In General

I am encouraged and grateful for your overwhelming response to my earlier post on humor. This prompted me to come out with five more tips based on my experience. Read on..

Conducting a humor workshop at Infosys Banglore TM. Image courtesy: Infosys Bangalore TM

6.Don’t announce humor. I once started my talk with “I am now going tell you a joke”. A cheeky member of the audience got up and admonished me, “You tell us what you have to. WE will decide whether it is a joke or not.”

After this stern rebuke,whenever I now narrate a humorous anecodte or tell a joke I keep a poker face. The audience gets no inkiling of what’s going to hit them and when they get it they start laughing andI join the fun.

Humorists term this technique as ‘build and burst’. You build a narrative and burst or derail audience expectations with an unexpected punch line. It is this contrast that brings in the laughter and drives home the point.

Here’s an example.

Judge: “It seems to me I’ve seen you before!”

Prisoner: “You have,my lord. I used to give your daughter singing lessons.”

Judge: “Twenty years.”

Initially you think the prisoner might have appeared before the judge in another case but the punch line veers off onto quite a tangent!Another advantage of a poker-faced delivery is if they laugh it is a bonus. If they don’t’,you carry on with your speech as if it wasn’t meant to be a joke.

A delighted audience at Kanoo Toastmasters,Dubai when I spoke on Humor Quotient. Image courtesy: Kanoo TM

7. Point Humor Point or PHP

People resist when you IMPOSE humor. When you INFUSE humor or weave it in to amplify a point it makes the message memorable. Most business presenters use the PHP model to reinforce their points. I’ll give you some of my all-time favourite examples.

Point: Audience analysis is vital for effective presentations.

Drive home this point with

Preparing for a presentation without due diligence of your audience profile is like you writing a love letter to whomsoever it may concern.

Point: Responding quickly is a tenet of customer delight

I had used this anecdote to amplify my point about the need to be agile and move swiftly by anticipating customer needs in a session on ‘ Change Faster’ for a group of marketing managers.
A husband and wife were playing chess.
“This reminds me of when we were dating” the wife said.
“We never played chess in those days, Honey,” the husband said.
” No, but even then, it took you two hours to make a move.”

Point: Get your basics right before aiming high in life.

Drive home this point with

Teacher’s note on a report card: “Your son excels in initiative, group integration, responsiveness and activity participation. Now he should learn to read and write.”

Audience in splits. Point made.

Speaking on ‘How to Use Humor in Professional Speaking’ at the first annual convention of PSAI in Chennai. With MC and dear friend Pravin Shekar. Image courtesy: PSAI


Point: Confidence is good. Over confidence is not.

A final year student of Agricultural Science was asked to visit a farm and write a report. After going around,he meets the owner,an old farmer and exclaims, “ your methods of cultivation are so primitive I’ll be astonished if you get just a kg of apples from this tree”. The farmer replied “I too would be astonished because this is a mango tree.

The point is devastatingly clear to the student! 😜


“Be yourself while using humor. Blindly imitating someone else’s style is pointless. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing. It not only wastes your time but annoys the hell out of the pig too.” Anonymous.

Makes immense sense to me. I am comfortable using quips, quotes and anecdotes. Speakers who use slapstick humour, mimicry, accented delivery or funny gestures may get applause, aplenty.

But once, when I tried to imitate a speaker who used comic tonal variety, I fell flat because the technique itself was alien to me. I could have perfected it maybe, if I’d practiced harder but the question is do I really want to be known for a genre that I do not identify with.

If you stick to your forté and play to your strengths, you will create a niche audience who look forward to your kind of humor. Therefore, always just BE YOURSELF!

9. LEARN with a capital L!

After each speech/presentation critically evaluate and ask yourself these questions. Be honest in jotting down the answers:

What got a reaction from the audience?

What held people’s attention?

What got maximum reaction?

Where and why did I bomb?

Was it an opening gaffe, a stale joke, an inappropriate comment, a cultural mismatch?

How was my timing, body language and delivery on stage?

What specific areas do I need to work on?

Toastmaster and celebrity humorist Gene Perret offers pragmatic advice.

“Judge your humour by its overall effect. Does it amplify your message? Does it make your audience sit up and listen? Does it help them remember what you said?

Whenever possible, capture your presentation through your phone and review it critically. There can be no better feedback than this.

Here are some lessons that I’ve learnt, over a period of time:

1.Personalise your humor.

2. Analogies, metaphors and similes are powerful tools in humour.

3. While it is highly tempting, steer clear of offensive language.

4. Don’t demean your spouse to get those extra laughs. This isn’t to say, avoid husband-wife, boy-girl jokes but aim for good, clean fun that a composite audience will enjoy.

Remember these are MY lessons! 😜 😎

You must derive yours.

10. Have loads of self-esteem. Coming full circle, I shall end with where I started. You MUST at all times feel confident and good about yourself.

There’s enough stress in the world today. Go ahead and spread a smile,brighten someone’s day and make life more meaningful.

Laughter is the only tranquilliser that has no side effects- Christine Clifford.

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