Humor in Public Speaking: 3 Tips on How to be Humorous

As a public speaking coach, one of the most common questions I receive is, “How do I use humor in public speaking?” This post is part of my free 47 week public speaking mastery course and contains material from my bestselling Kindle book, “Public Speaking Mastery“.

3 Tips for Adding Humor in Public Speaking

In this article you will discover three presentation tools you can use to add humor to your presentations and speeches. First though, watch this great video by 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine:

The post below won’t make sense unless you first watch this video

Public Speaking Tip #1: Set and Break Expectations

Using humor in public speaking a great way for keeping your audience members engaged and interested in your presentation.

Craig is a very humorous speaker, so his presentations are always very enjoyable. However, can someone learn to be humorous? Absolutely!

Here’s the secret to humor: A comment is humorous when it sets up an expectation, and then breaks it.

For example, when Craig says to his audience, “These are all great answers,” he sets up an expectation that he is going to say to them, “Your answers are correct.”

Instead, Craig breaks the expectation by saying, “ … and they’re all wrong.” This causes people to laugh.

If you want to make people laugh … create an expectation and then break it.


Public Speaking Tip #2: Uncover Humor from Dialogue

I learned the following technique from Craig, but before I tell you what it is, let’s look at an example of humor from Craig’s speech. Craig says:

So I went home to my wife and I said, “Honey, I don’t know what to do! What do you think I should do?” And my wife, looked at to me with her big brown eyes, and said, “Take the money fool!”

Again, Craig sets up an expectation. The expectation is that Craig’s wife is going to say something sweet and profound. Craig then breaks the expectation with “Take the money, fool!”

So, what’s the technique I learned from Craig? Here it is: look for humor opportunities within dialogue.

All of Craig’s humor in this speech comes from the dialogue. He uncovers humor in his speech by looking at places where the audience has certain expectations of something profound being said, and then breaking those expectations.

In your speeches and presentations, try to uncover the humor from the dialogue.

What expectations can you create and break using dialogue?


Public Speaking Tip #3: Humor Doesn’t Mean Stealing Jokes from the Internet

Notice that Craig uses zero “jokes.”

Unfortunately, too many speakers steal jokes from the Internet.

Here’s my advice: Don’t use jokes from the Internet. Most of the funny jokes are quite popular on the Internet, so you can bet that some of your audience members have heard the joke before. As a result, your audience members may not laugh because they already know the twist/punch line.

Even worse, these jokes may detract from your story because they may be completely unrelated to your message and your speech.

Instead, look for organic humor by uncovering humor from dialogue.


Tools for Adding Humor to Your Presentations

So there you have it – three tools for using humor in public speaking:

  • Don’t steal jokes from the internet.
  • The secret to humor is to set and break expectations.
  • Uncover humor from dialogue.

Post by Akash Karia; from the book, “Public Speaking Mastery“. Featured photo Credit: Alan Light

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1 thought on “Humor in Public Speaking: 3 Tips on How to be Humorous”

  1. Sandra Patterson

    I like what you said about using humor being a way to keep audience members engaged in your presentation. My sister has been told that she needs to give a speech at an upcoming work event. I bet she could start learning a bit about how to be funny in little ways.

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