The Real Reasons Why Professional Speakers Don’t Use Humour

It only takes a quick google search to see the scientifically proven benefits of humour and laughter. And when you are speaking in front of an audience, you want to stack the odds in your favour as much as possible.

Humour in your Speaking can benefit your performance and your impact (not to mention your paycheck). Every top Speaker in Australia includes humour in their Keynotes. Conference Organisers want Speakers who can make their audiences laugh while they learn, and they are willing to pay big dollars for that!

So with humour in such high demand (and such high benefits to both the Speaker and the Audience) it still astounds me that not EVERY SINGLE SPEAKER is adding as much humour as necessary into their message.

As a Humour Coach, I speak to many people about using humour, and what I have discovered over the years is that there are three real reasons why Professional Speakers don’t use humour. Here they are…

The Real Reasons Why Professional Speakers Don’t Use Humour

1. They don’t know where to start

There’s an in-joke in the Speaking industry that starts along the lines of someone new asking “Is it important to be funny when you Speak?” and then someone pipes up with “Only if you want to get paid!” Then everyone laughs and hopes they don’t follow up with the next question of “How do you add humour to your Speaking?”, as often that question is answered with a mumbled response of “just get a joke from a joke book, or use self-deprecating humour.”  


That advice is unclear at best and career-damaging at worst, as firing off a random joke or using self-deprecating humour can actually do much more harm than good to your Speaking career. Why on earth isn’t there more useful information out there on how to use humour in your Speaking if it is so important?

2. They don’t have anything funny to say

As a Humour Coach, I often hear Speakers say to me “well yes, I know humour is important, but my topic isn’t funny” or “I’m a serious Speaker, I don’t use humour” or my favourite, “I’m not funny, and I’m no good at telling jokes. If I went out there and tried to be funny, it would be all wrong, and no one would take me seriously.” 

And all these comments are entirely valid, but they aren’t necessary. You can add humour to a serious topic, or one that isn’t funny – you just need to know how to do it properly (and safely!) 

And, you are 100% correct if you think that if you go on stage and start cracking jokes no one will take you seriously. Because that’s not what a Speaker is meant to do. Speakers are meant to deliver a message, not crack jokes. But that shouldn’t stop you from using humour. Humour done well in Speaking is not about being funny, cracking jokes and getting laughs. It’s about connection, engagement and getting your audience to feel good. 

3. They don’t want to be embarrassed

I totally get that. Who wants to stand up in front of a live audience, tell a joke and have it bomb? You have left it all hanging out there, and it failed spectacularly. And everyone is acutely aware that you failed. No one wants to do that! 

But you don’t have to be embarrassed or feel awkward or uncomfortable when you use humour in your Speaking. Speakers have an unfair advantage when it comes to humour. Unlike a Comedian who has a very high expectation from the audience to make them laugh, a Speaker has no expectation to make their audience laugh. If the audience laughs, that’s a bonus, but they certainly haven’t failed if there aren’t any laughs. 

A Speaker fails when they fail to deliver a message, not when they fail to deliver a laugh. 

Therefore, Speakers can use this to their advantage and fly under the radar. If they use humour techniques such as “Stealth Humour”, Speakers can include humour in a risk-free and (possibly more importantly) undetectable way, so if the audience laughs they benefit, and if the audience doesn’t laugh it just sounds like something they have said as part of their content. As one of my Clients said, “So what you’re saying is Stealth Humour doesn’t bomb – it just gets missed”. Exactly! And no-one will be any the wiser!

So what are you going to do about it?

Humour in Speaking can be a bit of a minefield if you don’t know what you are doing, and it can be so frustrating when you see the calendar click over to a new year, and you realise that last year was the year you STILL didn’t add more humour to your message.

If you want next year to be different, I can help. I am running a free 3-part training series on how to use humour to be THE Stand-Out Speaker in 2020.

I’d love for you to join me and you can get instant access here

Have fun!

Cheers Kate


Share on LinkedIn
Share on Facebook