Here’s an email I received asking for advice on how to be conversational, entertaining, and funny:
I live in Bend, OR. After winning a few contests in the Toastmasters meetings, I now want to become a professional public speaker. However, I know that speaking is one thing, earning $10 - $20,000 as a keynote speaker is quite another. It takes good, entertaining stories to hold an audience's attention, and laughter is the key, so I am told by my current mentor.
I would like to find someone who can write comedy for my keynote speeches. It is an art, to be sure. I have received some good tips from you. I would be so happy and grateful to find a writer who can make my speeches conversational, entertaining, and funny.
I need 5 minute vignettes about my life experiences. For example: P Bunny, NY fashion designer, wild days growing up in the 60s and 70s, etc.
Appreciate the help and guidance.
Add Humor to Your Speeches
I agree with your mentor that laughter is important! And I also agree that it's a skill in itself that requires significant mastery.
I have never hired someone to help me add humor to my speeches. For most of them, I have organically added humor over time (recording and repeating lines the audience found funny).
I have read quite a bit about adding humor and have even written on the podcast about how to incorporate humor. I think every speaker should understand the basics of humor, even if you ultimately decide to have someone else write the punch lines. So here are three episodes of The Public Speaker that can help you learn more about humor and avoid common mistakes.
- How to Add Humor to Your Talks
- How to Make People Laugh in Presentations
- How to Avoid Making Humor Mistakes in Speeches
However, reading about humor is a bit like reading about swimming. Eventually, you need to jump into the pool and get wet. I started out with a class in improvisation which I really enjoyed—although it was definitely out of my comfort zone. I've written about it here:
Then I "graduated" to a class on stand-up comedy. I don’t intend to be a stand-up comic, but learning those skills is part of the craft of a good professional speaker. So I signed up for a class at a Philadelphia comedy club near to my home.
About that same time, I was writing my book Smart Talk. I felt that I needed help to punch it up a bit, so I hired a writer who had a sense of humor which was similar to mine. I gave her sections of the book to read, and she added in humor lines in five or six areas. She was not a professional speech writer or even a professional humor writer—just a writer I had worked with in the past who was naturally funny.