Public Speaking: The Humor Factor II

May 5th, 2009 by Frank Damelio

dreamstime_5934385[1]One of the pillars of persuasion is LIKABILITY.  When your audience likes you, they will be much easier to persuade. Humor certainly enhances your likability.

After years of observing humor in speeches ranging from small networking events, to large weddings and even full-auditorium presentations, here is an invaluable generality:

The larger the audience, the easier it is to get a laugh.

Also, as counterintuitive as it may sound, the more formal the audience the easier to get a laugh. (I am not referring to a roaring laughter).

Next time you’re at a formal event with a large audience pay attention to how even a feeble attempt at humor tends to get a decent reaction from the audience.  You’ll also notice that if you are at a small networking event where you are all informal, if your comment isn’t really funny, nobody laughs.

I have my theories about why this is, but I would love to hear yours. In the end though, it’s important to observe this generality for yourself.  Why? Most speakers tend to skip the appropriate humor comments when planning a speech for a larger more formal group. Perhaps they do this for fear of looking foolish in the grand limelight. My hope is that the observation shared in this blog will encourage you to take advantage of the fact that this type of environment is ripe to enjoy your humor.

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5 Responses to “Public Speaking: The Humor Factor II”

  1. Bella Nox Says:

    This is all good news for me – because I am likeable, funny and most of all modest. lol 😉

    Here is my theory or theories. I’ll start with the large groups. First of all, people like to laugh, people want to laugh. In my experience it seems that a good majority of the time; if you are in front of a large audience…you are meant to entertain as well. Even if you are there to ‘teach’ them something. You mentioned that it’s easier to get large groups to laugh, this is because they are there wanting to have a good time. They really want to like you. They will laugh at just about anything. One thing to remember though, is even though it’s easier to get large groups to laugh than small informal ones, it is also easier to bore them and lose their focus. Just like laughing is contagious, so is boredom.

    When you are in front of small informal groups – they aren’t doing you any favors. You are there for a reason – usually to get some message across and that is it. They aren’t going to laugh if what you said isn’t funny. Humor is appreciated just as much, but only if you are truly funny.


  2. Catie Foertsch Says:

    Frank – I think the reason is sympathy. For most people, it’s much more difficult to speak in front of a large group, and so the speaker automatically has our sympathy. We know how tough his/her job is and so we want him/her to have the benefit of the doube. So – lame joke? I’m laughing to show support because I’d want an audience to show me support if I was the speaker. But in a small group, the difficulty factor is much lower and so is the sympathy. If you tell a lame joke, well, it’s lame.

  3. Frank Damelio Says:


    I like your comment warning that larger audiences are also easier to bore. Indeed this is true because it is far less conspicuous for an audience member to zone out in a larger group. Very insightful.

  4. Frank Damelio Says:


    I never considered the sympathy card! They probably feel some of the pressure in the air as well; so ANY humor will help break that tension. Maybe I’ll write a book – Lame Jokes for Big Audiences. There’s an easy undertaking.

  5. Target Intellect Blog » Public Speaking: The Humor Factor Says:

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