How to Use Humor in Your Speech

Humor and comedy that is written and used in speeches is an art form. When used correctly, it can make a point stand out, capture attention, amuse the audience, and even answer an anticipated question. How do you create this type of humor? It should be written and delivered with subtlety and precision. It is commonly agreed upon that humor is a powerful method for getting your message heard by your audience. We at The Humor Writers believe in this so strongly that it has become serious business for us.

Everyone from CEO’s, Professional Athletes, Corporate Executives, to various Politicians from Senators to Mayors , as well as Keynote Speakers and Public Figures, have found that adding appropriate and cutting-edge humor and comedy to their Presentation or Speech is magic for winning over the crowd. How do we know? Well, that is who we are helping on a daily basis. Not only do they want several tailored comedic lines added to their talk, they want coaching on how to most effectively deliver it.

Why do these professionals want to use correctly written humor in their speech? Aren’t they already influencers that can simply state the content facts and expect it to be heard by everyone? Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Have you ever been sitting in the audience at a ceremony, charity function, campaign event, or keynote talk and have been so bored by the monotone style of the speaker and dull content that you pulled out your smartphone to check Facebook? Well, I have witnessed it and admittedly performed that disrespectful act (once, maybe twice). I’m sorry, but if it’s flat, dull speeches vs. status updates and emails- the latter wins for most.

The job of the Public Speaker, regardless of the message, is to make sure that message gets heard by bringing meaning to the facts. They can do this through their energy, movements, and humor. Their job is to motivate or inspire the audience to a cause, belief, or action.

How can using humor be advantageous? For starters, it makes you more likeable to your crowd. People like those who can make them laugh. I proudly say that I love it even if my pastor makes jokes during his sermon. Second, it captures the audience’s attention, increases interest and gets them to connect with you on an emotional level. This goes hand-in-hand with making you more likeable. Thirdly, it will emphasize the ideas, main points, or highlights that you most want your audience to leave with. People naturally remember the points that made them laugh a little. Do I dare detail the humorous points of my pastor’s sermon? Let’s just say it had to do with a couple’s intimacy, but it definitely got the women’s ears to perk. Lastly, it disarms hostility, antagonists, negative thinkers, and lightens up heavy material. Hence, the pastor’s message, without the humor to lift the heaviness off the topic, he probably would have caused members to get up and leave or receive some badgering and complaining emails (which he even joked about). Instead, I observed how he subtly used truth in a humorous light to get his message heard, and was able to engage the audience so much that they were standing up and clapping. Now that is the reaction every speaker desires from their crowd. With a little speech writing help from professional comedy writers, you can deliver a great message too.

Ways to Create A Great Speech

Tre` Conway

Some speakers are so skilled in their delivery of their talks, that their speeches are magical and inspiring. What elements do these speakers bring forth that makes them so memorable?

Some iconic figures from JFK to Martin Luther King Jr. are most widely remembered. Most school children can recite the most famous lines from their speeches. If we look at a current figure, such as Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on Inspiring Action, we can see the same passion and magical elements, which is primarily why his is the second most viewed TED talk ever. Now that is quite an accomplishment.

After studying these great speakers of our time, we can dissect a few tips from their speaking style.

  • Open with a question. One way to get your audience into the right frame of mind for your message , is to ask a series of questions. The purpose is to use the questions as a method for opening them up to your overall idea. It’s an indirect way to frame your talking points and building the engagement.


For Example he asks “ how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions? For example: Why is Apple so innovative? … Why is it that they seem to have something different?”

  • Change in your message. This change is subtle and looks more like a bend or curve in the tone and pitch of your voice, as well as the message. Then followed by a pause to let the audience ponder on your point. This should be used as a pivotal point in your speech. The game changer.

In Sinek’s talk, this change comes forth in an inflection point, where, after his series of questions he simply states “There is something else at play here. “


  • Building the story. The goal of your speech and presentation is to motivate and inspire your listeners to action, or a cause. Like any great story, you need to build the excitement or suspense. You don’t need to rush through to the climax point. You want to build up the engagement by keep your audience in suspense of how important your main point is. Physically you can achieve this by slowing your speech, making more direct eye contact, slowing your pace and movements on stage. Verbally, you can create a cadence in your content. A rhythm or contrast to your message.

For example, in JFK’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Using the word ask repetitively, creates a cadence. One that is memorable in our history and highly influential to the listeners.

Finally, remind yourself why you are delivering this message. Allow yourself to get caught up in the passion of your topic. That passion will exude out to the audience, and ultimately, that is what will keep them engaged in your speech or presentation.



Using Word Pictures in Your Speech


There is one major point that sets apart great speakers from those who can merely read a speech. It’s called story-telling. It is widely believed that the greatest speech Churchill ever gave, he delivered in America. For a man who delivered many great speeches, why was that one considered his greatest? It was primarily due to how that speech changed American’s feelings about the Soviet Union. How did a single speech influence a country? It was the appropriate use and timing of a single phrase.

In his stateroom, as the train carrying the presidential entourage headed west through the night of March 2, Churchill studied his map of Europe. With his pen, he drew a black line from the Baltic Sea through Poland, then down through the Balkans to the Adriatic Sea. He retraced that line as he tried to think of the right “picture” to describe the Soviet’s current suppression of human rights. Around 2:00 a.m., as the train stopped in Salem, Illinois, for refueling, Churchill looked at the curtain dividing the sleeping part from the rest of the stateroom. He was inspired to write down a few lines in ink. The next day he read: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent.” That picture phrase inspired and motivated America into action.

As a speaker or a teacher, it’s best to try to talk about your own experiences. Everyone in his or her own life has personal experiences. Try this exercise: start by writing down ten incidents. Think of the stories you have often told your friends and family: when you won a state final; how you met your spouse on a blind date; when your grandparent passed. Don’t write out the entire story, simply write a title for each event. When you recount some personal experience in a talk, you come alive because you’re talking about something personal; something that happened to you. Since it is personal, you are able to tell it well because you’ve already told it many times before. Each time you give a talk you can look at this list and find that at least one of them will suggest a picture analogy for the talk you are giving to a particular audience.

Franklin Roosevelt, arguing for aid to Great Britain said, “Who of you, if you saw your neighbor’s house on fire, wouldn’t lend him your hose to put out the fire?” That is what you call the language of great leadership.

If you can’t think of the right analogy, take a walk in nature. Walking amongst the trees, streams, birds, or beach will help you be more connected to your intuition and creativity. Ideas will come to you. Lincoln often used this approach. Once, when he came across a stream, he was able to picture his argument for his re-election. “It’s not best to swap horses in the middle of the stream.”

If you desire to truly move, inspire, or motivate your crowd, then you must get them to think outside themselves. Create that scene or picture for your audience.


– Adam Gropman 
According to various surveys and polls, public speaking is one of the most frightening things a person will have to do in his or her life, often more feared than severe physical dangers, even death.
Instead of dreading your moments in the spotlight, you can easily follow just a few simple steps and learn to thrive there; to be the bold, assured public speaker that makes everyone feel at ease and who inspires confidence and heightened listening at your every word.  More than that, you will be dynamic, entertaining, fun… even funny!  You will leave a crowd  that really likes you and your message… in fact the two things will become somewhat indistinguishable.
Let’s look at four essential ingredients to a great public speaker. If you only remember what I call ‘The Four C’s’, you will be way ahead of the game. In fact, you will be able to come off like a pro. The Four C’s are Composure, Cadence, Communication and Comedy. Let’s find out exactly what they entail.
1.) Composure. This means how you present or carry yourself. Your body is your instrument. You are thinking: “Wait, my mouth is my instrument when I’m speaking.” Yes, but your entire body is physically the vessel that carries your voice, and visually, mentally and emotionally, your entire body helps you connect with the people that you are talking to.
Try to stand straight up, and make your spine and your limbs straight. Not ramrod stiff and uptight, but self-respecting, commanding straight. Stand to your full height. If you are much more comfortable leaning over just a bit, or bent slightly, that is OK. The point is, find your “power position”, where your body feels most naturally authoritative and deserving of being looked at and listened to.
Look out and survey the crowd. Develop hand gestures that convey strength combined with approachability. Perhaps fingers together, facing up , like a “church steeple”, or a very loosely made fist like Bill Clinton used to do, or a flat “karate chop” hand. Some people point. Some give the “thumbs-up”. Some lightly slap the table or podium under them for emphasis. The point is, experiment beforehand and find your “power position” and your “power moves” or “power gestures”.
If you feel nervous at the outset of a speech, take more time before starting, become more deliberate and look around the room and the crowd for a few moments. You know exactly why you are taking time and looking around. Everything you do is on purpose. You are in control. You are leading and the crowd will follow. This is just a law of nature.
2.) Cadence. This means the tempo, rhythm or speed of your spech. Most people, most of the time, simply speak too fast. They rush. If you are at all a nervous type who has an inclination to speak quickly, especially when nervous, then SLOW DOWN. Make yourself speak a good fraction slower than what initially comes out of your mouth.
Slowing down a bit helps make you seem more deliberate and in control. To the audience, what sounds slow to you probably sounds very coherent and actually easier to understand. Also, if it doesn’t sound hasty and rushed, then almost subliminally the message to people is that what you are saying is interesting and important and will “pay off” and that you know this for a fact.
Do not speak too slowly, though.  You should maintain a “spring in your step”  vocally and feel the up and down rhythms inherent in your words and sentences.  Find the words of emphasis, the “punchlines” (even if they are serious and not funny) and distinguish the importance of words by your pacing.  Watch and study great deliverers, such as late night TV hosts, news anchors and famous celebrity roasters.  Emulate their rhythms and pacing.  
If you suspect that you might be a naturally slow talker, then ask a few friends or confidantes and confirm this. If you really are a very slow talker, then speed up a bit. But most of you will naturally be on the fast side when initially speaking publicly.
3.) Communication. OK, you know what this word means literally. But what do I really mean by it? It’s so easy to forget when speaking in public, but you are really just having some kind of conversation with human beings. It could be a Presidential address, trial attorney in court, actor thanking the Academy Awards or standup comedian doing his bits. They are all just SPEAKING TO PEOPLE.  The basic mechanics of intentionemotion and personal need are really the same as an intimate conversation. And I know that every one of you reading this knows how to talk, how to just talk to a person, be it a family member, co-worker, friend, shopkeeper, what have you. When you talk to another person, you naturally and unconsciously attach real emotion and urgency to what you are saying, because the words really mean something to you. They come from a need to communicate something, whatever that might be: “Can I have some potato chips?”, “You HAVE to go see Despicable Me,” “I hate the 405 Freeway!” or “Will you give me a hug?” It sounds simple, and in your everyday life it IS simple.
When you speak, imagine a real person you know, right in front of you, or out in the audience. Speak to that one person if you need to. Connect with that person in your mind. Convince him or her of the importance, the deep meaning of what you are saying. Unless you are just calling bingo numbers, or reciting statistics for half an hour, you are not just saying words. You are saying THOUGHTS, FEELINGS and IDEAS. You are communicating MEANINGS.
Now, of course, emotional doesn’t mean loud, overly dramatic or scary. It means literally that there is some emotional component or feeling attached to it, the way regular people really speak almost all the time, at least regular people that you want to listen to.
Therefore, to summarize Communication, practice public speaking as if you are conversing with close friends or people that do not intimidate you at all. And make personal, emotional associations with what you are saying so that it sounds like you CARE about those ideas. Because you really DO care about them. And then the audience will care.
4.) Comedy. Humor, levity, funniness… comedy. By whatever name, it is a very potent and valuable weapon in public speaking. Presidents use humor. Corporate CEO’s use it.  So do military brass, athletes, teachers, managers and professionals of every type, stripe and classification.
Human beings use humor, and not just those we think of as being “clowns” or “comedians”. Sometimes the most serious person can crack a sharp comedic line and bring down the house, elevating his or her stature and command to even higher levels. Think about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the Terminator movies. He started as a huge, heartless, robotic killing machine and he tossed out a series of funny one-liners that have become among the most widely used and appreciated in the world. Now you are probably not a heartless, humorless robot. In fact, you probably do already use humor at times in your life. The key is bringing appropriate, razor-sharp humor into your public speaking.
If you feel unable to write clever, appropriate, relevant and gut-bustingly funny lines into your speech or presentation, then hire a professional comedy writer like The Humor Writers.  We professional comedians and comedy writers do not try to fix our own car engines or re-work the plumbing in our house- we call a proven, expert professional to do the work for us so that it is guaranteed to be top quality and one hundred percent effective.  You need to do the same with humor in your speeches. 
In Summary
Not everybody was born a giant of public speaking- a Bill Clinton, a John F. Kennedy, a Winston Churchill. But with a little work, a bit of preparation and some serious concentration on The Four C’s, just about anybody can become a strong and compelling public speaker.



Steps To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

– Tre` Conway 

One of the most common phobias in America is that of having to stand in front of a group of people and talk about… well, anything. Yes my friends, it is widely known as the Fear of Public Speaking. It can range from slight nervousness or anxiety to a paralyzing fear, resulting in panic attacks. It’s something I have experienced myself when presenting some viable information to investors. However, with preparation and persistence, you can overcome this fear of stage fright.

Here are 7 Steps toward Success in Speaking:

  • Know your topic. The better you understand your material and message— and the more passionate you are about the topic — the easier it will be for you to discuss the talking points and highlights without having to strictly read notes. In other words, speak from your heart. And if you do get lost, you’ll be able to seamlessly recover without anyone noticing. Take some time to anticipate what questions the audience may ask and have some responses ready.
  • Preparation and Organization. Like any major event, you want to have some kind of plan. Outline the information you want to present, including any props, audio or visual aids you’ll use. If this is not your strength, then hire professional speech writers to write your material, create the visuals, and even coach you through your presenting style. You wouldn’t enter an athletic game without a coach, and public speaking is no different. It’s the sport of influence. The more organized your presentation, the more of a pro you will appear, thus the less nervous you will act in front of your audience.
  • Practice, practice and keep practicing. Why? Like anything else in life, the more you actually DO an activity, the more comfortable you are performing that task. Think back to when you first began driving as a teen, you may have stalled out a few times, or even backed into a pole, but now you have no issues cruising through traffic on the 405 while listening to your headset. It becomes second nature. So practice your complete presentation several times. Do it for a few people you’re comfortable with to get feedback, or video yourself for your personal review. Make sure you practice using any equipment needed for your presentation.
  • Visualize your success. I cannot say enough positive attributes for visualization. Every successful icon current and throughout history has used it for their own success. Simply Imagine yourself with a full audience, responding to your material, laughing at your jokes, and clapping at the perfect time. Each day you practice, spend about 5 minutes prior, doing some calm, deep breathing and creating a clear visual in your mind of this successful picture.
  • Keep your focus on your material. One thing you cannot control is other people, so don’t spend any time focusing on or worrying about your audience. Always remember that people in general are supportive – they want your presentation and speech to go well. They also want to be engaged in your message. So keep your attention on what you know and can control, how your material and message get presented. Reading about great speeches of great presenters, such as Winston Churchill, or watching videos from great presenters on TED Talks, will also help you discover the presenting qualities that appeal to you.
  • Remember to pause. Silence during your presentation is ok. If you had a humorous line, wait until the laughter dies down. If you lose track of what you’re saying, just pause, recollect your thoughts and continue as though that was a deliberate action. Your audience will not even recognize the minutiae mistake.
  • Recognize your success. Be proud of yourself for presenting your speech. Remember celebrate the small triumphs. You are always your worst critic. View any mistakes you made as an opportunity to improve your public speaking skills. And if it really was as bad as you think, then definitely hire a speech writer and coach for the next one.


My last bit of advice is that humor goes a long way to get your message heard. If you have a natural sense of humor, and know your crowd well, then shooting from the hip may be easy for you. Laughing is a solid way to get your audience engaged in you, your message, and listening with open ears. The last thing any speaker wants is for people to start pulling out their smart phones half-way through the speech. If being funny isn’t one of your strong suits, then comedy writers are well worth your investment. A laughing audience is much more of a confidence builder than hearing crickets.

My First Time

Todd Sawyer 

It was a Tuesday night. I was twenty-three. It was dark. I was beyond nervous. The kind of nervous where you are hoping that you don’t end up hurling in an embarrassing moment in front of people.

Twenty-four years and five thousand times later, I’m not as nervous anymore. But occasionally I still get a slight performance anxiety. And yes, I count how many times. You don’t?

Like most first-time activities in life, I was not a natural. It takes practice to build confidence. I’m talking about the first time I tried to perform stand-up comedy. And that’s not a typo, I said “tried to perform.” I had all the subtlety of Fox News at that point in my life. But this is about my first time on a stage; not picking fights with comedy networks.

I think there are very few naturals in any walk of life; most of life’s accomplishments take a lot of work to go from good to great. And I had a lot of work ahead of me to achieve that level . That hard work and dedication has paid off in countless ways that I didn’t imagine.

My stand-up career has provided a lot of memories for me. From touring with the legendary Ron White, to performing for the USO in Afghanistan, to being on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson; but nothing stands out like the first time I was on stage at The Comedy Underground in Seattle. I was so nervous that I literally blacked out. ( It’s still unclear what happened in those 30 seconds during my lapse.)

I do remember that I had gone to a couple other open mics and naively thought, “it can’t be that hard. You just talk.” Oops! Like Donald Sterling, I hadn’t thought everything through. I had underestimated the gravity of the situation, just like I did prior to entering my first marriage.

The host introduced me and I remember reaching for his hand. The rest is just a vague guess at what transpired or what was said. I remember the blinding spotlight and it felt like I wasn’t in my body.  I certainly don’t remember any of the material I tried that night.

When three minutes came to an end, the host came back on stage, maybe the few audience members reluctantly clapped. Then I took my first step off stage, and my nervous knee buckled. Timber. I did a header into an empty table. Needless to say, that spectacle awarded me the only laugh I received from the audience. It’s a miracle that I didn’t become a pratfall specialist or a mime after that incident , which took several sessions of therapy to recover from.

I have spent years trying to figure out why I kept going at it after that painfully embarrassing night. The best I can come up with is that being funny is one of the only things, on the short list of things, that I’m good at and enjoy. But like Robert Klein says, “There’s a big difference between being funny and being funny Tuesday night at 8:30.” That, my friends, is a fact. It takes work and practice to be entertaining to strangers.

Luckily, other things I am good at is not quitting and facing my fears. I just kept coming back until I figured out what worked for me and what did not…. and hopefully I can continue my winning streak for the next twenty-four years.

Tips for Delivering a Speech to a Large Audience

What could be more terrifying than having to get in front of hundreds of people and talk on an important message, that you hope they hear, while keeping them engaged? It’s typically easy to produce immediate laughter to a smaller, more intimate crowd during a presentation or talk. This can sometimes give you a false confidence. When you are speaking to a large audience, your humor doesn’t deliver as quickly, resulting in a ripple effect of laughter, which can easily diminish a novice speaker’s confidence level.

One key tip to remember while speaking to large crowds is to pause briefly between laugh points. This simple delay, will allow the “laughs”, that are moving from back to the front of the room, to die down. This simple act will give the speaker time to re-poise and deliver the next line. Think slow and steady wins the race.

Own the room and the crowd, through confidence and animated movements. Hiding solely behind the podium will not help keep the audience’s ears on your message. The simple act of moving around the stage or front of the room, will make you appear more prominent.

Third, know your audience. Make sure you have included some humor and laugh lines that are appropriate for the majority of the people you are speaking to. Just hearing a group laughter once, will give you the confidence to finish your speech or presentation with finesse.


Fake it till you make it.