There are many aspects of leadership that a potential leader can generally be trained to be proficient in. Two aspects or qualities that are far less trainable are personal integrity, and possessing a sense of humor. Much attention has been paid to the first of these qualities, integrity (or lack thereof) by myself and others, but far less emphasis (or attention) has been cast upon the importance of a leader having a sense of humor.There are a number of reasons that it is extremely helpful for a leader to have a sense of humor:1. Humor often relieves stress or tension, especially the inherent stress that accompanies leadership. During the course of leadership, there are many tense circumstances that various individuals handle in a number of ways. Stress has been known to cause physical problems for some, and emotional trauma for others. Humor can relax a leader so that he can step away from the challenge, and perhaps look at the circumstance in a different perspective.2. Effective leaders must be able to laugh at themselves, so as not to take themselves too seriously. Many leaders, for example, are constantly striving for some sort of expert guidance, which often is simply a way for them to delude themselves sufficiently to procrastinate. Niel Bohr wrote, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” Leaders using humor such as this (or you might call it sarcasm, etc.) can often “straighten their perspective” so that they can better focus on solutions.3. Humor is a great ice breaker. That is why the greatest and most inspiring public speakers almost invariably interject humor (especially humorous anecdotes) into their presentation. Using humor in this manner relaxes the audience, and generally puts them more in the mood to listen. When I give my presentations, I often begin by saying, “Others will tell you when they begin to sit back, relax and enjoy the presentation. I disagree, and I say, “Don’t sit back, or relax, if you want to get anything from the presentation. Get involved. And don’t look down to avoid eye contact, because if you do, you’re the one I’ll pick on.” Most attendees to my presentations have told me that my sessions are the most interactive they have attended, so I guess my “warm up” gets through a little.4. Humor can also be quite effective in one to one, or small group presentations, however, it is important to know your audience and their sensitivities. Some humor is great for some circumstances, but wholly inappropriate under other circumstances. For example, Groucho Marx is credited with saying, “Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men. The other 999 follow women.”These are just a few of the benefits and considerations of why humor is vital for leadership. A leader does not have to be the funniest guy around, but can’t be perceived as being “too serious.” Those leaders with senses of humor have been amongst the most effective ones that I have met.
How was your last speech received by your audience? If you talked with them an hour, a day, or even a week after you gave the speech no matter how good their listening skills were, do you think that they would remember what you had said? If the answer is no, then you’ve got some work to do. I have some good news for you, don’t worry about learning new presentation tips – fixing this problem might be as simple as adding some humor to your speech.You Are The Funniest SubjectOften when we want to add humor to our speeches, we’ll go on a hunt looking for topics that we believe that our audience will find funny. The truth is that one of the funniest topics is already staring back at us when we look in the mirror: ourselves.We have all had a unique set of life experiences that have gotten us to where we are. We also go through a set of routines each and every day that our audience probably also goes through. We can draw from both of these groups of experiences and by adding just a bit of exaggeration we can transform events from our past into humorous moments for our audience.Boys vs. Girls Always Gets A LaughNo matter how hard we try to be sensitive to the other gender, it seems like we are always making mistakes. These mistakes more often than not result in miscommunications or misunderstandings between men and women.Considering the fact that your audience will probably be made up of both genders, using the types of miscommunications that can occur between genders is a great source of humorous material. Everyone will have had a similar experience and so getting your audience to laugh will be very easy.Read The Newspaper, Get A LaughThe key to creating humorous material that will really get a laugh out of your audience is to make it as topical as possible – use current events whenever possible. Your local newspaper or TV channels are a great source of this type of material.The trick to making this type of humor source work for you is to be careful to make sure that everyone in the audience will be aware of the story that you will be referencing. Stay away from the industry specific stories if you have a general audience. Try to stick with the stories that have made the front page of your newspaper.What All Of This Means For YouWe all know about the importance of public speaking and so we want each of our speeches to be remembered by our audience. One of the most effective tools that a public speaker has is humor. The more humor that you can pack into your next speech, the better the chances are that your audience will be able to remember what you said. All of this means that you’re going to have to find good sources of humor that you can use.I’ve got good news for you: great humor for your next speech is all around you. It turns out that poking fun at yourself is a great way to get your audience to laugh. The differences between men and women is another fantastic source of humor material. Finally, just by opening a newspaper you can find a lot of comedy in current events.It takes time, energy, and effort to work humor into a speech. It’s worth the effort because of the benefits of public speaking. The results of working humor into your next speech make this well worth the effort. Next time that you are asked to give a speech, take some time and do some digging – the humor that you find will make your next speech just that much better!