If you are able to use humor in a speech or presentation you will automatically be able to make your audience listen to you and assert your authority. Making people laugh is a definite attention-getter.
The thing to be aware of is using humor appropriately in your speech or presentation. There are two ways to use humor: the first is to react to material that you already have written using your own sense of humor. The second way is to add appropriate jokes, quotes and stories that relate to your speech topic.
Whichever method you use you need to run through the following checklist before you speak:
1) Is it funny? If you find a line genuinely funny then it will make things a lot easier when you come to deliver the humor to your listeners. The thing to be aware of though is that not every line will make you fall down with laughter. If you have trouble in this area it might be worth researching a quip or humorous line from another speaker or comedian and quoting them in your speech. You cannot pass the line off as your own. If you have to give them credit! You could phrase it as follows: “…and as the comedian Jerry Seinfeld said…”
2) Can you say the line comfortably? If you find a joke that fits in with the material rehearse the line out loud and edit it so that you’re comfortable saying the joke. Make elisions if necessary turning “you are” into “you’re” and so on. Make sure you don’t leave out the punchline though, that bit is crucial.
3) Will you offend anybody? This following may sound stuffy, but the best thing to do is avoid the following areas because not everybody can appreciate humorous lines in these areas. Avoid jokes on: religion, sex, physical appearance, politics and disabilities. Granted someone who is Jewish can deliver Jewish jokes, but even then not everyone in the audience might be Jewish so you could come across as racist. The best thing to do is poke fun at yourself. If in doubt, leave it out!
4) Will you be understood? If you’re speaking to a room full of unfamiliar faces then you have to make sure that jokes that are specific to your job or company might not go over. In that situation make sure that there are no in-jokes, or lines based in specifics of your job title.
If the humorous lines that you find are able to pass these four checks then you are well on your way to having an engaging and memorable speech!