How To Add Humor To Your Talks

Do you know how to make your audience smile and laugh?

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #63

I'm sure you know from your own experiences that laughter brings people together. Humor helps to defuse difficult situations. It makes you more likable. It reduces stress. I've even read research that says laughter makes our internal organs work better!

How to Become Funnier

I'm not a naturally funny person, so over time, I had to learn how to be a humorous speaker. In today's article I’ll give you some tips and techniques that worked for me so that you can add humor to your talks too.

The first time I was funny on stage was an accident. I still very clearly remember I was giving a demonstration of body language. I was slumping my shoulders and looking depressed and then I said, "I'm very happy to be here today."

What Makes Something Funny? 

Everyone laughed and I was thinking, “Huh, what did I just do that was so funny?” I thought I was just demonstrating an incongruity between my words and body language. I happened to be delivering the same presentation that very same afternoon, and sure enough, again, at that same point in the talk, the audience laughed. You have no idea how excited I was that I had accidentally figured out a way to consistently make the audience laugh. Now I know, that what I did is exactly what humor is: I put two unlikely things together in a clever way. In fact, researchers describe humor as a sudden resolution of a cognitive incongruity.

How to Study Humor

Learning to be more lighthearted will help you be more likeable, more promotable, and healthier.

From then on, I made it a point to study humor. I attended The Humor Project annual conference. The Humor Project is an organization in upstate NY that focuses on the positive power of humor. I started watching more sitcoms; I went to see more funny movies; I even learned to juggle and I made a habit of going to comedy clubs.

The goals of my humor program were to closely observe humor so that I could mimic what I saw. It was really an eye-opening education and the side benefit was that I was laughing a lot more! So for sure, it’s a great idea to create your own humor program--even if you don’t have the goal of becoming a humorous speaker. Learning to be more lighthearted will help you be more likeable, more promotable, and healthier.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.