The Serious Side of Humor

The Serious Side of Humor

Humor to Zig Ziglar was an indispensable ingredient to most serious speeches. That humor carries an impact far greater than the few minutes it consumes during a long and serious discourse. Ziglar, the motivational speaker, author and sales trainer, knew from experience that the humor ingredient in a serious speech serves several important purposes

It may be used to introduce serious speech topics

It may be used to emphasize major and minor points within the serious speech

It entertains, and while it entertains it regains and helps hold an audience’s attention

It helps the speaker gauge the alertness of the audience at almost any given moment within the speech

And it relaxes the audience, a state highly conducive to listener receptiveness and understanding of serious speech topics

Zig taught us to use good timing, the right word and phrases, strategic pauses, repetition and inflection. He was a master of using word pictures for the audience to see in their minds. I remember when he spoke to us in a church in Dallas when he said, “If you haven’t come face to face with Satan recently (Pause) You’ve probably both been walking in the same direction.”

The vital emotion

Humor is an emotion. The audience that you are able to involve in laughter will more easily involve itself in your serious speech topic. The laughing audience is also the one that will cry with you. To cite another example from Zig, he started a talk by saying “I just flew in on a plane from Memphis, (PAUSE) which is generally the way I fly.” This way he could immediately gauge his audience’s alertness. then he would continue with “While I was on the plane I was sitting next to an old man and couldn’t help but notice that he had his wedding ring on his index finger. So I commented on the fact that he had his ring on the wrong finger” “Yes” he said, “It’s because I married the wrong women.”


After getting a laugh he would then ‘Hitch-hike’ and point out to the audience that he didn’t know if the man had married the wrong woman, then Zig would bridge into his topic by saying if anyone in the audience had the wrong idea about======(His serious speech topic). And if he still felt he had enough time he would “Milk” the story, about how when he asked the old man why he didn’t leave this women, the old man said “I’ve left her 7 times, and every time I get behind with the alimony payments, she repossess me.” What is known as sequence humor. For longer talks or seminars one can introduce a bit of humor by saying “That reminds me of” and you bridge into your next point with an appropriate story. By the time you say “That reminds me” a second or third time, your audience anticipates another humor break are ready to be entertained, with full attention.

The Humor atmosphere

We create what is called the humor atmosphere by selecting apt and appropriate anecdotes and stories, always trying to keep the illustrations pertinent to the speech topic or focus, the error we sometimes make is to start our talk by telling a joke that might be funny and even gets a laugh, but it has nothing to do with our message, and so for the next few minutes thereafter we lose our audience as they try to figure out what the joke has to do with the speech. Once in a while you will tell what you think is a good story, and no one will laugh, so what do you do, the professionals tell us, if the audience doesn’t laugh and is serious, then just make like you were also being serious. Please don’t do what a speaker once did, when he asked the audience to please stand so that his story wouldn’t go over their heads.

Keep it clean

A true professional will always find clean material to use, if you think that a story may upset just one person then don’t use it, yes there are comedy speakers who use profanity and they have a following, but a professional speaker makes his money and reputation by speaking to audiences that have come for inspiration, motivation and entertainment and not to be embarrassed. Pretend your mother, your spouse, or your child is in the audience and you will always have work.

Where to find you material.

Zig Ziglar seldom used joke books and he claimed he didn’t need Google, he kept a book with him and whenever he saw something that could be used, he made a note of it. Collect stories and be observant regarding what happens around you, think funny and become a master of humor, develop your own style and practice then practice some more. Someone once asked a well-known speaker if he should use humor in his speeches and the speaker answered “Only if you want to be paid.” That reminds me! A preacher at a funeral, wanting to comfort the bereaved, compared the body in the coffin to a walnut and said “Think of the body as just a shell, the nut has gone to heaven” Ha ha !

He who laughs, lasts

To your happiness


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