We are living in an era of info-tainment where audiences are simultaneously seeking education and entertainment. Our role as speakers is to try to engage both sides of our audiences’ brain hemispheres: the left side (more rational and logical) as well as the right side (more fun and personable). Humour is one tool to being personable.
- Best form of humour: Self-deprecating jokes. This type of humour helps to improve your likability with the audience – it shows that you are a normal human being who also makes mistakes and can laugh at them. Find jokes about yourself by thinking of what people see as you walk onto the stage then find ways to use that as an opening line of your talk. Example: ‘I know that my French name and accent combined with my Asian look might be confusing to you – one word – born free!’
- Funny statistics: Facts, figures and statistics on their own can be mundane and boring. Consider giving these a different twist by using this stating the quote, then inserting your funny comment or disagreement. Example: Statistic: ‘Three-quarters of South Africans feel that they are living with extreme work-related stress,’ says Statistics SA. Retort: And the other quarter is giving it to them.
- Use stories: Professional comedians use stories as part of their routine to deliver their jokes. You can use the same formula: two-thirds of your story time is used to provide background and context before you conclude with a short phrase or funny retort to reflect on your story.
- Make fun of the audience by using the List of 3 formula: general point, general point, their specific problem. Example: There are lots of problems in SA like crime (general), corruption (general), and your lack of parking space (specific).
- Avoid cruel and sarcastic jokes at the expense of other people. Religious, political and sexist jokes are only for professional comedians.
- Life is funny: There is humour everywhere – you just need to be on the lookout for it. Keep a journal for when funny things happen. Let people know that you are looking for funny stories to use in your speeches.
Author: Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) is a business owner and public speaker trainer