Public Speaking – Using HUMOUR (2)

This is part 2 of a 2 video series.

This is an AI generated transcript so please forgive any errors and spelling mistakes. 

Do you try to be funny during your speeches and presentations? Well, some people argue that being funny is about uncovering humour rather than actually inserting jokes just for their own sake.

I’ll tell you a bit later on about my hero for comedy and public speaking but first I’m gonna introduce myself. I’m Shola Kaye, I’m a public speaking coach and a professional speaker based in London and I work with companies and also individuals who want to be stronger communicators. I help business owners to speak up and grow their businesses.

Today, this is the second episode of a two-parter, which is looking at humour and some ways you can add a little bit of gentle humour without having to kill yourself with studying comedy or working too hard to get those laughs. In the last video, number one of this two-part series, I talked about poking fun at yourself.

Public Speaking – surprise the audience with something unexpected

In this one, I’m going to talk about how to set up a joke using what we call subversion of people’s expectations. Typically, the reason why things can be funny is because you say a couple of things and people expect the third thing, let’s say, to be in that same direction. And then you take them in a different direction, like an absurd direction or a direction that they didn’t expect, and that’s where the humour comes from.

Now, you will find much more detailed and thorough explanations of comedy in books and online, so I’m not trying to say that I’m some sort of comedy experts at all. I had to write a speech just recently for a friend’s birthday party and it forced me to look into how to construct a bit more humour, humorous phrases, and how to add humour to my presentations. As said in video number one, a little joke that I’ve made about myself is comparing myself to make Meghan Duchess of Sussex in terms of looks (which obviously is quite ridiculous). In this video I want to talk about another way that you can create humour without having to poke fun at yourself.

That is, as I said, subversion humour and in particular the joke that I shared with people on that particular day at my friend’s party was to do with the fact that my friend had for months and months been planning this big celebration of his birthday in Spain. It was a three-day celebration so there’d be three events on consecutive days and I’d said to my friend “I hope you don’t expect me to dress up and I’ll just come along as I am, you know I’m here to support you but you know I’m not that fussed about clothing” and he’d said “oh no, you know you must dress like this… and on this day this is the dress code…”

So of course I’m feeling under pressure. I’m looking forward to going but I’m also stressed about what am I gonna wear, wondering if I’m gonna fit with the dress code, and is it gonna be okay? When I opened my presentation but I thought I’d do is make a joke about this big deal with the clothing because I’d heard from my friend that others were emailing him and texting him saying “what should I wear?”.

Public Speaking – an example I used recently

The way I started out the presentation was “fantastic to be here with you today but a very grave and important matter has been concerning my mind for the last several weeks, it’s such a serious matter and of such importance that it nearly gave me a stomach ulcer and it’s been on my mind causing sleepless nights and all sorts of worry in my life…”. I made it sound like it was really serious and “oh gosh, I was contemplating something awful” and then I capped it off with “do you know what that thing is I’ve been worried about? What am I gonna wear for three days in a row of back-to-back partying!!!” and everybody laughed, of course, because they had been worried about the same thing as well.

This started the speech off with a bit of humour, a bit of poking fun at myself, and also this subversion. People were expecting something serious and weighty and heavy and then I just went to this very frivolous light-hearted place of “what am I gonna wear for three days?” which of course, you know, in the scheme of things it’s not very important really.

I hope that gives you an example of humour with subverting the audience’s expectations (that’s one example and probably quite a poor example compared to the many examples that are going to be out there, that you’ve probably heard, or that you can check up online). If you can take people in a direction and then at the last minute just take them in another direction instead, that quite often is a cause for humour. We’ve all heard jokes where – it might be three parter – so there’s A and there’s B so A and B take you in this direction and then C, which is the punchline, takes you in another direction. That’s what makes you laugh.

Public Speaking – try this exercise yourself

I hope you understand now about humour which it is derived from subverting people’s expectations and my call to action for you is to go online and to find some more examples of that. Or to think of some jokes that make you laugh, or not even, it doesn’t have to be jokes, but things that you’ve heard that you’ve laughed at. Then try and pick apart and see if it was that subverting of expectations that made you laugh. Then if you can see what other people are doing, it makes it easier for you to add it to your own speeches and your own talks.

To summarise the takeaways from this series: I’ve covered two ways to add humour. First of all, get some humour out of yours truly. That way you won’t offend anybody and you know what people can laugh at about yourself (what you personally laugh at) so that’s a nice easy way to get some laughs. The second one, is to subvert people’s expectations and get some humour that way.

That’s it from me for now and please do let me know if you’ve found any great jokes. I love humour and love comedians, so if you know of any great comedians and they’ve got some stuff on YouTube then please do share some links of me because I am always ready to have a laugh.

Take care and I’ll speak to you soon.


P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you improve your speaking or grow your business:

1 – Get my free guide – 27 places to find speaking opportunities.

Find out where your next speaking opportunity might come from – whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or experienced speaker.

2 – Join my Facebook Group – Public Speaking for Female Coaches and Entrepreneurs.

Join us for tips, discussions and community!

3 – Are you an ambitious coach, consultant or small business owner? If you’d like to wow your audiences and find more speaking opportunities, then watch the FREE on-demand training video here:

4 – Find out about my VIP Days and private coaching. Book me for a VIP half or full-day session if you want to make some serious progress!