Carmile Gallo in his highly acclaimed book ‘Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets from World’s Top Minds” (2014), devotes the 6th secret on “lightening up with laughter.”
Gallo explains that: “Humor involves some risk and most people don’t have the courage for it, which is why most business presentations are awfully dry and boring. It takes courage to be vulnerable, to poke some good-natured fun at yourself and your topic. The key is to be authentic. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. But if something makes you laugh, there’s a good chance it will make someone else laugh too.”
Carmine Gallo advices against telling jokes in your speech, unless of course you are a comedian. Most TED speakers do not tell jokes. Instead of jokes, they use humorous personal anecdotes and observations.
Gallo identifies four simple ways to add more laughter to your speech:
1- Anecdotes, Observations, and Personal Stories
Most TED presenters who elicit laughs from the audience tend to relate anecdotal information about themselves or people they know, observations about the world, or personal stories. If something happened to you and you found the humor in it, there’s a good chance others will, too.
2- Analogy and Metaphors
An analogy is a comparison that points out the similarities between two different things. It’s an excellent rhetorical technique that helps to explain complex topics.
Many popular TED presenters provoke laughter by using analogies. For example:
“If you hear an expert talking about the Internet and saying it does this or it will do that, you should treat it with the same skepticism that you might treat the comments of an economist about the economy or a weatherman about the weather.” —Danny Hillis, inventor, TED 2013”
An easy way to get a laugh without being a comedian or telling a joke is to quote somebody else who said something funny. The quotes can be from famous people, anonymous people, or family and friends. TED speakers do this all the time. For example, Carmen Agra Deedy quoted her mother, who said, “I gave shame up with pantyhose—they’re both too binding.”
Very few people use video clips in presentations, even at TED talks. Video, however, is a very effective way of bringing humor into a presentation: it takes the pressure off you to be funny.
And finally, Carmine Gallo points out: “Don’t take yourself (or your topic) too seriously. The brain loves laughter. Give your audience something to smile about. Why it works: Laughter lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message. It also makes you seem more likeable, and people are more willing to do business with or support someone they like.”