Some of us are naturally very good at speeches, others not so much. There’s an art to both writing speeches and delivering them.
Wherever you consider yourself on the spectrum of talent at speech giving doesn’t matter, it can always be healthy to learn and improve and look to your upcoming speech to deliver your most memorable speech. Part of a memorable speech can be humor. Let’s dig into the topic.
Aim to give the best speech you can
Whether you liked his politics or not, an example of someone who has always been highly talented at giving speeches is Barack Obama. A key ingredient in his speeches is often humor!
Set him as your benchmark for speech-making skills and it might help. He was a well-practiced professional who did it regularly, so let’s not pretend like you’re going to match that level. But it’s always good to shoot for the stars.
Benefits of using humor in speeches
- it can put the audience at ease
- it can make your speech more memorable
- it can boost your confidence as you go through the speech
- it can help you create a better connection with the audience
- it may lighten heavy topics such as at a funeral wake (keep it appropriate!)
- we all love to have a laugh and life needs more laughter
Cons of using humor in speeches
- the audience may not find you funny and that creates an awkward tension in the room
- you may fluff your lines as you tell the joke and that could dent your confidence
- some members of the audience might not find your joke appropriate
Key considerations and some tips
Read the mood of the audience
As you progress through your speech you can get a good feel for the audience. maybe you’ve already told a joke or two or recited a funny story. How did the audience react? If they reacted well then you know to put even more emphasis on your funny moments.
But if they reacted poorly and you can think quickly on your feet, consider shortening the length of your speech by skipping over some of the jokes as you progress. This will require a good level of composure.
Remember the difference between telling jokes and being humorous
Jokes are often things like one-liners and knock-knock jokes. Whereas being humorous is often telling a funny story. Squeezing jokes into speeches won’t work on many occasions. Being humorous is much more what you want to go for.
When being humorous the audience will often connect better with you. This is especially true at events such as weddings.
Timing is important
Starting a speech with a funny joke in the opening gambit can make things start to fly early and warm the audience up! But it can sometimes work against you, if the audience is completely sober and hasn’t had their funny bones warmed up, it might be best to save your best joke for later on.
Hitting them hard with jokes at the start and then fizzling out is not so great, it’s always better to build up and end strongly to leave people remembering your speech.
Keep it clean
Leave the crude and dirty jokes at home for when you’re with your friends and family. The last thing we want to do is deeply offend people or come across as unprofessional.
Keep it appropriate
No matter what sort of a speech you’re doing, whether it be a work speech, a funeral, a best man’s speech at a wedding, to a small group of co-workers, or even announcing something to family in a group. You can often add jokes and humor to make it entertaining. Make sure the jokes are relevant to the people listening and appropriate for the occasion.
How long your individual jokes are
If a joke takes a long time to tell, the crowd may get bored. This can be a bit of a disaster. Keep your individual jokes short. Focus heavily on the punchline because that’s what will have an impact on the audience.
How long your speech is
If you wish to do a long speech then jokes and humor can be very important. It can break things up. Having these moments of laughter can avoid people getting bored.
Test your speech
Test your speech on multiple people using separate occasions. If possible get a small group of people to test it on an actual audience. You don’t want to test it out too much because it can start to feel robotic and unnatural. In this scenario, you may just want to test some of the jokes instead.
Can a speech be entertaining without jokes?
Some types of speeches can. For example, a science-related speech could grip people because of the huge interest in it. But most of the time, “entertaining” will encompass laughter. Many TED Talks for example are on important topics, but the person giving the speech will still add in funny moments to make you giggle.
As long as you prepare your speech well, practice it, make it ideal for the audience, and remember to enjoy yourself – you’ll do just fine!
Get some inspiration
Watching funny speeches that are confidently delivered might help boost your own confidence. Because he was mentioned earlier in this article we might as well keep the Obama theme going – if you haven’t seen his final White House correspondents dinner speech it’s a classic.