Benefits of using humor in public speaking..

Why use humor ?
You make people happy !
Many years ago, I was reluctantly watching a videotape of Toastmaster Willie Jones in the World championship public speaking series. I was in a miserable mood that day with nothing working my way. He spoke about baby boomers, how nothing was good about being 50 and the like. It was only compounding my problems. And then he said something as if it was meant for me ” Don’t take life seriously. Remember, the number of people who will attend your funeral will largely depend…………… on the weather that day ! Take it easy!”I burst out at that and was in a much better frame of mind. I then realised the power of humor. If Willie Jones,, thousand of miles away can make a struggling businessman happy, I thought, why not use it and make some one happy ?

Connect better:Every time you face an audience, there is an invisible barrier. The moment you are able to get a smile/laugh, they are more inclined to listen to you. Like the speaker who was addressing a ladies club and opened with ” Thank you for the warm welcome, you beautiful and charming women ! Well, I notice a beautiful woman and a charming woman notices me !”

Good for your health: Christine Clifford was afflicted with cancer and was not given much time to live by her doctors. She used and continues to use humor to fight the disease and today is a successful and inspiring speaker lecturing cancer patients around the world. Visit http://www.cancerclub.com/ and http://www.christineclifford.com/ to read her fascinating account. http://www.laughaway.com/ is a site offering insights on Laughter Yoga and Stress management through laughter.

Good for your business ! Steve Martin, in an insightful article titled “Could laughter be the best medicine for your business ?” in the Inside Influence report cites well researched evidence to show how humor can be a profitable tool in negotiation. In his Principles of Persuasion, Dr Cialdini talks about “Liking”. We are more likely to be persuaded by people whom we like. And a sense of humor can increase your likeability with clients, peers and superiors. Here’s the link to the article http://www.insideinfluence.com/current/article_feb.html

Diffuses hostility: When used with tact, humor can make friends out of foes ! Like Mark Twain did when he confronted a prim and proper British gentleman while taking a walk in a London Park. He tipped his hat and said “Hello”. The gentleman grimaced with “ how can you wish me when we haven’t met before ?” and walked away. Mark Twain said nothing. The next day, he came across the same gentleman and again wished him with a cheerful “Hello, I think we met yesterday !” The stuffy gentleman couldn’t resist a smile and proffered his hand !
Malcolm Kushener talks about a union leader in Detroit in a wage negotiation with the CEO. He wore a don’t-mess-around-with-me look and growled ” I am a communist !”. The CEO said ” I’m a Catholic !” The union leader had mellowed at this response and was more amenable to reason.

Improves attention: A Toastmaster attempting his ice breaker announced the title as “ Past imperfect, Present tense !” My antenna stiffened up and I wanted to listen to him. Perhaps I would have switched off if he had started with a conventional “ I was born…” kind of stuff.
Yet another speaker, Jindow Joseph, in his ice breaker said ” my father outsources punishment to my mother but she doesn’t outsource her affection to any one else.” Now, every time he comes up to speak, I pay attention because of his sense of humor and ridicule.

Reduces tension: In his Handbook of humor for speakers, Maxwell Droke writes about a hardworking Egyptian King named Amasis, who was approached by his advisers – “Your Majesty”,they said, “people are talking. They think the king should sit in state on his throne and be a symbol of dignity. they don’t think he should tell or laugh at funny stories.”
King Amasis replied ” When an archer goes into battle, he strings his bow until it is taut. When the shooting is over, he unstrings it again. If he didn’t unstring it,it would lose its snap;it would be no good to him when he needed it.” With that perfect metaphor, the monarch dismissed his wise men and went off to listen and to laugh and see the difference.
I can relate to this well. After a hectic, tiring day, when I unplug by watching comedy time on TV,the unstringing happens and I go to bed relaxed, ready for a gruelling day. I’ have most of the audio recordings of Humor sessions conducted by TMs in my ipod and it is great stress reliever to listen to them.
By using humor in your presentations, you can unstring your listeners and in the recent humor workshop I conducted for Dubai Division Toastmasters, I was extremely gratified to receive this feedback- “I landed at the venue with a head ache, but by the end of the seminar it was all gone. Truly laughter is the best medicine.” TM Elton Almeida Abu Dhabi Chapter 1950

Makes message more memorable: In my Presentation Skills session, after mentioning the importance of audience analysis, I use this quip -” Preparing for a speech without the audience in mind is like you writing a love letter to whomsoever it may concern !” Many participants have mailed back to say how this example has stuck with them when they think of preparation.

We can go on …. but the puzzle is what prevents us from using /attempting humor ? What are the barriers to using humor ?

Next topic: Barriers to using humor

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  1. Prospeke International, Professional speaker agency and bureau. Our business speakers are professionals in their field, delivering after Dinner speakers, keynote, workshop and conference presentations that are motivational, thought-provoking and educational for any event.

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