Humorous Speeches
How To Win A Speech Competition

All over the world humorous speeches are being written right now. Find out why. Then find out how to write and deliver one that kills them.

It’s Humorous Speech Contest time for Toastmasters. Have you entered? Or are you surfing around trying to convince yourself you’d be crazy to enter a speech competition?

It’s interesting to see how people in our Club shy away from this contest.

I guess there’s the additional worry that “I won’t be funny”, to go along with all the others we normally entertain in our minds.

Well, here’s the truth. Yes, you may not be funny.

Ok. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get on with writing your speech. (Seriously, the future is unknown isn’t it? Whether you’re funny or not is therefore also unknown, right? It’s gonna depend on lots of things, of which your efforts are only one. So, take a deep breath, and stop pretending to be able to predict the future! There’s life to be lived in the meantime.)

Here’s another truth. You’ll increase your chances of being funny by reading the rest of this article.

What Are The Judges Looking For?

Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how funny you think your speech is.

You’ll only get to do it once unless you give the judges what they want.

Getting laughs is only one aspect of course although this isn’t an exact science. After all the judges are human (well nearly all of them are). I’m sure if you get them laughing, they won’t think any less of your speech.

For the detail oriented here are the judging criteria. (By the way, this is useful even if you have nothing to do with Toastmasters. We can reasonably assume they know something about what’s important in a humorous speech after more than 50 years!)

Content - 55%

  • Speech Development (15%): Structure, Opening, Body, Support Material

  • Effectiveness (10%): Excitement Created, Suspense, the Unexpected Twist, Surprise, Connection of Humorous Events, Achievement of Purpose.

  • Speech Value (15%): Ideas, Originality of Thoughts and Material

  • Audience Response (15%): Attentiveness, Laughter, Interest, Reception
Delivery - 30%

  • Physical Appearance (10%): Body Language, Speaking Area

  • Voice (10%): Flexibility, Volume

  • Manner (10%): Directness, Assurance, Enthusiasm
Language - 15%

  • Appropriateness (10%): To Speech Purpose & Audience, Reflecting Good Taste

  • Correctness (5%): Grammar, Pronunciation, Word Selection

Click here to download a Humorous Contest Judges Form.

3 Important Points

  1. Content Is King. Just because it's a humorous speech, doesn't mean it doesn't need a 'serious' message. The idea is to say something you think your audience really needs to hear - and use the humor to help them get the message. That's why a string of one-liners or set-up/punchline jokes won't work. It's a speech contest, not a joke contest.

  2. Learn From The Pros. Stand-up comedians can teach us a lot about the technical aspects of humorous speaking. Studying them is fun too! Things to look for include:
    • How quickly they get the audience laughing.
    • What overall theme runs through their act? What stories do they tell? How do they tell them?
    • Do they bring their act full circle by finishing with a reference to stuff they talked about earlier? Some of the biggest laughs happen when they finish this way.
    • When do they use their funniest joke? (Almost always last, not first).
    • When do they use their second best joke? (Almost always first).
    • Do they laugh at their own jokes? (Almost never).
    • What do they do when the audience laughs? When do they start talking again? (Never at the start of the laughter, usually never after it's completely finished.)
    • What do they do when the audience doesn't laugh?
    • Why didn't their audience laugh then? (In your humble opinion)
    • What specific techniques do they use to surprise you?
    • What do they do with their body? Could you tell it was someone being humorous if the sound was turned down?
    • How much of the stage do they use?
    • Is there a comedian who has a speaking style similar to yours? Don't be afraid to emulate them if you think it'll add to your work.

  3. Watch The Red Light. If you go over the time limit, you're disqualified. It'll always take you longer on the night than when you practice. Leave plenty of space. As Lord Reading said "Always be shorter than anybody dared to hope."

  4. Surprise Them With The 4th Of 3 Points. It never hurts to remind them you're human by deliberately making mistakes. Archie Bunker's use of malapropisms (using the wrong words) or any type of self deprecating humor.

The main thing is to be absolutely fearless and decide to enjoy the whole process. Even when you tell your best joke and the whole audience laughs like crazy ... except the head judge who sits their with a fixed, staring look of complete incomprehension on his stony, seemingly fossilized face.

You just gotta laugh sometimes!

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