As a professional inspirational speaker I have experimented with all types of motivational speeches: Serious, content driven, heartfelt and my favorite... funny. Humor has always been the best way for me to connect with a conference crowd.
As an inspirational speaker, humor helps. When I look out at a group of warm smiling faces, it give me a psychological boost.There is a sense of congruence and shared recognition when people laugh together. I also know they are awake and listening if they laugh.
Audiences also need to be reminded to lighten up, take themselves lightly and remember how powerful being in the moment can be.
Benefits of humor in a conference:
- It lightens the load. When you laugh you are forced into the present moment. No matter what stress is killing you back at work, laughing releases worry and makes you present.
- It creates focus. Laughing has proven to increase oxygen levels to the front part of the brain. People are more awake, alive and engaged with the help of humor (and caffeine)
- It decreases stress. Muscle tension is released with every laugh and stress hormones also decrease.
- It increases the energy in the room. The release of endorphins that comes with laughter is an instant mood booster. Audiences are more carefree, buoyant, effervescent and even child like after they laugh. (I was recently a speaker for a group of accountants, and I was delighted at how child-like they could be. My own accountant lacks a sense of humor.)
- Funny motivational speeches create memories by weaving engaging stories everyone can relate to.
I believe humor, play and laughter have the power to change people, and every conference needs a humorous inspirational speaker. Without humor, people aren't as awake, engaged and eager to learn.
Some conferences are very technical and serious by nature. If you can't play at the conference you are planning, take on a playful perspective; balance your continuing education with humor to make the learning stick.