It’s common knowledge in speaking circles that humor greatly increases the impact of your message.
But, there’s a caveat. Your humor must be relevant and appropriate for each audience.
Therefore, let’s take a look at three common mistakes that hurt your impact and could cost you your reputation or opportunities to promote yourself and your business…
Costly Humor Mistake #1 — Telling jokes
Many people believe they should open their speeches with a joke to “loosen up the audience.” Many people do this, and their one-liners often get a quick laugh.
And as we know, an audience that laughs with you is more open to hearing your message, right?
But, this strategy backfires for most presenters. Why?
One, today’s audience has access to many entertainment sources — TV, YouTube, comedy clubs, and so on. Years ago, their sources were limited, so you can get away with telling jokes in a speech.
But because of myriad opportunities to hear comedy, people don’t come to your speech to hear quick one-liners. What they do want is for you to respect their time and give them a meaningful message. Leave the comedy to the comedians.
Two, if you tell jokes and they fall flat, you harm your credibility. Audiences want experts to share their wisdom and expertise on a topic. Humor should only be used to enhance the impact of your experience.
What to Do Instead
Share humorous stories. If you’re an expert in his area, that means you’ve spent a lot of time learning that subject.
With all of that experience, you have had humorous incidents which you can share with others that will enhance the entertainment value of your presentation while making a key point.
Costly Humor Mistake #2 — Keeping all the funny lines for yourself
Today’s audience appreciates humility and authenticity. Speakers who always set themselves up as the know-it-all and the funniest person in the room disconnect themselves from their audiences.
True, you’re there to share your expertise, but you’re not there to share your magnificence.
The people sitting in front of you are flawed human beings, just like you are. If you don’t present yourself in the same way, they’re less likely to buy into your message, no matter how important your topic is.
To borrow an old military phrase, if you have all the funny lines and come across as the all-knowing sage who’s always hysterically funny to boot, you win the battle but lose the war. You won’t seem real or authentic and people buy into your message.
What to Do Instead
Spread the “humor wealth.” Make sure that each of your characters in a story gets a funny line or two. Even if you have to take some artistic license and change the speaker of some of those lines.
In one of my signature stories about my client Patti, whom I’d just met, she explained to me how she rambles on and on and on when she gives a speech. Without thinking, I said, “It sounds like you don’t know when to stop talking.”
Thankfully, she laughed.
As I developed that story, one of my mentors suggested I give her the laugh line. In the new version, I adjusted the dialogue to this…
Patti said, “I just ramble on and on and on when I speak.”
I said, “Hmm. Sounds like you’re nervous when you give a speech.”
She said, “Nervous? I’m not nervous. I just don’t know when to shut up.”
That line always gets a huge laugh from the audience. One of the reasons is the main character, my client, is self-deprecating. And I get credit for the huge laugh because I’m the one telling the story through her words.
By allowing Patti the funny airlines, they win the war for the hearts and minds of my audience.
Costly Humor Mistake #3 — Failure to use silence and reactions
My friend Darren LaCroix, CFP is brilliant at delivering speeches. An important concept he taught me is…
Reactions tell the story
Most speakers make the mistake of only talking to create humor.
At first glance, this probably sounds like one of those ‘duh’ moments. “Yeah, Michael, how else are we going to deliver the words other than talking?”
Good point, I’m glad you brought it up.
Think about your favorite comedic actors, speakers, or comedians. Do they always make you laugh strictly through their words, or do they often use their faces and bodies, or silence, to create the humor?
Go to YouTube and pull up clips from memorable scenes, your favorite speeches, or comedy bits.
You’ll discover that the best and most humorous expertly was a combination of both.
What to Do Instead
Test. Test. Test.
Video record your presentation. Deliver your humorous lines with no expression and little body movement.
Then record the same presentation using authentic facial reactions. Notice the differences in emotion and humorous impact.
Re-record again and add silence. Pay close attention to how much more laughter there is when you give others time to laugh.
Humor is a critical aspect of any memorable speech or story. However, it takes time to develop the skill so it effectively supports your message and doesn’t become the most memorable part of your presentation.
An old speaking adage says, “If you can get them laughing and then hit them with your best material, you will leave a lasting impact.”
Save time, money, and frustrations discovering how to effectively create humor.
In ‘Go Ahead and Laugh, A Serious Guide to Speaking with Humor,’ 11 professional speakers share some of their best humorous material. These speeches are dissected by Presentation Expert Rich Hopkins.
Mr. Hopkins breaks down each speech and helps you understand how to uncover the humor that exists in your stories. After reading this one-of-a-kind book, you’ll know…
- The difference between humor and jokes [there is a HUGE difference]
- How to use your stories to make audiences laugh
- Techniques to deliver your funniest material with maximum effect
- Using humorous self-deprecation to increase your likeability
- …and much more!
Once you’ve learned how to create more laughter within your speeches, you’ll find that, not only will your speeches improve, you will become a much more in-demand presenter.
As you get more comfortable incorporating more humor into your speeches… your impact and connection with audiences will increase significantly.
Whether you are a new or experienced speaker, ‘Go Ahead and Laugh, A Serious Guide to Speaking with Humor,’ can help you make great leaps in improving the quality and impact of your speeches.
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