How to Use Humor in a Speech Opening


– I have often heard
professional-level speakers say, you should start your
presentation with a joke. That attention grabber is critical, and I wanna disagree with this advice. I do not recommend telling a
setup, punchline-style joke, the kind that a stand-up comic would tell, and there are a lotta reasons why. Now at the same time, I am 100% in favor of using lighthearted
humor in a presentation, and I do it often when I do
professional-level presentations and when I teach in college. So there are some differences here, but I can give you a
really straight ahead way to add humor without the big
risk of a punchline-style joke. So let’s take a look. (light music) Hi, I’m Alex Lyon, and this
is Communication Coach. We’re here to help you
increase your impact and lead your teams to
higher levels of excellence. Lotta bad advice out there,
in my humble opinion, about telling jokes as attention grabbers. Here is the most common
situation that I have seen. The speaker tries to start off with a joke that they have created,
and then nobody laughs. And then instead of just moving on, they start chuckling
nervously to cue people that that was a joke. The audience may or may
not chuckle nervously, and it’s an incredibly awkward situation. Now think about this,
this is the first moment of your presentation,
and you completely bombed and there are nothing but
crickets and nervous laughter. This is not the way you want
to start a presentation. It’s really high risk
and really low reward. So I am against these
stand-up comic-style setup and punchline one-liner jokes. Now, having said that, I’m gonna sound like I’m contradicting
myself, but I am not. There’s a lot of ways to add humor to your attention grabber
without the big risk. So let’s look at three easy ways to add some lighthearted humor and still grab your audience’s attention. The first way is to deliberately quote someone else that’s funny. Now by quoting them directly,
by saying as Jerry Seinfeld once said, or as George Burns once said, then you may even have the
piece of paper in your hand and read the quotation. What you’re doing there is you’re drawing people’s attention to what
that other person said, and it takes the attention
off of you as the joke teller. So you know they have a
funny line that kills. It’s already been tested. They’re stand-up comics,
they probably worked on it for years to get it just right. And now you’re both,
you and your audience, focusing on that little line, that little humor, as an object
that you’re both looking at. So the attention’s not on you. And if it bombs, which they usually don’t because if they’re funny, they’re funny, because it’s already been worked out, then what you do is you
get a little chuckle, you get a little laugh. But if it bombs, then
it’s not really on you. It’s on George Burns,
it’s on Jerry Seinfeld. I was saying to my wife the other day, you know Jerry Seinfeld said in his bit, “My parents just moved to Florida. “Now they didn’t wanna move to Florida, “but they’re 65 and that’s the law.” And my wife laughed huge. I’m always trying to make my wife laugh, but she laughs when I
tell Jerry Seinfeld jokes, and I think it’s because
you can hear the comedian telling the joke in your
mind as the person shares it, and it transports you a little bit more than hearing me, Alex Lyon, as the speaker tell my one-liner joke. So quote someone else that’s funny. Use a quotation. That’s a great attention
grabber, no problem. The other way you can
add humor is by telling a lighthearted story. And the way to make a story lighthearted, and by the way I have a whole nother video on how to tell stories
as attention grabbers, I’ll put that link in
the description below, is you add a little bit
of a goal to the person in the story. They’re trying to reach a destination, achieve something, and that
way your story gets humorous because the obstacles
along the way prevent them from reaching that goal, and it becomes pretty lighthearted, pretty funny. That’s the whole reason why
a movie like Dumb and Dumber is funny because it’s a road trip movie where these two guys are
trying to get from A to B, from Providence to Aspen,
to see about a girl, and everything that can
go wrong does go wrong on their way. And so, all these mishaps
become very humorous because you know there’s a goal in mind that is preventing, and
they’re being prevented from getting there. So adding a little bit of a humorous goal to your story can make that
story more lighthearted. So you can tell a story. It’s not a punchline, but
it adds just a little bit of a chuckle, a little bit of a smile, to your audience’s experience. And the third way is really easy, and that is to show something visual on the screen that you know is funny. So maybe there’s a cute picture, maybe there’s a little bit
of a joke even on the slide, and you don’t have to tell it. You just have to say something
and then show the image, and people chuckle. You’ve probably seen
speakers use humor this way. It’s a very low-risk way
because when you were looking at the internet or doing your reading, you came across it and you laughed, or somebody forward it
to you and you laughed. Everybody thinks it’s funny. Everyone knows it’s funny. And so you share it in a
presentation and it’s almost guaranteed to get a smile. So I am 100% telling your own setup, punchline-style jokes, but
I am also 100% in favor of using lighthearted
humor, and these are three low-risk ways to do it without worrying about nobody laughing and just hearing those crickets chirping. That’s a really hard way
to start a presentation. And trust me, I’ve seen a
lotta people crash and burn, and they just completely fall apart because they’re trying to do it that way. So question of the day,
what are your suggestions for adding humor but not jokes
to your attention grabbers in your presentations? I would love to hear your
comments and your questions in that section below. So thanks, god bless, and I hope you grab your audience’s attention really well in your next presentation.

15 thoughts on “How to Use Humor in a Speech Opening

  1. How you know that i have presentation after two weeks
    thanks watcing you from Oman

  2. can i ask a que I'm having a persuasive essay about food delivery to school but my problem is i don't know how to make an excellent attention grabber to it can you tell the steps to do it

  3. Just found this channel, it's amazing! Thanks so much for the advice 🙂

  4. FREE 7 Instant Tips for Confident & Composed Public Speaking: http://www.communicationskillscoach.com/free-7-instant-tips-for-confident-speaking.html

  5. i have to go give a speech to 3 5th grade classes to get them to join my class

  6. Does anyone have jokes about Mahatma Gandhi? I am doing a presentation about him, and I want to make it funny. It is on Wednesday.

  7. 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏Sir u r a good speaker so can you give me a speech on topic "entire world is a stage and we are merely actor's"for my school elocution competition which should be a little funny …(pls answer as early as possible sir)

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