Passion & Humor vs. Apathy & Dryness as speakers

Few things inspire us the way an articulate, effective speaker does.  If they do their job right, the audience is invited into a dimension of thought, experiencing the atmosphere and culture, built with the structure of words and sentences.  They have you leaving that conference room, theater, hotel, or classroom, feeling like you have escaped the logical world, as you know it, for a moment of enlightenment, awareness, and wonder.

Needless to say, it takes years to develop the skills and intuition necessary to capture your audience and transport them to another place and time.  There is, however, a very practical life hack that I have discovered and I believe has the power to give you a leg up when it comes to your audience to your logos, or main thought.

From what I have noticed, listening and watching colleagues and mentors speak to crowds large and small there are two very strong characteristics which can be used to cut through the personal space and consciousness barrier of your audience.  Passion and Humor. Listen to or watch any good speaker and you will see that they all use one or the other.  The great ones know how to weave the two together to form a strong connection with their audience.

It is interesting, in fact even significant that the Greeks, found two major classification of effective theatrical entertainment.  They found people responded best to Dramas and Comedies. We still gravitate to these two genres, because we see passion and humor at work in them and we live vicariously through them.

On the down side to these two characteristics are Apathy and Dryness. They are the death of every lecture or speech ever given.  Even if your figures are wrong, and you miss a sentence, people still stay awake when you have Passion and Humor.

Passion = Blood boiling, red hot emotional bias towards your topic.  Wearing your emotions on your sleeves.  Note that a passionate speaker does not have to scream to show passion.  You can also reveal your passion through your commitment and experiences with a topic.

Apathy = When you lack passion, you will be perceived as being cold, passé, indifferent and quite simply…blah.  Sometimes nervousness can be mistaken for apathy. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much care.”  When you come across as uninterested (in either the content matter or the process of pursuing a connection with your audience) they will tune you out.

Solution = Use this information to create content or list points that help you to express your passions.  Show your commitment to your subject matter.  Acknowledge the similarities you might have with the audience.  Show your candid emotions.  Slow down key parts of your speech to highlight and reveal your thoughts and emotions.  It will create connections for your audience.


Humor = Everybody likes someone who can make them laugh.  It keeps the atmosphere free, light, friendly, forgiving, and flexible.  It is like a person monitoring a river and making sure the pesky “serious twigs” don’t stop the free flowing atmosphere they have created.  When appropriate, comedy can create alignment between the speaker and audience.  There are moments where the subject matter isn’t fit for comedy.  This is why passion is its counterpart.  Where comedy may seem insensitive, passion can share your heart.

Dryness = Have you ever eaten a dry piece of chicken breast without any lube aides?  Not cool, huh?  That is how it feels when a speech has little to no humor in it.  When things are dry, nothing moves, the atmosphere is rigid and uninteresting and people fall asleep.  Sometimes focusing completely of information without focusing on application (the real life experiences putting your ideas to work) robs a speech of its very potential to be funny and charming. Humans like to laugh at other humans.  They like to find similarities in other people.  When you share your experiences, I have found that humor hides in the crevices of your stories and can surprise you and your audience with a moment of uncontrollable rapture.  It happens all the time.

Solution = Even if the audience senses that you just filled your speech with jokes, or anecdotes, just to make you come across as humorous,  THEY WILL STILL LAUGH.  They will also respect you for at least trying to connect and manage the humor atmosphere by keeping the air light and flexible.  You should make room for your relevant personal experiences, for within them are golden nuggets of comedy that the audience is trained to find, even if you’re not.


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