One of the most desirable human traits is a sense of humor. We look for it in our partners, our friends, even our business associates. Researchers who study these types of things believe our impulse for laughter evolved as a bonding mechanism for human groups. If you look at your own social relationships, you’re likely to notice a pattern to the bonds in your own life. We tend to like people who can make us laugh, and we form relationships with them accordingly. Sharing a laugh or a funny experience with someone reinforces the sense that “we’re all in this together.”
Humor also heightens our attention and improves our memory, which makes it an important tool in the workplace. Presentations, speeches, sales pitches, even meetings and casual interactions can all be potentially more effective if spiced with a little humor. If you think about the most memorable presentations and speeches you’ve seen, they were likely at least a little funny.
You Can Learn to Be Funny
Most of us don’t think of humor as a skill. Instead, we tend to think some people are just naturally funny, and the rest of us aren’t. That’s not really true, though. Being funny is something we can learn to do and practice to improve. The people you know who seem naturally funny have just had more years of practice—and practice is the main thing you need to develop your sense of humor.
- If you pay attention to the things people tend to laugh at in daily life, most of those things aren’t “jokes” in any traditional sense. You don’t have to tell jokes to be funny. In fact, we tend to respond better to funny stories and situations, so the first step is to build your awareness of these situations and stories through active listening and engagement with the people around you.
- Take advantage of opportunities to expose yourself to more humorous content. If you tend to watch detective shows, for example, trade that in for a few episodes of a sitcom or a stand-up special. Go see live stand-up comedy. Check out written humor online. Surf memes. Anything that gets you chuckling is worth your time.
- Pay attention to the things that make you laugh during the day. Keep a notebook or a file of the things you find funny. This will allow you to keep track of your “humor practice,” and preserve the kinds of details and specifics that make humor vivid and engaging. Also, you can mine this trove of material later to punch up a speech or presentation.
- Once you have a few funny stories or real jokes you want to bring into your rotation, practice telling them. Great storytelling or comedy isn’t a one-and-done activity. For example, try out your stories with your friends or family first, see what they respond to. Then refine and revise the story before bringing it out at the office. Repeat as necessary.
Relax and Be Flexible
Another key difference between people who seem naturally funny and the rest of us is the willingness to take risks. Whether humor comes naturally to you or whether you need to practice, at some point you have to give yourself permission to take the risk, put the joke out there, and fail—and recover. Once you get comfortable with the idea that sometimes your humor isn’t going to land, you actually make using humor easier on yourself. You can relax and try new things in conversation and presentations.
In larger presentations relaxing means you can adopt a more conversational tone. Instead of clinging to the script, use your expertise to improvise and respond to the audience. You can step from behind the podium, use gestures and body language, work the room. You’ll allow yourself and your audience breathing room to let a laugh or an important point land and sink in.
Focus Is Your Friend
Two standard units of measurement in professional comedy are the “tight five” and the “tight ten”, which refers to a set of material that lasts either five minutes or ten minutes—the length of time allotted to most comedians when they’re performing in clubs or on TV talk shows. The keyword here is “tight,” especially if you’re preparing a funny story or joke for a presentation or speech. The tighter your focus, the faster you get the listener or audience to the laugh, the better their overall engagement with you. Make the “rule of three” work for you in presentations. Pick three essential takeaways for your audience and build everything else around that.
As you deploy these tricks and techniques, remember you don’t have to try to be funny all the time. That’s not even a desirable outcome. You want to hit the spot that creates likeability and trust without compromising your authority. You don’t want to be known as that zany goofball who can’t ever be serious—or taken seriously. However, done right, sharing your sense of humor can make you more approachable and memorable.
We keep our sense of humor at The Records Company, but we’re always 100% serious about our mission, finding the records you need and delivering them fast. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you free up time to practice your comic timing.