How to Use Humor to Connect with Your Audience

Using humor in public speaking can be an effective way to connect with your audience and make your message more memorable. However, not every joke will land, and it’s important to approach humor in a thoughtful and strategic way.

In this article, we’ll explore why humor works in public speaking, the benefits and risks of using humor, and some practical tips for incorporating humor into your speeches and presentations.

Why Use Humor in Public Speaking?

First, let’s examine why humor can be effective in public speaking. Here are a few reasons:

- Humor grabs attention: When you start a speech with a joke or humorous anecdote, your audience is immediately drawn in. People love to laugh, and humor can help create a positive, relaxed atmosphere.
- Humor helps people remember your message: When you tell a funny story or use a humorous example to illustrate a point, people are more likely to remember the idea behind it.
- Humor can make you more relatable: When you use humor, you show your audience that you don’t take yourself too seriously. This can make you more approachable and relatable, which can help establish trust and connection.

The Benefits and Risks of Using Humor

While there are many potential benefits to using humor in public speaking, there are also some risks to consider.

On the positive side, using humor can help you:

- Connect with your audience
- Make your message more engaging
- Reduce tension and create a positive atmosphere
- Enhance your credibility by demonstrating your wit and intelligence
- Increase likeability and build rapport

However, there are also some potential downsides to using humor:

- Not every audience will appreciate your sense of humor. What’s funny to one person may not be funny to another.
- Some jokes can be offensive or inappropriate, which can damage your credibility and alienate your audience.
- Overusing humor can make you come across as unprofessional or insincere.
- If a joke falls flat, it can create an awkward or uncomfortable moment.

Tips for Using Humor Effectively in Public Speaking

To use humor effectively in public speaking, consider the following tips:

1. Know your audience.

Before you try to make your audience laugh, take some time to understand who they are and what they find funny. If you’re speaking to a group of engineers, for example, they may appreciate a joke about technology or science. If you’re speaking to a group of healthcare professionals, you might make a joke about the challenges of working in medicine.

2. Keep it relevant to your message.

While humor can help to break the ice and engage your audience, it’s important to make sure that your jokes are relevant to your message. Don’t be tempted to tell a joke just for the sake of it – it should support and enhance your overall message.

3. Be authentic.

When using humor, it’s important to be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else or force a joke that doesn’t feel natural. Authenticity is key to building trust and credibility with your audience.

4. Practice, practice, practice.

As with any aspect of public speaking, practice is critical when it comes to using humor effectively. Test out your jokes on friends and family, or in front of a mirror. Pay attention to your timing and delivery, and make adjustments as needed.

5. Don’t overdo it.

While humor can be a great tool in public speaking, using it too much can be counterproductive. Remember, your goal is to make a connection with your audience and get your message across – not to be a stand-up comedian.

6. Be aware of your body language.

When you’re telling a joke, your body language can be just as important as the words you say. Use appropriate facial expressions and gestures to reinforce the humor and engage your audience.

7. Have a backup plan.

If a joke falls flat or you sense that it’s not going over well with your audience, have a backup plan. Don’t let a failed joke derail your entire speech – be ready to move on and switch gears if necessary.


Humor can be a powerful tool in public speaking, helping you to connect with your audience, make your message more memorable, and establish credibility and likeability. However, it’s important to approach humor strategically and thoughtfully, and to be aware of the risks as well as the benefits. By following these tips, you can use humor effectively and make your speeches and presentations more engaging and impactful.