There are basic principles of humor that can enliven your talk. Perhaps the most important one is to avoid telling generic "funny stories," Instead, find and build more humor within the context of personal stories.

To make your mark as a speaker… to get into the hearts and minds of your listeners… you must learn to develop engaging stories (that use humor effectively at the right time!)

Yes, in the beginning you might find some suitable Internet stories, but your audience might already know them. The more obscure, the better. Use them as a little crutch in the beginning. Study why they’re effective, but THEN figure out how to come up with your own. (I know you can do it!) Now you might want to tell some jokes, but I wouldn’t. Surprised?

You see, jokes may get a laugh, but a humorous personal story pertinent to the presentation will freshen up the anecdote and will be memorable for the audience.

Why? Well, because once you learn how to tell a story well, you now have the tool to help build rapport with your audience. You do this by telling telling personal stories as they apply to the presentation. Audiences love them. They allow your audience to be taken on a journey. A good story shows your sense of humor about a particular situation and allows you to be self-effacing with your listeners.

Easier said than done, right? Study your material and find a vignette that is relevant to a segment of your speech. Then insert it as a humorous example in the presentation. Next, cap it with a punch line - this is the essence of

The Rule is you should make fun of situations or yourself. But never the audience! (Only the real pros know how to pull THAT off. And even then, comedians do it, not usually speakers. But that’s the theme of another e-book called, “Making the Bucks for Getting the Yuks!”

A word of warning: Jokes can often help a presentation, but even one poorly delivered GOOD joke, or one bad, tasteless joke, can hurt a presentation beyond repair. Sometimes the less humor used, the more impact it has on the presentation when it is delivered. When using humor, keep in mind these additional rules:

If it is a business setting, the jokes must be clean and non-offensive ABSOLUTELY have some connection between the joke and the topic The only safe butt of a joke is the speaker. So never, ever alienate the audience with insults

You, as a great and engaging speaker, should introduce entertaining "characters" to the story to make it more fun. As you present your lively anecdote, learn to affect the role of that character on stage by shifting positions, changing head movements or facial expressions. Doing so will enable your audience to "see" the story and appreciate it more.

You want to be in the moment and NOT recite your story by rote, . You want to, instead, “relive” your story for the first time along with your audience. Don’t rush it.

Treat it like a fine wine and let it breathe (at room temperature) for you and
your audience to savor.

This is YOUR time to shine. Fit the story to your content and NOT the other way around. Like Shakespeare said (when he was alive  ) “… let the words trippingly fall off your tongue…” When you’ve told the story over and over again, there’s a hesitancy to rush it. (I am even guilty of this.) Videotape or record yourself to watch for mistakes and poor execution and see how you can improve.

Yes, storytelling takes practice, hard work, and dedication. So don’t be hesitant to rehearse in front of a mirror. Try new material out on friends.

Lose your babies, as they say. What is that, you ask? Learn to “let go” of stories that aren’t working. If something isn’t appropriate (as much as you love the anecdote), don’t be afraid to discard your “baby” when it falls flat.

Comedy is a wonderful way to make your material interesting. It can make your audience laugh and enjoy your presentation. HUMOR + the right story = strong anchoring of your message in your audience’s mind.

Now, if the speaker is a comedian by trade, (like myself), then there’s probably an expectation to always be funny. But again, one situation does NOT fit all. And some scenarios are not a good fit for humor. If it is a speech for an organization curing kids with cancer, then humor may not be appropriate.

Master speakers feel that later in the day offers greater chances for jokes to
work well. Remember: Humor calls for a certain amount of playfulness as well as leisure.

It is usually difficult to get an audience to laugh in the morning. Luncheons and
mid-afternoon sessions work more favorably. After a day filled with wins and losses, most people want to finish the evening with something to make them feel good.

Author's Bio: 

Peter "The Reinvention Guy" Fogel delivers presentations on humor, reinvention, copywriting, and marketing to corporations and associations across America. He helps entrepreneurs reinvent themselves and unleash their "inner public speaker" for higher visibility and bigger profits. To sign up for his 4-in-1 Total Success Reinvention Package, visit And to sign up for his FREE 7 Days to More Effective Public Speaking e-course, please go to