The Richest Man in the World Speaks in Las Vegas

Bill Gates spoke in Las Vegas on January 7, 2007. Arriving almost four hours early guaranteed me a seat about 100 yards from the speaking platform. Thank goodness for big-screen projection. The crowd and the lines were something like a Rolling Stones concert. Except there were more geeks. About an hour from the start of the program I doubted they’d be able to get everyone into their seats… but magically they did. And the speech started pretty much on time.

As the start of the keynote presentation for the 40th Anniversary Consumer Electronic Show approached, I wondered how much humor, if any, Bill Gates would use. I expected that he would use humor in some way to open his talk. As I watched him speak it was obvious that, although brilliant, he is not a comedian. In fact his use of humor from the platform was minimal, but he made it obvious to me that he does have a good sense of humor. Remember that a sense of humor is more than just telling jokes. And even in a speech that is far from an award-winning example of humor from the platform, there are some good lessons to be learned. (more…)

Humor for Selling Products and for Selling Your Message

Twenty to thirty years ago, humor was commonly used to sell low-priced products. We remember Mr. Whipple squeezing the Charmin and Clara Peller asking “Where’s the beef?” Today, when you watch TV, you’re likely to see humor being used to sell automobiles. Over the years, advertisers have gained a greater appreciation of the value of humor for feeling good, building relationships and selling products. And so have speakers come to appreciate the more sophisticated value of humor for selling their message. (more…)

When They Do Not Laugh—What Do You Do?

by John Kinde

The eyes of your audience are fixed on you. You deliver your best new humor line. They stare at you in silence.

It has happened to all of us. It will happen again. What do you do?

The conventional wisdom from experienced professional speakers is valid. Pretend you were serious. Humor, properly delivered, should be a surprise. If you told them a joke was coming (telegraphed your punchline), you probably did it wrong. Delivered properly, since it was a surprise, they didn’t know it was supposed to be funny. So don’t let them know that YOU thought it was funny. The “look of expectation” is what gives you away. It’s that look on your face which begs for a laugh. Begging is not a gesture that connects you with your audience! (more…)

Show Me the Funny!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30 years of studying humor, it’s this. You CAN learn to be funny. Some people think you need to be born funny, the class clown. I’m a laid-back, serious, Norwegian from North Dakota and I’ve won humorous speech contests at the Toastmasters District level four times and three trophies at the Regional level representing the funniest of 10,000 people. If I can do it, you can do it. And if you don’t look funny or have a reputation for being funny…great! You’ll take advantage of the element of surprise, one of the basic elements that makes humor tick.

In this special report I’ll refer to some activities in Toastmasters Clubs that are relevant to both Toastmasters and non-Toastmasters. If you’re not a member, consider checking our a club in your local area. Visit the Toastmasters’ website: (more…)