Humorous Speech Contests

A great vehicle for developing your ability to effectively use humor.

I was the 2003 humor champion for District 33 Toastmasters. A typical district in Toastmasters may have 3000 members. I’ve won the first-place district humor trophy four times. Here are some insights on how I have made my trip to the district finals. These ideas can also apply anytime you are developing a piece of humorous material for any type of presentation.

-Before the 2003 contest, I planted a seed 27 months earlier. Something happened in my life that I thought was a good target for building a humorous speech. So I planted the idea in my head. And for two years I “slept on it” and massaged my ideas. Jotting ideas on slips of paper, I dropped them into a file folder marked for this speech.

-Often, when I would wake up in the morning, I would lie in bed for few minutes and let ideas float in my head. For me, this is my best creative time.

-When driving the car, I played with the ideas and started to run structure ideas through my head. I mentally started to deliver segments of my developing talk.

-One week before the club-level contest, I scripted the speech on paper. I opened with something that laid the foundation, the premise of the talk. It was the platform on which I could build the humor. I looked for one of the funniest lines to use at the end to leave them laughing.

-Every time you give a developing humorous speech, tape it. Review and critique it afterward. Which lines did not work? Where did they laugh when you did not expect them to? Look at the structure of your humor lines, especially the lines that did not work.

-Between contests at the area, division and district levels I frequently review the talk in my mind, sleeping on it and again practicing in my car. I am dropping the weakest lines and adding new lines. Between each level, I typically add four or five new lines. It’s not unusual for me to add a line or two as I listen to the speakers competing just ahead of me. To reach the higher levels, don’t be afraid to take some chances. Keep it clean, but take chances with using some untested humor.

-Just before I give the speech at the next level, I always ask a trusted and insightful friend to put his or her “evaluator hat” on and give me a critique after the talk.

-I always keep the perspective that winning is not the key. Learning and growing as a humorous speaker is the bottom line. And I always remember that the higher the level the contest, the easier it will be. Your speech gets better and the audiences get larger and laugh more. Your speech will always be funnier at the next level.

-If you are a member of Toastmasters, consider starting a specialty club designed to help people become better contest speakers. A club in Las Vegas, Jackpot Toastmasters, does exactly that. They have a great track record for members winning contests.

-If you ever have the opportunity to compete…do it!

For information on a Toastmasters club near you, visit

By John Kinde, Humor Specialist speaker from Las Vegas. Copyright 2005 by John Kinde. More humor skills articles and free Ezine at (702) 263-4363.