How to Use Humour in Your Speech

Most, if not all of us, would love to use humour in a speech. Since even the most mundane of speeches at work, the seminar or the conference could benefit from some humour. So, why don't we get engaged with humour in our conference speeches? A lot of the answer is probably to do with confidence. Or really, it's a lack of confidence that's the problem. Because you need plenty of confidence to use humour in your speech. Confidence in yourself and your ability to give a good performance. Since it really is a performance when you get it right. And, it's no laughing matter when it all goes pear-shaped.

Use humour in your speech

How To Use Humour In Your Next Speech

But that's not all. Because you also need good material and technique. We spotted this last week with the story about Brad Pitt's newly-recruited speechwriter at the BAFTA award ceremony. And did it work? Well, his speech certainly made an impact and was definitely well-received. So, it worked out well for him and his worldwide audience. And you too also need to create, write and test good material. It's always essential when you want to use humour in your speech.

And can anyone write good comic material? I reckon not, since there has to be good reason why some excel at it and others are accountants. But if you follow the formulae of many of the really excellent comic writers, then you should be fine. However, you should always test your material and refine it as you go, making sure it's as slick as possible. You don't want to replicate Vince Cable's efforts at the 2017 Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference.

These are people who live in a world of infantile fairy tales.…I’m sure you know the one about the Giant Tweeter…who lives in a White House far away and who flies across the ocean to rescue us from the wicked Gnomes of Europe.

Equally excruciating was a joke told by Vice-President Kamala Harris. The occasion was her Commencement speech at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, in May 2021. These commencement speeches are typically meant to be uplifting, motivating and fun. Unfortunately this one bombed.

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When you want to use humour in your speech you'll need to work on both your joke material, its delivery and your timing. Regrettably for the Vice-President none of these elements worked.

Your essential technique involves: delivery, expectant pause and the "punchline". There's no getting away from it, your technique is all-important. However, don't despair, because you will always pick up sound technique with experience and practice. Plus, of course, you can observe others when you watch great comics or funny conference speakers. You can always watch someone like Steve Coogan with a hilarious acceptance speech at the 2019 Britannia Awards.

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Thus, you don't need to be a comic genius to use humour in your speech. Just combine the essential attributes of self-confidence, good material and a sound technique. No joke, it'll be fine.

How You Can Use Humour In Your Next Speech

Humour works in most, if not all, speeches. But there's much more to it than just inserting a joke into your script. Because if it was that easy, we'd all be laughing.

  • Be confident in your own abilities
  • Prepare, write and test good material
  • Take time to hone your technique

You can always discover great public speaking tips with our regular series of tips for speakers, podcasts and video tips. And with more than 100 top tips, there really is something for every occasion. Funny or otherwise. Plus, when you want to boost your own public speaking skills that bit further, then you can always consider some training or coaching. Please don't hesitate to get in touch when the time is right.

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"Serious things cannot be understood without laughable things, nor opposites at all without opposites."


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