What do you do for fun? Whether it’s shopping, watching football, playing chess, listening to music, dancing, photography, hiking, gardening, painting or even gambling, how many of these activities make you laugh? While everyone enjoys a good laugh, it’s not the only way to have fun. Yet when it comes to making public speaking entertaining, few people seem to think past putting in a few jokes.
For a start, there is a big difference between telling jokes and making your talk funny. Humour can certainly enhance a speech or presentation but it needs to be organic, rather than shoehorned in: set-piece jokes are almost always a bad idea.
But the point I want to make today is that you can deliver an entertaining talk without any comedy at all. Entertaining is not all about laughs, it’s about drawing the audience in so that you have their full attention. In his advice about how to wow a crowd, internationally acclaimed public speaker Brian Tracy doesn’t even mention humour.
The reason so much is made of storytelling in public speaking is that a good story well told is a sure-fire way to engage the audience. People will keep listening if they care what happens next, if they have emotionally bought into your tale.
Humour is only one tool in the entertaining speaker’s toolbox. Human interest, drama and suspense can be equally effective – if not more so – and are often easier to pull off than trying to make people laugh. Next time you’re asked to give a talk, instead of googling “jokes for public speaking”, invest some time in finding the story you can tell that will bring your content to life.