Looking for ways you can improve public speaking? Stand up comedians are considered the masters of public speaking, so studying their techniques makes good sense!

The best comedians make stand up look incredibly easy – like they’ve been doing it since they were born. They manage to engage their audience throughout the whole show.

Other comedians aren’t as polished. We feel their discomfort and it makes us wish we were any place but listening to their jokes fall flat.

With any form of public speaking, like stand up comedy, you can’t get up on stage and expect to be great if you don’t know your material inside and out, and how to work the audience. Even the best public speakers need to practice their communication skills.


These stand up comedy tips can help you improve public speaking so you present like a pro:

1. Lighten the mood

Unlike stand up comedy, jokes aren’t required when public speaking but throw in a few here and there and you’ll make people sit up and take notice. Jokes help to lighten the mood, especially if your topic is somewhat dry and boring.

2. Understand your audience

A stand-up comedian thinks locally not globally when they craft their routine. It’s the same with public speaking. You need to think about your target audience, what you can give them of value, so they can leave feeling they’ve learned something. If you’re injecting humour they need to get the joke, otherwise, it might be met with incomprehension or could offend.

3. Tell the truth

The best comedians are masters of telling the truth about the human condition. We laugh because what they say is exactly what we all experience. As a presenter, you have the unique opportunity to do the same. By lightening ‘the truth’ with humour, you not only connect with your audience, you help them to see you as a fellow human being.

4. Tell a story

Another way you can copy a stand-up comedian’s technique is to craft a story. The story might highlight a challenge you had to overcome at work or something that happened in your personal life. If you link it to a point you’re making, or an idea you’re trying to sell, people will be more invested because you’ve transported them into their imaginations.

5. Learn from the best

Even if you’re comfortable with public speaking there’s always more to learn. Even the best stand up comedians study their craft and learn from the greats before them.

6. Be prepared to hustle

If you’re determined to be a good public speaker you have to work hard. Jerry Seinfeld likens it to construction workers, “I realised that these guys don’t want to go back to work after lunch, but they’re going ’cause that’s their job. If they can exhibit that level of dedication for that job, I should be able to do the same. Just trudge your ass in.”

7. Think about timing

The best comics have impeccable timing, and know how to set-up a joke, when to pause and how to deliver the punchline. Jump onto YouTube and study the timing and techniques of some of the great public speakers, so you too can deliver a presentation with more impact.

8. Discuss your material

If you’re not feeling it, discuss your material with friends and colleagues. Bounce some ideas around and get feedback. Brainstorm. They might suggest topics or ways of presenting your material, or jokes that could work better.

9. Be prepared

No comedian does stand up without preparing their act – unless they want to get booed off the stage. Likewise, you should practice your speech over and over until you can recite it in your sleep. Knowing your material will give you greater confidence, and the ability to be more spontaneous with your language.  

10. Mute the heckler

Hecklers are the bain of stand up comedians, and public speakers, but heckling can be dealt with and even work in your favour. Above all never lose your temper with a heckler, always be kind and pleasant. Be prepared with a few techniques up your sleeve and you won’t have to let them faze you.

11. Enjoy the applause

So you’ve just delivered your best presentation yet. Congrats! But notice how comedians enjoy the applause then get off the stage? Don’t linger for too long or try and add on extras to your performance. A great stand up comic always leaves the audience wanting more.

As you can see, some of the techniques stand up comics use, such as storytelling, can be a powerful way to connect with your audience and improve public speaking. Want to know more about telling effective and compelling stories in business? Then download our ebook ‘What’s the Story?’ today.

business storytelling

The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.

Tim Chilvers

Having led a range of businesses in both small and complex teams, Tim enjoys working with people and organisations determined to realise their potential – those prepared to act decisively and with the conviction required to bring that potential to life.