What do Tim Urban, Sir Ken Robinson and Amy Cuddy all have in common. First, they are the most watched presenters on TED, having each been watched by over 60 million! And second, they all include humour in their presentations. And since close to 50,000 talks have been given at 10,000 events since TED launched in 2009, it’s fair to say that ‘yes’, the best keynote speakers are funny. Case closed.
So why is humour so important for presentations?
The best keynote speakers seamlessly blend humour with their messages to create a memorable experience that resonates with their audience. Here’s why humour is a vital component for keynote speakers.
Engagement and Attention
Humour captures attention and maintains engagement, while at the same time releasing endorphins that foster a positive, and therefore memorable experience.
Relatability and Connection
Humor builds rapport by showcasing the speaker’s relatable and human side, making the audience more receptive to the message and shared laughter creates a sense of connection between the speaker and the audience. Researchers from Finland and the United Kingdom found that social laughter triggers the release of endorphins that supports formation, reinforcement, and maintenance of social bonds between humans,” says study co-author Prof. Lauri Nummenmaa, of the Turku PET Centre at the University of Turku in Finland.
Diffuses Tension and Stress
Complex and serious topics can create tension, and humour provides a brief respite and allows the audience to process information more easily, particularly if it’s an uncomfortable topic.
Positive Emotional Association
A funny and enjoyable presentation creates positive associations with the subject matter, encouraging further exploration and action. This is particularly important with a younger audience.
With the equivalent of a million encyclopaedias in our pocket, information is no longer restricted, however, it is now overwhelming. Getting cut-through in a noisy world means that humour is more important than ever.
Of course we’re not suggesting including ‘Knock Knock‘ jokes to your next monthly meeting. Adding humour requires skill, is as much a science as it is an art. This is why we create a stand-up comedy school supporting keynote speakers.