Funny You Should Say That!

Delivering a humorous speech is no laughing matter.  It is hard work.

In the fall of 2008, I had the terrific experience of competing in the Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest in District 59 (18 countries in Continental Europe).  The contest has four rounds – Club, Area, Division and District – with each round becoming increasingly difficult.  I am proud to say that I made it through all four rounds and emerged victorious against some very nice and extremely funny people.

Achieving that goal took an enormous amount of effort.  It wasn’t all fun and games!  I revised my speech several times and rehearsed it, either aloud or in my head, over a hundred times.

You can see the final product below.  On the whole, I am pleased with the performance, even though I think that I went too fast in places.  Still, when you are under tight time constraints and start getting laughs early, you become acutely aware of the need to keep moving.

One of the many lessons learned from that experience was the importance of choosing a topic with which the audience can identify.  Because I was speaking to 250 Toastmasters, what better topic than Toastmasters itself?  The speech was a spoof about our great organization.

If you are not a Toastmaster, much of the humour will be lost on you.  In fact, after the contest I was interviewed on World Radio Switzerland.  Prior to going on air, the host asked if I could do part of the speech live.  I declined because, as I told him, many of his listeners (who are not Toastmasters) would likely not find it that funny and would probably wonder whether there had been a mistake in the judging!

The next time you give a speech and want to inject a little humour, pick subjects with which your audience can relate.  If, for example, you are speaking to people from Company X, are there any funny things about the company that you can use (in good taste) in your speech?

Do some background research.  Talk to people.  You will be surprised at what you come up with and your audience will appreciate your efforts.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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