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Some Tips On Using Humour When Speaking Or Training

by Alan Matthews

posted in Writing and Speaking

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There are lots of good reasons to use humour if you are speaking or training.
For example:
  • Using humour well can help you build rapport with the group and help the group bond together, it can put them at ease and make them more receptive and ready to learn.
  • People remember items with a strong emotional connection and so humour can help them to remember your key points.
  • Laughing sends oxygen to the brain and also releases endorphins, which create a sense of well-being and also increase focus and attention.

I would argue that any subject can have a humorous element but the level and style of the humour has to be appropriate, the tone has to match the subject matter and the audience.And there is a risk because, used in the wrong way, humour can make people feel awkward and embarrassed, it can alienate you from the group, distract them from the point they are meant to be learning and undermine your credibility.
Here are a few key pointers for using humour:
  • Humour has to be relevant and used to support the key points, not a distraction or an end in itself - you are there to help people listen, learn and remember, not just to be an entertainer.
  • If you try to use humour once and it doesn't work, just move on, don't draw attention to it or explain why the group should have found it funny. If it happens repeatedly, drop your attempts at humour and just play it straight.
  • Using humour doesn't mean telling jokes, there are other ways to inject humour (see below).
  • Don't try to be funny by making fun of the group as a whole or individuals within it. Don't be sarcastic.
  • Make sure any references you use are ones which the group will understand, e.g. if they are much younger or older than you, they may not follow the same trends, watch the same TV shows, etc.

Ways to introduce humour without telling jokes include:
  • using real-life stories
  • original and creative images in visual aids
  • cartoons
  • props and objects
  • videos
  • fun activities
  • songs and sketches
  • interesting and amusing statistics, facts and figures
  • quotations or misquotations
  • humorous acronyms
  • puppets
  • musical instruments
  • examples of language being misused or misunderstandings.

Your first job as a speaker or trainer is to get people's attention so they actually hear all your wonderful ideas. Using appropriate humour is an excellent way to do this!
About the Author: Alan Matthews is the author of How To Design And Deliver Great Training and The Successful Presenter's Handbook, available from Amazon. You can get his free report, "8 Steps To Excellence - the 8 key habits that make top trainers and presenters stand out" from the website at You will also find lots of articles and videos to help you become an outstanding trainer or presenter.
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