Humour and your Speeches

George Gow once said that „laughter is the salt of personality. It is the most effective means of easing a difficult situation.“ Everybody loves humor, but most people fear using it in their speeches and presentations. They worry that if they try to use it and it doesn’t go over well, they will end up with egg all over their faces. Trying to get a large group of people to laugh in the early hours of the morning is most definitely a challenging thing to do. It’s nevertheless very important. Professional speechwriters will tell you that most people in an audience will forget 90% of a speech by the morning after it is delivered. Amazingly, however, people in the same audience can repeat well-chosen quotations or humorous items from a speech, sometimes several years later. Try the following ways to add humor to your opening lines:

Find something that everyone in the audience can relate to, and exploit it. Because you are all from the same company, you might think of something everyone knows about and put a funny spin on it. Make light of the fact that you’re actually meeting at such an early hour, or talk about the top five reasons why your organization is the best to work for. Make fun of something your company is good at, or is notorious for, such as having the greatest coffee station in the world – or maybe you don’t even have a coffee station!

An almost risk-free trick is to use quotations in your speeches and presentations. They can be used to both make a point and provide humor. If the audience laughs loudly, that’s wonderful. If you get a good chuckle, that’s wonderful too. And if no one laughs, nothing is lost because you have made your point anyway.

If you are really stuck, e-mail some of your colleagues. Ask them if there is anything they have used or heard in the past that they thought was „good material.“ Another idea is to head to the library and pick up a joke book. If you find something appropriate from either source, great – but don’t use it verbatim. Mold it into your own words so that it will sound more personal and less canned.

posted by Marion Hahn *

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