Anyone who’s ever had to give a best man’s speech will have spent many a fretful night wondering how to add humour to their speech. Humour invites people in, it makes them feel included, gives a great first impression and it can break through a difficult icy crowd- when done right.



Adding humour to presenting is vital, if you want to engage and capture your audience. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than attending a conference or a business seminar and it’s a right old snoozefest! Listen to these wise words from the Advanced Public Speaking Institute:


According to Bob Orben, Special Assistant to President Gerald Ford and Former Director of the White House Speech writing Department, ‘Business executives and political leaders have embraced humour because humour works. Humour has gone from being an admirable part of a leader’s character to a mandatory one.’

As well as holding an audience, adding humour to a presentation can also:-

  • Help emphasise ideas and points
  • Make facts and figures more memorable
  • Help maintain the energy levels
  • Subtly lessen the impact of difficult and heavy material
  • Leave an audience wanting more
  • Make people happy

The Do’s and Do Nots

Knowing your audience is paramount to knowing what works. A corporate event would require a slightly different vocabulary than a secondary school hall filled with teenagers. The message could be the same, but the language and inferences could be age and experience appropriate.

Telling a joke that you think is funny can lead you into dangerous waters. There’s nothing worse than trying to break the ice with an unfunny. Stick to what you know works whilst getting more familiar with the characters and personalities in front of you.

Making yourself the object of humour is safer than turning it onto the audience. Keep the audience references to a minimum, aim them at yourself and stay well clear of offensive or risque when presenting to a mixed group of business or education leaders.

Use everday life humour. Sticking to a topic that everyone can relate to will make it more inclusive and easier to digest.

Learn to give time for the laughter. Sounds silly yes? By rushing into the next anecdote or fact whilst the audience are still sewing up their sides, can kill the funny entirely. Using pauses effectively can enhance a joke or witty quip.

Using props is always effective, if done correctly. The rule of props is practice, practice, practice.

Face The Mirror

I can not stress enough the importance of practising your presentations in front of a mirror. Looking at your body language, timing and delivery with a critical eye will help smooth out the jagged edges and add to your confidence and belief. There is always an element of spontaneity required with each audience being different, but if the core of the speech remains a constant the deviations can become a manageable slick addition.

Finally from the Toastmasters International:-

Mark Twain once said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” It’s not often easy to pull off, but a well-constructed, funny speech will bring lots of laughs to the audience and many rewards to the speaker.

I couldn’t agree more, and with good preparation, great material and a nose for a fitting funny, adding humour to presenting can be the icing on the cake.

For tips and ideas on presenting, body language and confidence check out my blog page.

Image by Geralt