If you are a naturally funny person, I envy you! Those who can use humor and wit when public speaking have a tremendous advantage. People LOVE to laugh, and they will forgive many sins if you can make them do so.
Here is an example. A speaker is introduced to the audience, and on her way to the podium, she trips on the mic cord and falls to the ground. She’s not hurt. Immediately she jumps back to her feet, pauses, looks directly into the audience and says . . . “Hows that for a power opener?” The audience laughs and cheers for her. In four words, she won them over. Ah, the power of humor.
Another example: My good friend Malik at unconventional magic is a stellar corporate presenter. I remember watching him perform. There were three things on his table. He picked up the first item and accidentally dropped it, as he bent to retrieve it, he bumped the table and the second item fell off. He paused, looked at the audience and then . . . whhhhack, he intentionally slapped the remaining item off his table and said “I might as well bat a thousand”. The audience roared. He won them over in an instant. Yes, the power of humor!
In my power of persuasion training I talk about on of the six pillars of persuasion as related by the genious Dr. Cialdini in his amazing book Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion. Likeability is one of the pillars, and my experience shows that humor can build instant likeability with your audience.
Here are some tips on using humor in your public speaking:
1) Unless you are at a comedy/night club, nix anything that COULD BE construed as offensive. If you have to wonder whether it is offensive, then drop it.
2) The humor in public speaking should not be stand-alone. It must fall within the context of what’s happening (see examples above) or in the context of your theme.
3) Any extemporaneous humor gets a disproportionately strong laugh, because it projects that you are in the “here and now”.
4) If you are like me, comedically challenged, then record your presentations to see where you got laughs. If you are repeating the presentation, remember the lines, and cultivate them every time you use them.
5) My humor in public speaking guideline is NEVER EMBARRASS anyone besides yourself. Most people hate the spotlight because they don’t want to be humiliated before their peers. Get a laugh at nobody’s expense or at your own expense, but never at the expense of an audience member. Treat your audience as honored guests and they will return the favor.
Share your ideas and stories about humor in the context of public speaking here!