Humor is one of the best ways I connect with people. I am happiest when I’m speaking to an audience who is laughing!
The speech above won a humorous speaking contest, but I love incorporating humor into all different kinds of speeches. If humor isn’t your strong suit I still recommend giving it a go. Humor serves three important functions for speakers: 1) it brings the audience into your story and makes it more interesting, 2) it helps the audience trust you and see you as someone who is witty (and therefore intelligent), and 3) it elicits a positive reaction from the audience which makes you feel more relaxed.
James Humes (Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers) has a whole chapter on wit in which he provides some valuable advice. For instance, he asserts that “the difference between a joke and humor is the difference between a pornographic picture and a love scene”…i.e. don’t just tell a random joke in an attempt to be funny. He also gives some tips for personalizing anecdotes and using “humor license”.
My favorite thing about using humor is it makes people laugh… or at least smile. And this is better for everyone! Happiness is contagious and that’s something we can all hope to catch.