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Author : Rich Hopkins

Some speakers seem to be born funny. Luckily, true humor is the result of discovery within the ordinary—meaning you can glean funny material from everyday life. Here are five tips to help you prepare for your Humorous Speech Contest. You may not bring home a trophy, but at least you will have a shot at getting your audience giggling, if not outright guffawing.

Start Funny
If you want your audience to laugh, give them permission by being humorous as early as possible in your speech, unless you plan for a huge payoff at the end. Getting to the humor quickly doesn’t mean starting your speech with a joke. It means delivering unexpected and humorous content within the parameters of your message. If you don’t get the laugh you hoped for, at least you didn’t stray off topic.

While reality offers humorous moments, exaggerated reality will up the ante. Whatever the scenario, say you were going faster, the weather was worse or the colors were more gaudy. As long as it doesn’t change the spirit of the message, exaggeration will make your speech more memorable.

The funniest situations often involve your interaction with others. Paint a clear picture of your characters, and look for humor in who they are—perhaps even embellishing a characteristic where appropriate. Drawing on other characters when you deliver humor—while remaining the “straight man”—makes you more likable to your audience, as you instead of others become the object of punch lines.

This is a risky move, but it can pay off in a big way if handled correctly. I’ve seen hospital gowns, surprise outfits underneath dress clothes, older women in Harley-Davidson gear, and, of course, cross-dressing. The most important question to ask before dressing up: Will it add to your speech or just be a sideshow?

Closing Laugh
If your audience is laughing at your closing line, your chances of winning skyrocket. You can end with a crescendo, taking the audience somewhere they never expected to go, or employ a call-back strategy, referring to a funny aspect of your speech to emphasize your overall message. Either way, stay on topic.

Keep in mind that humor is subjective. The more familiar your topic, the greater the opportunity for universal laughter. Avoid divisive humor and controversial topics—particularly those involving religion and politics. Win or lose, if you get them laughing, you’ve won the right trophy.