Tips for Writing Humorous Speeches

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In preparation for the upcoming speech contests I asked Dawn Corin, a past Division finalist in the Humorous Speech Contest to share a few secrets of how she adds humour to her speeches. Here is what she says:

Tips for Writing Humorous Speeches
By: Dawn Corin

I am always surprised when people laugh when I give a speech, as I consider myself a serious person with a slightly cantankerous nature. It doesn’t help that I am seriously closer to 60 than 50 and, therefore, view certain things with a jaundiced view – especially if they involve electronic gadgetry.

However, I have been an inveterate letter writer for many years. I have a number of close friends who live in far less sunnier climes than South Africa. I found that I got them to correspond with me by writing short ‘stories’ about what was happening in South Africa, or in my personal arena and giving the stories a humorous twist. Over the years I have found that my passion for communication with friends has assisted me to view my mishaps in life with self-deprecating humour…. After all every misadventure gives you the opportunity to tell a great story…

Some tips for humorous speeches:

  • I like to start my speeches on a fairly serious note, sometimes misleading the audience as to where the speech is going. I will often start the speech by referring to something that people can all identify with, or a shock value statement. You need to engage your audience within the first two minutes.
  • Personal stories work. I have given speeches on my appalling driving skills, my angst when giving up smoking and the horror I feel at my son’s bad tattoo fetish. Everyone can identify with a personal story, especially when it is a story that has your audience laughing with you because they resonate with the feelings you evoke in them.
  • Play with words. Paint word pictures that verge on the bizarre or ridiculous.
  • Pause. If you rush through your speech (as I am always prone to do) your audience does not have enough time to assimilate and process the humorous aspects. Less is definitely more when giving a speech.
  • Use accents and body language to support the content of your speech. I am definitely not comfortable with flinging myself with gay abandon into contorted positions on the ‘stage’, probably more due to ageing cartilage than self restraint, but effective body language will always enhance your speech content.
  • Once you have written a speech, read it to a ‘critical’ audience. I know that I have an excellent speech when I can get my 22 year old son to laugh!

Most importantly, have fun!

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