The Dark Side of Public Speaking Humor

Public speaking is an art that has been around for centuries. It is the art of using words to convey a message to a group of people. One of the most commonly used techniques in public speaking is humor. A well-timed joke or a witty one-liner can break the monotony of a speech and keep the audience engaged. However, humor in public speaking can be a double-edged sword, and it has a dark side too.

Why Use Humor in Public Speaking?

Humor is a powerful tool in public speaking. When used correctly, it can help speakers connect with their audience on a deeper level. Humor can break down barriers between the speaker and the audience, making them feel more comfortable and receptive to the speaker's message. It can help to keep the audience engaged and interested in what the speaker is saying. Moreover, humor can be used to relieve tension. Public speaking can be a very stressful experience, not only for the speaker but also for the audience. Humor can help to alleviate this stress and create a relaxed atmosphere. It can also help to diffuse difficult situations, like dealing with hecklers or awkward questions.

The Dark Side of Public Speaking Humor

However, humor in public speaking can also have a dark side. Jokes that are inappropriate or offensive can create a very uncomfortable atmosphere for the audience. They can offend individuals or groups based on race, gender, or religion, which is not only insensitive but can also damage the speaker's reputation and credibility. Additionally, humor can be used to cover up weak content or to distract the audience from the speaker's lack of knowledge or preparation. This can be detrimental to the audience, who deserve to hear a well-prepared and informative speech. The use of humor can be a mask for incompetence, which not only reflects poorly on the speaker but also does a disservice to the audience. Finally, humor can be overused, leading to a situation where the audience becomes more focused on the jokes than the content of the speech. The speaker may become known as a comedian rather than an expert in their field. While humor can help to keep the audience engaged, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal is to convey a message, not to entertain.

How to Use Humor Effectively in Public Speaking?

Using humor in public speaking requires careful consideration and thought. Here are a few tips that can help speakers use humor effectively:
  • Know your audience – Understand the cultural background, age group, and interests of your audience before using humor.
  • Keep it relevant – Ensure that the humor you use supports your message and is relevant to your topic.
  • Avoid inappropriate content – Steer clear of jokes or topics that can be offensive or insensitive to your audience.
  • Don't overdo it – Use humor sparingly and strategically, not to distract from your message.
  • Practice makes perfect – Rehearse your speech several times to perfect the timing and delivery of your jokes.


Humor is a powerful tool in public speaking, but it has a dark side too. Speakers must be careful not to use humor inappropriately or excessively. Well-placed humor can make a speech more enjoyable and engaging, but it should never detract from the message. So, the next time you prepare for a speech, think carefully about your use of humor, and use it strategically to connect with your audience and convey your message effectively.