How to Add Humor to Your Speaking
I was asked recently at an event to provide just one tip that helps me use humor in my speaking. I thought, “what a great question.” Speaking of funny….! As a storyteller and comic improviser, I deeply believe (and have written a lot about – yep I’m passionate about it!) in humor in business, marketing and communications. If you are reading my blog, you already know that! Humor is human and it connects you to your audience in amazing ways! Humor disrupts expected patterns in order to be heard. When you make your audience laugh, you have opened up a space to be heard. That’s powerful.
So I asked a handful of my fun and funny improv, content and marketing friends who do a lot of speaking – some of whom have comedy backgrounds, some don’t – for their best tip for making their speaking fun and funny. I believe tips should be easy and uncomplicated. And each of these tips is doable by anyone. It doesn’t matter if you have a background in comedy or not; anyone can be a better speaker by making his or speaking more fun. Start by having fun, letting go, and engaging.
Here’s a compilation of tips on how to add humor to your speaking and presentations.
Be willing to deviate from your plan. Be playful and interact with your audience. There is so much external stimuli bombarding people. So every 3 minutes, do something fun: tell a joke, a story or do an interactive exercise. Disrupt the pattern of your talk and re-energize the room!
Engage Your Audience
Play a game during your presentation. Bring a volunteer onstage to practice a simple game onstage with you. Keep it simple. Treat the audience member with respect. Make the instructions easy to follow. Put the simple instructions on a slide. Acknowledge the volunteer’s courage. After the game, get the audience to applaud for this volunteer. Then ask everyone to find a partner and play the game.
Use hyperbole. Exaggerate something to its most extreme form, or to an absurd metaphor.
Fun and Humor are the Icing
My best tip is to add fun and humor on the rewrite (and there should be a rewrite). For me, this is a three-step process that’s akin to baking a cupcake:
Produce that ugly first draft (of your talk, blog, whatever). Then, go back and edit that mess into something more accessible to your audience. Finally, insert your personality, humor, and fun then. That’s the frosting!
Draw on Your Life Experiences
The safest humor involves personal stories because they are guaranteed to be original and can be easily practiced. Often, great stories come from seemingly mundane topics. For example: my Dad recently turned 75. He is Irish and had had enough of the rain in Ireland and booked a two-week trip to Turkey to celebrate in the sun. He did not invite my mother. They have been happily married (until then) for 35 years. Is there humor in here somewhere? You bet there is!
–David Nihill, Co-Founder of FunnyBizz Conference, and Author, Do You Talk Funny?
Build a Bridge with Audiences
Use humour to build a bridge with your audience, especially if you can find a way to make them feel better about a problem, or make them think: “So it’s not just me that struggles with X.” If your audience struggles with focus, blame the Internet and kitten videos. If they’re struggling with fitness, blame the weather and the comfyness of the couch. Get on their side and make them feel good!”
–Amy Harrison, Founder of AmyTV and Harrisonamy Copywriting
Let Go and Have Fun
The biggest thing: just let go and have fun. If you do, so will your audience. You are already an expert. Now, let your personality come through.
You can’t get to funny without ‘fun.’ So start there! What’s your best tip for adding fun and humor to your speaking? Let me know in the comments below!