Developing humor in your speaking can help you in your career.
A speech can be classified into four types; informative, inspirational, persuasive, and entertaining. The most challenging speech type is an entertaining or humorous one.
In Toastmasters’ club meetings, the humorous speech contest is one of the main events where members sign up to deliver a humorous speech to entertain the audience and the top three speakers are recognized for their efforts. All participants are winners in their own rights for putting their courage and humor to the test.
Having participated in my Toastmasters’ club’s annual Humorous speech contest for several years, I think I can draw on my experiences to share the joys and benefits of being a participant.
The purpose of the contest is to help the audience have fun and award the speaker with the best story and technique. Every year, we are surprised by how participants could come up with their original stories created from their own encounters and observations.
Each speech is given 5 to 7 minutes allotment. We watched how participants grew over the years with persistent participation, some becoming quite professional at it.
What are the qualities of a humorous speech?
Toastmasters are aware of what makes a humorous speech work and we craft our story according to the guidelines we have learned as members. Below are some requirements for success;
1 The story should be easily understood and believable. The talk should be in a logical flow so that listeners can follow easily. Have a theme throughout the speech and the contents must reflect the theme.
2 It is best drawn from personal experiences which are more likely to be original and hence score more points. Only you can tell your own stories best. It may also be gleaned from other people’s experiences that are very funny and in line with the theme of your talk.
3 The jokes are in good taste and are a surprise in some cases. Dirty jokes or used jokes are taboo.
4 The story should have entertainment value. It should first be funny enough to yourself to share it.
5 It should adapt to your personality and suit the audience.
6 It should convey an important message to boot.
Delivery of a humorous speech
A winning speaker usually is a good storyteller. Through his content and delivery, he is able to engage the audience throughout his presentation leaving them wanting to hear more.
For humorous speeches, the speaker often speaks in a more dramatic fashion, with the appropriate use of gestures, body postures, and good eye contact.
A successful humorous speaker often uses rhetorical devices in his speeches to get his message across. The choice of words is important as they can paint a vista for the audience to imagine what was conveyed.
Rhetorical devices such as alliterations, analogy, pun, anaphora, the power of three, hyperbole, personification, simile, etc used in interesting speeches should be employed in a humorous speech.
The structure is always organized as in any speech with a good introduction, body, and conclusion.
Opening or Introduction — Opening sets the mood for the talk hence it should be an attention grabber. Plunge right into the story and set the scene for it. Some may prefer to use a visual aid to rein in the audience’s attention. As long as it is relevant to the content, it may be a good tactic.
Be enthusiastic, be infectious and you will seize your audience’s attention. Practise the opening to perfection to eliminate any possibilities of false starts and clumsiness.
Body — Limit to three examples (in a 5 to 7 min speech) and expand on each one. Build to a climax on each story and a punch line leaving breathing space for the smooth transition to the next story. Keep the momentum steady.
Check your content that nothing offensive was included. Avoid topics involving sex, race, politics, and religion. When in doubt, leave the joke out. The best strategy is to do the joke on yourself.
Conclusion — -The conclusion should be definite and have an impactful message from all your experiences leaving the audience happy to have heard you speak and learn something useful.
Some important points to note;
1 When giving a funny speech, the speaker is not expected to laugh at his own jokes. Most good humorous speakers are stone-faced when giving that punchline to their stories. If you are able to draw bouts of laughter, that is your proof of success.
2 The use of pause at the right moment is important to allow the joke or message to sink in. When the speech is given at a fast rate throughout, the joke may be lost by the audience.
3 Be mindful of the audience’s interest waning and adjust accordingly. This may require some experience and deftness.
The winner of the Humorous Speech Contest at our Toastmasters Club often scores in content and delivery of all the points listed above.
On a personal benefit, I find that making your fellow members laugh is a very enjoyable thing. Everyone became relaxed and went home happy. The club’s objectives of honing members’ communication skills are achieved with each participation.
I am able to break the ice easily with strangers, defray an embarrassing situation, and make a friend easily. Even if you have to give a serious speech at your corporation, the wit and wisdom developed at Toastmasters training often put one in good stead to handle any form of inherent stress and set the mood for a good presentation. I attribute this skill to years of crafting speeches during speech contests.
Humorous speeches are always a challenge to prepare but they are not impossible. We need to explore our arsenal of daily experiences and listen to other people’s stories for a start.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted” — -Charlie Chaplin