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Make ‘Em Laugh When Public Speaking

Make ‘Em Laugh When Public Speaking

One day in my stand-up workshop, we were given a handout. The article is titled Laughter IS the Best Medicine for Holding Audience Attention; my mentor had found it online and, based on that title, added it to his files without even reading it. Well, then we tried to read it.

Notice how I did not add a link to the original article? Google couldn’t find it. I did, eventually; however, I’m not going to have my name linked to that article – it was that poorly written. (I know, bad web Karma, and I’m killing my SEO – I still refuse.)

We think maybe English is the author’s fourth or fifth language. An example:

“The truth is that when you first start to talk with an audience, they are possibly listening to you. Most people are at least curious concerning you and also what you have to claim as well as will certainly take interest in you if or no other reason than you are a new person up there before them.”

Or, for something slightly less painful:

“While an idea is a good idea, people have actually difficulty staying concentrated on pure concepts for very long.”

(My soul just died a little bit.)

Since this is not about editing, but humor in public speaking, let me get to the point.

What the Article Said (We Think)

After confusing the AMAZING MGM movie Singin’ in the Rain, with some non-existent Broadway musical Vocal singing in the Rainfall (I am not making this up), the author notes that the best way to connect with an audience is to make them laugh.

The next point is that you do not start off a presentation with a joke – you already have the audiences’ attention. No, you wait until you’ve covered some difficult content or notice that the heads are starting to droop before sneaking in something funny.

Another point is to use original content. You are not trying to win any stand-up awards, just shake things up some. Your own joke that is directly related to your subject matter may not get them rolling in the aisles, but it should evoke a chuckle or two. A joke that doesn’t fit the circumstances just … doesn’t fit and won’t be as funny – if it’s funny at all.

The original author suggests self-deprecating humor. I go back and forth on this one. A little dig at yourself – especially something off-the-cuff when you notice that you’re losing people’s attention – can be just what’s needed. It shows that you are paying attention to your audience and that you can laugh at yourself, even if no one else does. These are admirable qualities and will help people connect with you and like you.

However, if you are always digging at yourself – a problem I tend to have – you can lose the respect of your audience. After all, if even you don’t take yourself seriously, why should they?

Final Advice

Yes, there was some value amongst the drivel. The last bit was to study speakers you admire. When do they use humor? What type of humor? When did they really connect with the audience?

My addition to that is to make sure you learn from the speakers you admire instead of just duplicating them. After all, they already exist. You have your own style and humor, use it in a way that works for you.

In the End

It took stand-up class a while to read through that article. First off, reading aloud is always slower. Then we had to figure out what the author was saying while laughing ourselves silly.

If nothing else, I think my mentor will learn to read more than just titles, and I got a new blog topic.

And laughing ourselves silly is not as common in stand-up class as you might think.


– Lorrie Nicoles