Toastmasters, what’s so funny?

Blog 4 of 8: The ‘Engaging Humor’ Path launches in Toastmasters Pathways

As a member and the (former) Vice President of Education of Unity Toastmasters (a community club in Toastmasters International), I chose one of eleven Pathways — “Presentations Mastery” — as a public speaking goal. This is the blog series of eight posts I wrote in one month to complete Level 4.*

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Do you know what it’s like to marry a Toastmaster?

All of our conversations are five to seven minutes long.

This was the joke that got a roar of applause from guests in attendance for the International Speaking Competition. And out of all three contestants, I remember second-place winner Zifang “Sherrie” Su’s speech the most because she made me laugh.

If you’re not in Toastmasters, you probably won’t get the joke. If you are, chances are pretty high that you were mildly amused. And if you can get people to laugh, it’s safe to say you can keep their attention.

Incorporating Humor Into Your Speech

This is why I was so happy to find out that Toastmasters added an 11th path to Pathways: Engaging Humor. In this path, Toastmasters will have to create speeches that cover goals like:

  • Engaging your audience with humor
  • Knowing your own sense of humor
  • Connecting with your audience
  • Learning the power of humor in an impromptu speech

I am never missing a meeting for any Toastmaster who decides to take on this topic. We have quite a few funny folks at Unity Toastmasters. Some have even gone on to do comedy during other live shows.

Why I Miss the Toastmasters Annual Humor Competition

I’m also hoping it brings back the annual Toastmasters Humor Competition. That was the first speech competition I’d ever gone to, and the Vice President of Education at my first club (Toast of TCS) nailed it. He absolutely deserved first place.

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I already knew he was funny, even when he wasn’t trying to be. He evaluated one of my speeches by saying that I talked too fast, but kept everyone’s attention and made the audience anticipate my next move like “happy puppies.” Then he proceeded to sway his bottom side to side literally like a puppy.

While I respected his speech feedback and try my best to stop talking so fast (work in progress), that puppy demonstration still tickles me almost two years later. Although his evaluations were effective and constructive, he more often than not added some humor in them.

Why Humor Wins In and Out of Toastmasters

Being funny doesn’t have to just be in a competition or a five-to-seven minute speech. It works wonders while you’re giving a speaker an evaluation too. And one of my favorite things about being part of Unity Toastmasters is the agenda requires something that Toast of TCS did not: a Jokemaster.

In every single meeting, someone has to come up with a joke right after the one-to-two minute Invocation. I’ve yet to see someone bomb, and I am not someone who gives sympathy laughs.

For Toastmasters who have chosen a different path and may think the Engaging Humor Path is better, I say, “Go for it!”

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Challenge Yourself in Humor with Table Topics Questions

One of my favorite Table Topics questions that I’ve ever asked is the one below. I found this report while I was working on a psychology interview. At your next Toastmasters meeting, I encourage you to try it. I will be surprised if it’s not a hit.

The distance between a man and a woman in an elevator decreases if the woman enters the elevator smiling. And it works both ways with both genders. In a study with 60 women, they were asked whether they were more likely to give their phone numbers to a guy in a bar who made his group of friends laugh versus the group who laughed at his joke. Three times as many women chose the guy who made the group laugh. This was one of many things I found that were fascinating about the power of humor and relationships. Tell us a story about the last time someone made you laugh out loud.

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Additional posts from Shamontiel’s eight-part Toastmasters blog series:

‘Are you mad at me?’: The art of handwritten letters ~ Toastmasters, handwritten letters never go out of style

Why I made my Toastmasters group cry ~ Table Topics is fun, but I turned it into therapy

Failed English final, became professional writer: School expulsion, failing grade ~ Why I chose the Harlem Renaissance for my Toastmasters speech

Barry Brewer: Chicago comedian keeps us laughing ~ Actor/comedian gives tips on humorous public speaking for Toastmasters

Hosting 101: Learn speakers’ names ~ Toastmasters, don’t let memorizing odd names kick your butt

Make Drake-level eye contact without being creepy ~ Toastmasters, learn how to visually connect with your audience

Making odd topics interesting, thanks to Hasan Minhaj ~ Toastmasters, talk about what you want to know, not just what you know now

This post was originally published on February 5, 2019 on Chicago Now’s “Message from Montie” blog.

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