, why you always force me to use another method to share your fantastic piece of writing. I think you love to see me in work, isn’t it. May be you already catch me in sleeping.

    Anyway, a technical part: I’m not sure Homour is the correct spelling, it should be Humor, I think you should adjust your SEO article title.

    Now, come back to the topic. Yes, humor is something which force listener to sit on their chair and don’t leave until the speaker end. I personally love humor most and always believe this is an art and I have to find a way to show it in my online presence.
    .-= Arafat Hossain Piyada´s last blog ..Remove traces leaved by IObit programs after uninstall =-.

    • Hi Arafat
      Sorry for making you work – must get into this tweet thing.
      Humour and humor – UK and USA spellings I think.
      Good to see that you are already a humour convert.
      Appreciate your comment.

  21. This is a great article, Keith.

    You make some great points about how humour can make you more approachable and lighten things up. I use a lot of humour both in my coaching work and in my workshops. As you can imagine, some of the subject matter we get into can be experienced heavily. I think humour keeps people connected with the free child in them – the bit that holds creativity, loves to play, and is hugely resourceful. There’s a balance, of course, about when we need to stay serious, and when to be funny. But getting that balance is really important to me in my work.

    I’m about to start running new workshops, and so your post is a really timely reminder of remembering to build some humour into the equation.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Christine
      Guess that’s what it’s all about – remembering to involve the “free child” and not just the adult part of us.
      Hope your new workshops go well and that the equation produces a few smiles.
      Please visit again.

  22. Comprehensive list, Keith. When I teach, I use many of the same strategies. I puts people at ease when they laugh. I will have to remember this the next time I prepare a presentation and your whole site for that matter.

    Thanks for visiting my blog because I would never have found you otherwise and now I see Christine is here too! “Waving” Hi Christine! 🙂
    .-= Julie Walraven | Resume Services´s last blog ..Goals, Results… and Setbacks! =-.

    • Hi Julie
      Thanks for coming over and leaving a comment.
      You’re right, laughing does put people at their ease – makes them want to listen and learn.
      Hope you and Christine will both be regular visitors.

  23. Hi Keith,

    Looks like a cracking resource here that I’ll be sure to make the most of in preparation for my wedding speech later this year!

    (** RJB **)
    .-= ** RJB **´s last blog ..The Super Sneaky “How To Get Over 1.3 Million Safelist Credits In 3 Days” System =-.

    • Hi Rob
      Thanks for your kind words.
      Wedding speech is classic for combining humour with a sincere and serious message.
      Let us all know how it goes.
      Best of luck.

  24. Another great post Keith! The sheer number and variety of quotes and examples you gave there was incredible, really enjoyed the read!
    .-= Michael Martin´s last blog ..30 Pro jQuery Tips, Tricks and Strategies =-.

    • Hi Michael
      Thanks for your kind words.
      I’m starting to feel like a real blogger with comments from the guy from Pro Blog Design and PliablePress. LOL
      The WordPress themes you have over at PliablePress are stunning and the functionality you are adding makes me feel very jealous.
      Appreciate you visiting – many thanks.

  25. What a cool blog! I am supposedly really good at public speaking but it makes me twitch in about 45 places that shall not be named 🙂

    I’ve subscribed so as to never miss a post and so perhaps I can reduce the number of twitchy places.
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..6 Things That Get Easier About Blogging if You Just Keep Going =-.

    • Hi Jean
      Great to have you visit and thanks for a delightful comment.
      Don’t worry about all the unnamed places twitching. Most of us have a few of them.
      You may feel the twitches but my guess is that the audience don’t even notice them!
      Hope you’ll be a regular visitor.

  26. Another ‘cracker’ and not the jokes from one.

    Keep on smiling and speaking!

    • Hi Sue
      Missed you – what have you been up to?
      None of the above jokes are from Christmas crackers. I save all the best cracker jokes for my own speeches – but you knew that didn’t you? LOL

  27. Hi Keith,

    A very insightful post. I love to hear humor in speeches or anyone that is publicly speaking as it does lighten the mood and engages the audience too.

    I need to work on adding humor when I speak or write as well. It’s something that just doesn’t come natural to me. I’m often too critical of myself and don’t want to come off as my humor being rehearsed. I think it’s all in your personality too and some people are just naturally funny.

    I love the way your blog looks and fantastic job on your readership. Keep up the good work!

    .-= Anna Haller´s last blog ..Traffic To My Blog – Update =-.

    • Hi Anna
      Thanks for visiting and leaving a thoughtful comment.
      If you want to be funny… read funny material.
      Take a look at a few humour books in your local book shop.
      Could do worse than reading Woody Allen.
      Thanks for your compliments on blog and readership.
      You are doing really well over on your own site.
      Hope you keep in touch.

  28. Great examples. I try to use “my” type of humor. It lets the audience in on my personality and sense of humor. Rarely will I start a speech with humor however, instead I sprinkle it throughout and then end with something that makes them smile. I feel more comfortable that way.

    • Hi Ralph
      Good point to use humour that suits you – “your” humour.
      Now that you mention it, I rarely start a speech with humour. I wait until the audience have got to know me a bit.
      Hope you’ll visit again.
      BTW – love the stick man.

  29. How in the world have I come to this party so late??

    But I am dressed in my long blue chiffon for this fashionably en retard entrance, which may excuse my absence thus far?

    Funny is good. I think if we keep at it, we get better at it in speeches.

    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Three American Girl Dolls =-.

    • Hi Jannie
      You may say late to the party, I say we’ve saved the best until last.
      Of all the people who need adice on humour… you aint one of them.
      In closing…
      “Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum.”
      (A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.)
      BTW – Love your long blue chiffon number.

  30. Hi Keith – she sure doesn’t does she = full of funster fun .. & I love your Latin take .. fun ..

    enjoy the last of the summer wine .. as someone said – the weather people said ‘mini heat wave’ .. the letter write – wrote I thought this was the beginning of summer .. certainly hazier down here ..

    bye – enjoy .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Volcanic palette, translucent jet streams, passion-fruit paintings … =-.

    • Love it Hilary “full of Funster fun.”
      Let’s hope for a good summer this year – pretty hot at the moment.
      Had to have a couple of beers after I’d cut the lawn. LOL
      Won’t go abroad this year – euro / sterling exchange rate no good. Will book something down in the West Country.
      First thing tomorrow I must visit yours and Jannie’s site – see what you are up to.

  31. Hi Keith .. thunderstorms in the Channel last night & the flashes piercing the bedroom .. but no rain as yet. After the mowing I think a couple of beers allowed!

    It’ll be good to see you .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Volcanic palette, translucent jet streams, passion-fruit paintings … =-.

  32. I use humor in my presentations to try and capture an audiences attention (in most cases it’s worked). It also helps ease the tension and makes it much, much easier to establish rapport and make a connection.
    .-= Ricardo Bueno´s last blog ..Repetitive Awareness Marketing =-.

    • Hi Ricardo
      Agree totally, establishing rapport and making that connection is so important.
      Good to have you back.
      BTW – love the new website.

  33. Excellent article. As many have already said, humour is great for making a connection with the audience. The point about “shuffle time” is well made. You should do something every 2 – 3 minutes that causes the audience to animate.

    My favourite type of humour is jokes where you can leave the punch line to the audience.

    I am known to be an eternal optimist. Unfortunately it got me fired from my job as a security gaurd. Every time one door closed…

    James McGinty
    Association of Speakers Clubs Webmaster

    • Hi James
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
      Like the idea of giving the audience something that they can finish themselves – great way to get them involved.
      BTW – many congratulations on your appointment as the ASC Webmaster.
      I know you’ll do a great job.

  34. Great post on humour. There are some great lines in there. when it works it is very powerful.
    I have found keeping a note of any humorous events or things people say has helped me get some humour into a speech.

    • Hi Edward
      Always a good idea to make a note of anything that you find funny and may be able to use in the future.
      Love your Public Speaking site – will be over shortly to have a look round.
      Thanks for your comment.

  35. Keith,

    Well detailed article on humor. I think humor is much needed not only to break ice, or tension but also great for getting your point across smoothly.

    I sometime fall flat trying to add humor into my speech or conversation. If it happens naturally, it comes out better. I need to work on it and this article will be a great help. Thanks.
    .-= Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last blog ..101 changes: Change 5 – Smile when you wake up =-.

    • Hi Zengirl
      Good point – humour certainly helps you get your point across.
      Let me know how it goes with your use of humour after you’ve worked on it.
      Appreciate your comment.

    • Keith,

      I suck at humor actually. My jokes usually falls flat often time. So, this may take some time but slow work in progress!
      Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last great post ..Coming out of the shadowMy Profile

    • Hi Preeti
      Don’t give up.
      All it takes is time and practice.
      You could also try reading a few humorous books… I read a lot of humorous stuff.
      Let me know how it goes.

  36. Humour for me it a key point in any speech, it makes the speech more interesting and entertaining. If only i could do this, i would be on the speaking circuit.

    • Hi Neil
      I’d almost given up on you.
      can’t believe that you have trouble with humour – you always have that slightly wicked smile whenever I talk to you.
      If you are struggling… ask Gwyneth for a few tips. Never seen her stuck for a witty comment.

  37. This must have taken you quite some time to put together Keith, and majority of those quotes are exceptional. I’m afraid I didn’t like Helen Reddy’s one though, I just didn’t find any humor in it at all.

    I have to admit though, out of all the speeches I’ve had to sit through the ones I enjoyed the most were those that contained some form of humor in it.
    Sire´s last great post ..Are Your Goals For 2011 AchievableMy Profile

    • Hi Sire
      See that you are off and running for 2011 over on your blog – makes me feel so guilty. I’m still finishing the turkey sandwiches. LOL

      I put this post together in bits and pieces… hate to think what the total time would have been.

      Glad you liked some of the examples. Perhaps the Helen Reddy one is more witty than humorous.

      The classic speech format is “make em laugh, make em cry”
      If you can find a subject that has elements of humour and sadness, that is the perfect subject for a good speech.

      Always appreciate your comment.

      BTW – final Ashes test starts tonight….

  38. Doesn’t seem any point when you guys already have it in the bag. Still it would be good to have the final win, a possibility now that our captain is out.

    I reckon I must be getting a little old in the tooth Keith, I just noticed the date on this post and the fact that I had commented earlier, one where I missed out the most important word…Know. I honestly don’t remember reading it. Man that is scary.
    Sire´s last great post ..Why The List Hater Has His Very Own ListMy Profile

  39. hey hey Keith, how are you doing?
    looking again at your post about humor, and thinking…intelligent, sharp humor is the sign of a great mind!

    let’s try to guess the topic of your new post…is it going to be about the Purpose?

    best, Martyna
    Martyna Bizdra´s last great post ..Young Entrepreneurs- 2 MinutesMy Profile

    • Martyna – you’re back.
      Great to hear from you.

      The topic of my next post?
      I can’t say, it will only spoil the surprise.
      Hoping to finish it and publish today.

      A couple of questions to give you a clue…

      Do you like chocolate?
      Do you like Johnny Deppe?

      That should give you a clue!

  40. chocolate monster ? )*
    Martyna Bizdra´s last great post ..The Midas TouchMy Profile

    • No more clues Martyna.

      OK perhaps one more….
      If you Google Johnny Deppe and Chocolat (use that spelling of chocolat) you get?

      Absolutely no more clues.

      BTW – Your blog is going from strength to strength, well done.
      Check your comments, I’ve set you a challenge!

  41. I find humour is a great way to engage your audience and keep them listening! Nice article, took a while to read – but good 🙂

    Just thought you might like to know, I love the little quotes you interject into the post, I think its a really good way of ‘bringing the post to life’.
    Christopher Roberts@Philosophy Blog´s last great post ..Luck and superstitionsMy Profile

  42. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post over the last few weeks after I read it. Humor has always been such a mystery to me; aside from my family, I’ve never been able to make anyone laugh.

    So many things out there are hilarious, like the blog Hyperbole and a Half. Myself, I’ve told stories quite like this blog, but the humor dies in the delivery.

    Humor: I don’t get it!

    Delena Silverfox´s last great post ..GoDaddy Coupon CodeMy Profile

    • Hi Delena
      How late am I spotting your comment?
      My apologies.

      “The humour dies in the delivery” – all you need is practice, lots and lots of practice.

      Thanks for coming over.

  43. I like hearing speeches with a taste of humor. I hate speeches that make me sleep.

  44. great post
    humor can make us feel less self conscious and can reduce stress and anxiety
    very good tip
    farouk´s last great post to attract positive energy in negative situationsMy Profile

  45. Keith! This is awesome. I couldn’t agree more with using humor and I like your point #6 the best – it’s about not taking yourself too seriously.
    We can take the work at hand seriously, but we shouldn’t take ourselves seriously. Thanks for pointing me over here. 🙂
    Lisa Gerber´s last great post ..The New SEO of Content MarketingMy Profile

  46. Humor helps public speakers break down the ice between them and the audience, it is a great way to release the tension and make an impression. I love public speeches with a pinch of good sense of humor and witty but suitable remarks.
    Vanessa Ally´s last great post ..How to create content with keywordsMy Profile