By Susan Newton DTM, Registrations Officer

So, you are preparing a speech – perhaps you have been invited to make a presentation at a conference, a wedding day speech or perhaps you have decided to enter the Humorous Speech contest (although this may be like shutting the door after the horse has bolted for this year, given that the finals for the contest are to be held very soon).

Is there a difference I hear you ask? After all, whatever you are doing, the speech will have an opening, a body and a conclusion. You will still need to capture attention in the first few sentences, then elaborate your theme and finally tie your thoughts into a coherent and possible pithy conclusion.

Imagine that you are presenting at an astronomy conference – let’s say your topic is “the proposed landing on Mars”. Is your presentation full of facts and figures, so dry that you can hear the audience snoring already? Why not insert a little humour to lighten the information? Make your facts and figures come alive even if you make up a story, such as, “I remember the last time I went to Mars – it was so hot and dusty that we were just yearning to return to Earth, looking for a beach, a river, anywhere to get wet! That trip in the space ship was just so long and uncomfortable.... we travelled 10 light years to get here.”

The wedding speech – plenty of scope for humour here, as you remember anecdotes from the past, childhood incidents, funny things family say or do. It is still rather serious, but once again lighten up, your audience is nodding off!

Which brings me to the humorous speech. Its intention is to be funny, make the audience laugh, hopefully huge guffaws and rolling in the aisles. Not just a string of anecdotes, but a fully fledged speech that really claims your audience’s attention from the start. Where do you get inspiration for your speech? My greatest claim to a humorous speech was about my two dogs, after I arrived home one day to find the front door wide open and no one at home. The conversation went like this: “Me: You’re the guard dog.

Dog: Maybe, but I don’t do mad axe murderers – go look for yourself, I’ll be right behind you!

Me: Some protection you are.

Dog: I know but why should I risk my life?”

Think about some of these ideas, next time you are writing a humorous speech:

1)    Find inspiration in everyday life, funny things your children say or do. Listening to my granddaughters can give me a whole lot of ideas, the most recent being “why are your eyelashes lumpy; Mummy doesn’t have lumpy eyelashes even when she puts HER mascara on” – yes, I can feel a humorous speech being made around these assertions!

2)    Knowing your audience is important – people won’t find things funny if they don’t understand, or relate to, what you are talking about.

3)    Try to use humour throughout. Start with a joke, but don’t leave your audience hanging until the very end for a big laugh = they will feel cheated.

4)    Props can be useful as long as they enhance your speech

5)    Don’t rush your jokes or funny story – pauses are a great help here. If you don’t take the time to let your audience laugh and appreciate your story, you can kill the humour

6)    Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from someone you trust to avoid crossing a line that becomes insulting or offensive.

Mark Twain once said: “Humour is mankind’s greatest blessing”

It’s not often easy to pull off, but a well-constructed, funny speech will bring lots of laughs to the audience and many rewards to the speaker.

So if laughter is the best medicine, let’s go for it.


Acknowledgement: while this article is in my own words, part of it was inspired by an article on the Toastmasters International website “Six Rules of Humour” by Graham Honaker, ACS, CL. There is also a version of the full article in the June 2015 Toastmasters magazine.