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How to Tell a Joke

How to Tell a Joke

How to Tell a Joke

    Many people shy away from telling jokes because they once told one that fell flat or they are afraid of appearing silly or of offending someone. Jokes are canned humorous stories which are subtly different from personal anecdotes. With personal anecdotes you have the authority to tell them because they happened to you. Jokes are independent and in a sense artificial so you take a little risk when you launch into one. However, when told well, a joke can cause great amusement and lift the mood of the gathering. A speaker who puts some relevant and well-told jokes into his or her speech will be appreciated by the audience who are often bored with bland presentations and are crying out for a little entertainment.

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    Here are some tips on how to tell a good joke:

    1. Select. Choose three or four jokes that really tickled you from the internet or a joke book. If you are giving a talk or presentation look for ones that have some relevance (however slight) so that you can work them into the pitch. Have one or two generic or topical ones that you can use on any occasion.

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    2. Practise. Practise them aloud – in front of a mirror if possible. Deliver them with style, confidence and panache. Focus on the punch line and ensure that you can deliver it word perfect.

    3. Choose your moment. If there is a convenient hook in the conversation for one of your jokes you can introduce it then. Otherwise wait for a pause. Sometimes the most amusing jokes occur when people least expect the teller to tell a joke. So, if appropriate, be serious as you introduce the story and then catch your audience out with the punch line.

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    4. Deliver slowly and with confidence. Many people ruin jokes by rushing them, mumbling incoherently or just getting the words wrong. Your practice should have overcome this but there is still a temptation to hurry. Slow down a little. Try to pause for effect before you deliver the punch line. That can add enormously to the impact.

    5. Match the joke to the audience. A joke which is hilarious with the guys on the 7th tee might well be a disaster at the Church Bazaar. Jokes often challenge taboos so it is OK to risk a tiny amount of offence to one or two people. But if your joke seriously offends people then you were guilty of misjudgment. In mixed company during the day you should stay with safe material. In the evening you can be a little more risqué and with the men in the bar you can be outrageous. Choose wisely.

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    6. Reciprocate. Never finish anyone else’s joke. Always laugh or smile even if you have heard it before. Be a good joke teller and receiver.

    7. Develop. As you build experience and confidence try more and different jokes. But don’t overdo it. Don’t hog the conversation with one joke after another. A few really good jokes that you can tell with perfect confidence is the aim.

    Finally have some one-liners to throw in from time to time. Here are a couple to get you going:

    • Velcro – what a rip-off!
    • ‘Shut up!’ my father explained.

    Funny jokes make the world a more interesting place. Enjoy your joke telling!

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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