Sunday, 23 August 2015



Have you wondered how to use humour effectively in speeches? What gets a laugh? What doesn't, and why?

It's tricky!

Most of us, myself included, want to effortlessly entertain the audience. We know and appreciates the gifts humour brings. Adding humour is the best communication skills one can have in their arsenal. Humour can help you to get the audience warm up to you. It is not only the best communication skill but also a very important skill for leadership. Imagine a leader warming you up with a humour before going to present his views and another who goes straight to the topic. Probably you would listen to the first one.

But what happens if carefully polished laugh line isn't caught up, and falls to the floor, shriveling? What if they fold their arms, raise their eyebrows, and look away, get offended? Let me take you through the crash course I learned while trying to learn the tricks of writing and delivering humorous speech.


·       Know your audience – The basics of any speech are knowing the audience, for humour that is the fundamental one. For example, you can humorously present by exaggerating one of your office procedure to your colleagues, but same would probably not work the audience comprising your family members

·       Understanding the principal purpose of your speech – Unless you are a stand-up comedian, the main purpose of your speech is probably to give your message in an entertaining way, which will include humour. If you are not one of the most witty/humorous person around like me, it’s better to have a message in your speech and use humour as a tool to put it through.

·        Understanding humour - Humour comes in many shapes and sizes from small smirks to full blown laughter. To use it effectively it helps to have an understanding of its varieties. This enables you to choose what will suit your audience, your speech topic, and the occasions. You are going for an official meeting try to use humour which can have smiles coming out. Similarly while criticising some procedures it’s better to use which will have examples of irony or puns.

·       Safe Humour - Use humour that doesn't use the audience as the butt of the joke. This is not the time to make jokes about audiences so thick their brains are the consistency of concrete or similar observations.

·       Stay Away from gutter - Use humour that doesn't rely on coarse language or profanity to make its point. Unless of course you are in a bar and the audience wants to hear it.

·     Safe Humour - Use humour that avoids controversial subjects like religion, politics, race, class or sex.

·       Focus on yourself - Using humour effectively often means using yourself as the subject but in a kindly way, making sure it is relevant to your speech topic. Don’t overdo it, the audience probably will not like see you putting yourself down consistently. It helps if you can make the audience starts identifying with you, creating openness and trust. The audience will be more likely to listen because you're reflecting or showing them an aspect they know to be true of themselves, as well as you.

·    Integrating Humour – Weave your jokes into a story or anecdote related to the topic emphasizing your point. Human nature finds it easier to follow the stories probably because that what we have started hearing from a very young age. Remember that has to be linked with the topic. However good your joke/humour is; it will be an hindrance if it not liked with the topic. Drop it if there is no link.

·       Rule of Three – The rule of three works in all areas of presentation. Three in story telling is a naturally believable number. First usage sets the tone, Second reinforces the point and by the third point the audience is with you. But three points or examples have to be interconnected.

The best speech is one which has been delivered. More you practice the better it is


·       Expression – While telling a story act it, feel like it is happening again in the 'here and now'. This gives the audience the 'feel' of the situation. They will grasp it and the emotional content more quickly.

·       Practice - Practice, practice, practice and then, practice some more. Record it. Hear the speech again and again; you will start finding the right pace for delivering the humour. Remember the speed “slow/fast” combined with expression is the one which can make a same joke to bombard or fly.

·       Gestures - Use simple large gestures. If you are going to incorporate acting into your story practice using clear decisive gestures rather than a flurry of small ones.

In the following blog we will look at my Humorous speech which won the club level competition.