Humor and the Size of the Audience

Welcome back to part II. In a group of ten or more, there is emotional protection and thus it is easier for someone to laugh. The jokes that work for a large group of people are those with generally accepted interests or concerns.

Example: Here’s a no-brainer: During a Republican rally, making fun of Democrats or liberals always works ( and vice versa).

I hate this scenario: speaking outdoors. You are fighting the elements. Planes are flying overhead, etc. When this happens, even seasoned presenters have difficulty maintaining audience attention. The rule is to: Keep It Short, Simple, Sincere and Semi-serious (KISSSSS). Remember that all audiences differ. They may look the same, but the chemistry varies with each crowd.

Audience Mix

The general rule is that all-female audiences are more easily entertained. This is followed by male-female audience mixes, and lastly, by all-male audiences. In fact, all-men audiences are the toughest. To this day, I do not know why. It just is. All these men are probably thinking , “God, I hope this guy finishes soon, because I don’t want that open bar closing without another FREE drink.”

Experience shows me that the best delivered humor targets the most prominent audience mix.

Younger audiences generally agree to any rebellious information. And older
audiences have a greater range of experiences and ideas that will make them laugh.

Ad Libs

Every speaker should do this: Prepare a library of Ad-Libs. Ad-libs are spontaneous words applied in situations without expectation. It is recommended that during a run-through of the speech you identify possible situations that will happen and prepare words to counter those situations.

For example, prepare an ad-lib in the event where a joke falls flat. When
delivering a joke and no one laughs say, “Thank you for the round of silence… (beat) You certainly have a lot of control.” It will bring out a laugh and it ends the situation.

There is no doubt in my mind that humor is a powerful element of the presentation experience. But it needs to be carefully included, confidently executed and appropriately selected. Overdoing humor, like overdoing facts, details or other elements, will diminish the impact of the humor. Ultimately it will diminish the presentation.

Don’t forget: As an engaging speaker YOUR role is to make the audience comfortable (even when using uncomfortable or controversial remarks to hook their attention). Your ultimate responsibility is to connect with your audience at their level of comfort. Once you do, you will both reap the benefits!

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
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