Use Humor

12.09.2017 |

Episode #6 of the course Speak like a leader by Mark D’Silva


Welcome to Day 6. Today’s lesson on using humor is a great transition from yesterday’s lesson on storytelling because often, the best way to include humor is when you are relating a story. Great leaders frequently connect with others through their humor, particularly self-effacing humor.


Self-Effacing Humor

Self-effacing humor, or making fun of yourself, is a wonderful way to connect with others as you call out your weaknesses. People who have the ability to laugh at themselves are more likely to be perceived as confident, strong, and likeable. They are also subconsciously sending a message to the audience that they are secure in themselves.

By using self-effacing humor, the audience acknowledges that you are only human, prone to failure, and are confident enough to share it. This type of humor is a very powerful magnet—however, a little goes a long way, so the key is to not overdo it.

The effective use of self-effacing humor as a presenter means you should never set yourself up as superior to the audience either socially, financially, or intellectually. Your audience does not want you preaching to them. They want to accept you as one of them. The best way to do this is to let them have the upper hand in some way. Your audience would rather hear about the time you dropped the ball than the time you won a gold medal.

So, what can you make fun of? Picking at your physical appearance may be fair game, especially if you’re a particularly tall, short, fat, or bald. You may have something physically different or even a strange tattoo.

Maybe you are a disorganized person or quite forgetful; you could tease yourself about it. If you can’t read maps or have really bad table manners, you could use those examples. Use anything, as long as you are the target.

But you don’t have to contain the use of self-effacing humor to joke about yourself. If you are a lawyer, you can make fun of the profession. You may come from an ethnic background with its own cultural peculiarities. Make fun of those differences.

As a presenter, look for opportunities to poke fun at yourself. This will be one of your most powerful tools to connect with the audience and a subtle way to show your self-confidence.


Adding Humor to Your Presentation

Consider these points for your next presentation.

1. Ask yourself whether the humor tickles your funny bone and only use that which makes you laugh or smile. If it’s not funny to you, then don’t expect your audience to find it humorous.

2. Memorize the humor and experiment. Practice self-effacing humor with a small group, and see if they enjoy it. Ask them what would make it better, and keep improving.

3. Start a humorous stories folder. Start gathering self-effacing anecdotes even if they are only mildly amusing. These stories can be embroidered and made more colorful, and you can add depth with great word pictures.

4. Make sure your humor has a point. It should always tie in with some aspect of your message. If the audience enjoys the humor, they’ll also remember the point you’re making.

Use self-effacing humor to really connect with your audience. As Phyllis Diller said, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”

Tomorrow, we look at the importance of speaking with passion.

Best regards,

Mark D’Silva


Recommended book

Do You Talk Funny?: 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker by David Nihill


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