Many people think the best way to open a speech is with a joke, and in some situations that can work well, as long as you aren’t merely retelling an old joke your audience has heard before. The best speakers incorporate abundant humor throughout their speeches. In the Toastmasters International speech contest, it’s common for a 7-minute winning speech to receive 20 or more laughs — that’s a laugh every 21 seconds on the low end. Incorporating humor isn’t a requirement for the International contest, but it’s well-known that humor can turn a good speech into a great one.
Adding humor to a presentation can work even with serious topics. Humor can raise the energy of a business presentation, increase audience involvement during a speech, and even help friends and family overcome their loss during a eulogy. Effective humor helps establish rapport between speaker and audience and even among the audience members themselves. Everyone enjoys a good laugh, as long as the humor is appropriate to the situation.
At many of the business conferences I attend, speakers who are known to be funny often draw huge crowds, while those that may be very knowledgeable yet give dry, humorless presentations see their audiences dwindle. Even Bill Gates incorporates humor into his presentations (I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether or not he succeeds with it).
Suppose you have an upcoming presentation or speech and you’d like to incorporate humor into it. What sources should you use to create funny stories and jokes?
For the answer to that question, I encourage you to read S. Frank Stringham’s article Where to Find Resources for Humor, which will explain how to uncover plenty of humor both in your own life and from external sources.
I fully agree with S that the best place to find humor is in your own life. Even situations that may have been challenging and serious for you at one time can be retold with a sense of humor years later. One example I posted on this blog was Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, a story about my car breaking down in the desert at high noon in 120-degree heat. Even the tow truck that came to rescue us broke down, and a would-be 5-hour car trip turned into a 33-hour trip.