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Experts! Speak English! #129

Become The Humourous Expert

What is Humour (UK) or Humor (US)?


Explaining something in a way that makes it funny, it might make you chuckle or laugh, or just smile, but being humourous is a great way to make your message more memorable and interesting

In context…

“I love hearing Pat present, he always has a funny little anecdote, doesn’t he?
“You’re right, he is quite humourous”

Synonyms for Funny

Other ways of saying humourous

In business there’s a fine line between being funny or humorous and just being a little bit stupid. So if you want to preserve your professionalism but you want to have a bigger impact when you’re speaking to people and hence drawing them in with a little bit of humour then this could be the right episode for you.

Hi there, it’s Corinne Wilhelm and this is the Experts! Speak English! podcast. I work with non-native speakers, who are experts in their own mind but aren’t really showing up as the expert. Being seen as the expert or getting the opportunities as the expert – to really get out there and take their career or their business to the next level.

So a lot of you will have been drawn in by humor. Now humour doesn’t have to be that kind of belly laugh. You’re not Father Christmas (Nikolaus) But a little bit of laughter and humor can go a long way in terms of making yourself approachable – pulling people into your story or your message. Basically being that little bit more approachable. People who can make you laugh, tend to be people that you turn to if you need something.

So being funny doesn’t need to mean telling jokes as such. If you are going to tell a ‘joke’, make sure that – in a business context – it’s telling a story. It’s something that immerses the audience into the scenario. That way they’re much more likely to invest their time in you, engage and connect. All of that is so much easier with a little bit of a chuckle or a laugh.

A chuckle by the way if you’re not a native speaker is like a little kind of low profile laugh (quieter & calmer) like a not a a laugh and a chuckle is just enough to get you smiling a little bit.

So how to craft your story well, the idea is to keep it personal so in my case coco specific as possible and you know feature yourself tell them what they need to know but do it in a way that is amusing.

Add an anecdote or a story like we’ve talked about in the last couple of episodes #127 #128 (of Experts! Speak English) and make sure that you tell them what is it that they don’t get (understand) How can you get that over with something humorous funny or a joke.

Now to be really effective with this, the secret ingredient is to add lots of ‘delicious details’. The more detail you give, the more you draw people into your story – your funny story in this case.

Be sure that you don’t start with waffle (blah blah – not getting to the point straight away) Because oozes nervousness! If you’re going to tell a joke if you’re going to tell something funny, just dive on in there! Be dynamic about it. This will quickly draw them in to your story.

Remember there’s normally a hero and a protagonist in every story. So who is that person? That has to be really clear. Describe what they’re up against, what they’re struggling with and build in some some kind of emotion. Are they embarrassed? Are they getting out of their depth? Intimidated? Are they feeling paranoid? But don’t just tell them – set the scene. Say things that will make them realize that that’s the situation. You don’t have to label it as such.

Include a really clear lesson or some kind of transformational arc into your story in business. This can be amazing. Just because there’s a little bit of humour – doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to be educational right?!

Add some twists and turns. Don’t make it too obvious! The people that you’re speaking to are normally pretty smart so they can work it out. Plus – intelligent humour makes you seem smarter too and make it believable make it relatable.

You know it’s OK to show a little bit of vulnerability and make sure that you’re aiming the joke at yourself. Now you don’t have to be showing yourself up to be you know – unreliable on the Monday, lacking punctuality on the Tuesday, broke on the Wednesday. It doesn’t have to be like that – because otherwise you know you’re not exactly selling yourself. But you can certainly give the people in your organization the feeling of “oh yeah, (s)he’s made some mistakes but (s)he’s learned from them (s)he’s moved on from that and that’s made him/her what (s)he is today. So that’s the skill. To use a bit of vulnerability some – what we call in the UK, self-deprecating humor to pull you in so that people can get to know you a little bit better.

In a corporate setting sometimes it’s very difficult to really get to know someone. Especially if you only ever see that person in meetings, right? 

Before you start, make sure that you have the story straight in your head. Be absolutely clear what the punch line is, know exactly where you want this story/anecdote/this little tale to end. What’s going to come at the beginning the middle and the end?

Make sure that you use the arc method – so link back to what happened at the beginning of the story at the very end. That closes all the loops if you like and it brings people into a comfortable feeling of being picked up at the end. Now there should be a start and a middle and an end.

And of course, this is a humorous story, so make sure it’s entertaining. Avoid that kind of “Dad joke” humour that’s fine at home when you’re with family and friends but maybe not the best choice for the workplace. Tedious jokes you know – so try not to make those kind of jokes if at all possible. Easier said than done but, you know what the best way is to find out right – run it past somebody else.

Coco’s Communication Challenge for this episode, ideally today is … remember the hashtag #expertspeakenglish is to grab a piece of paper and on the left hand side I want you to start your story collection. On my list I’ve got things like moving to Oberstorf, taxi in london, green four – that’s a story in Finland, “Hot!” – another Oberstdorf story, Hot curry ‘Finn’. You know – so it’s just bullets, they don’t mean anything to you I know, but they mean something to me. Just looking at that list is enough to trigger that story and on the right hand side (you don’t have to have each story pointing to a different message) but on the right hand side I want you to write a list of messages or a list of topics, a list of skills – that kind of thing. So on mine I’ve got things like proper planning, cost cutting, confidence, unnecessary conversation, habits, speaking skills, multilinguality, improvisation that kind of thing.

ZONES OF GENIUS Now, you should have at least 12 of these. 12 of these that tie into your 3 zones of genius. So for example every one of my clients chooses three zones of genius. It’s completely unrealistic to expect you to have more than three zones of genius because otherwise they wouldn’t be zones of “genius” would they? I’m talking “brilliance” now right? So mine would be 1. communication, 2. e-learning and 3. culture. Three zones of genius. Now you will without doubt have three different zones of genius and you should have four sub-sections within those 3 things – so that gives you 12 mini zones of genius like subsections and those should all appear on the message side. But you might well have even more than that.

This message & story list should be evolving all the time. Try and come back to it regularly, say at the end of the week or when you’re planning your week ahead. Just jot down the funny things that have happened to you that week. It doesn’t have to be haha funny just something kind of a) quirky or b) something that made you smile or c) something that made you realize oh that was really stupid.

Anything like that can go on your list and then you’re ready to go when you do want to explain something. You can just come back to your list and see what you can put together. Later you’ll be matching the stories and the messages to come up with the right little anecdote for that particular communication challenge that you have.

(As part of Coco’s Communication Challenge) you could set yourself a little objective to try and tell one story a week, one funny anecdote a week. It could be to your colleague, it could be to your partner, your kids – it doesn’t matter who you tell it to.

That’s the great thing about communication you can practice with practically anyone and strangers are great because they’re never going to see you again are they?

So make yourself a little target to tell at least one funny little story a week! And like anything in life – this gets easier with practice!

The more cool stuff you do in life, the better your stories will become. So get out there, experience something new and that actually shows you to be an interesting person so get out there do something different stretch that comfort zone!

Authenticity is funny. Being yourself is humorous because we’re all humans – we do do crazy things don’t we? Life can be pretty weird, right? So let’s take advantage of that shall we? Whether it’s shopping with 15 coat hangers over your arm like I explained last week (relatable for most women I think) or you know – finally getting all the way to the bus and forgetting your mask. You know it’s the only thing you need to wear your mask on these days or whatever. It is these little quirks in life that make you human, they make you approachable and you don’t have to go around talking yourself down but authenticity is very funny.

That’s why comedians use situational comedy to really pull you into their story make it something that everybody can relate to so don’t waffle. Get to the point! Keep it tight. “Brevity is the soul of wit” according to Shakespeare so take a leaf out of his book. So be funny. Be engaging and to do that (well) structure is critical.

There are people that can just show up at the pub and just tell joke after joke. Certainly in the UK, you can go to the bar and there will be one of those people that can just tell joke, after joke, after joke and you’re thinking “Where the hell does he get these from?” absolutely amazing!

I am not one of those, but (in terms of structure) you can split your funny story up into three sections. There’s the prep (preparation) and setting up your story so- setting the scene if you like, then you can build in a little bit of suspense about what’s coming next and then of course there’s the punchline. That’s what you need to work on. So it’s the

1. prep/setup +
2. the anticipation/setting the scene +
3. the punchline.

If you do want to focus on one particular word, (especially important for business stories when you are trying to make an impression on people) I’ve got one little trick for you. Try to put that word at the END of your sentence. So say for example, if you said “we had 80% growth that’s STRONGER than saying “We had a growth of 80%” (as your punchline say. Why? Because we are pulled into that LAST WORD. Try that out! (Not JUST for funny stories)

So far then then
1. You have the set up, suspense and the punchline.
2 Get into the joke fast- don’t waffle. and
3. Make sure that you don’t have too many words!

Don’t make it too long and complicated with lots of little words together. You know – try and get to the point! because people don’t have the patience or the concentration! They just want to get it and if you’re smart with words and if you’re really preparing (and practicing) these funny anecdotes, you will be able to keep it really tight!

So that’s about it for my short show on humour . There’s a lot more I could tell you about humour, but of course if you want to work with me and find out how you can find your funny bone, then feel free to reach out for a “Virtual Tea Break” and we’ll find out a bit more about you & what it is you want to tell and then if you want to work with me that’s great and if not I’ll certainly give you a few tips and get you thinking and speaking in English.

If you’re based in Berlin I have three appointments left for my Pimp my English programme. (Full Disclosure) Prices are going up in August, so if you want to jump onto that, feel free to hit the link in the show notes and join me in Berlin (or Potsdam) for a ridiculously enjoyable and inspiring coaching experience

I have 3 EXTRA TIPS for you on my website (video below this transcript)  so go to and you will find those 3 extra tips. You’ve been listening to Corinne Wilhelm on Experts! Speak English!

Take care now and have a fabulous week, goodbye 🙂

Who do I work with?

Non native speaking experts who have yet to be discovered as the experts, or get the opportunities that they feel that they deserve. Communication is often the key.

What is the difference between chuckle and laugh?
To chuckle is to laugh quietly or inwardly whereas laughing is more obvious and transparent.
The amount of movement of the muscles of the face, particularly of the mouth, causing your face to light up – especially the face and eyes, is what makes the difference.
A chuckle doesn’t have those explosive or chuckling sounds from the chest and throat – it’s more subtle, discrete or reserved.

The kind of lower profile expression of humour without drawing too much attention to yourself is a CHUCKLE.
If it is really funny and it is appropriate to indulge in LAUGHTER.

Laughter, Humour, chuckling

Benefits of being humourous

Make your message more memorable and actionable
Claim your role as the expert
Make yourself approachable


How do you craft your story

Make it unique to you
Share a little bit about you
Set the scene, build suspence, the punchline/point of the story

The Secret Ingredient

Setting the scene is all about describing the scenario, when is it, where is it, who is there? Use the senses to make it a more stimulating experience.

Dive In

Don’t waffle, dive straight into the story to grab their attention and keep it
Have some attitude, use your hands, gestures and tone of voice to really draw in your audience with passion and personality
Own your story


Set The Scene

Use the present tense to draw people into your story, make them a part of it – a fly on the wall.
Don’t label it, describe it, using adjectives and adverbs
Better still describe the situation and the emotions affecting the hero of your funny story.

What's the point?

By using intelligent humour, you make yourself look smart too
Using relatable, every day situations is a great way to appear humourous


Made some mistakes and have learnt from them
Self deprecating humour, let people get to know you


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The Arc

If you can bring the story full circle back to something that you mentioned at the beginning, you pick up your audience more, it ties up any loose ends and will make a more professional impression. Try it out, very powerful.

Avoid this...

Dad Jokes
Cringeworthy jokes
Being undiplomatic

Coco's Communication Challenge

1. A4 Sheet
: List of Stories
>>>Right: List of Messages,topics, skills, etc (learning)

2. Think about 3 Zones of Genius x 4 Mini Zones of Genius
AIM: Tell one funny story every week
3, Get out there do something different to add to your story list

Coco's Communication Challenge

Bonus Tips

90 minutes walk and talk
Cocktail (and confidence)

Special offer until 7.7.2022


(The price of the cocktail is included)
Why not split the cost with a (former) colleague?

Show up like a pro!

Pimp My English

Just three dates left until the price hike in August 2022

Great if you…
  • need a cool leaving present for a colleague
  • are going to perform in English (Keynote, Negotiation, Pitch)
  • have an English job interview
  • are returning to work after maternity leave
  • are about to meet your new (English speaking) boss


Your communication challenge
My native language
Your success

Coco, help me to be more humourous!

Speaking with humour certainly can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first so let’s meet for a Virtual Tea Break and I’ll give you some tips

Let's practice using humour to make a better impression

Fancy a Virtual Tea Break?