Last week I was invited to a business award ceremony. It was in an interesting location and the after dinner speaker was the Reverend Richard Coles. The awards were scheduled for after dinner with my host's 'Business Woman of the Year' being the final catagory.

Richard Coles was the first speaker and gave and eloquent, interesting and amusing speech. He was articulate, really interesting and had an amusing slightly self deprecating style. He spoke for 15 minutes and had everyone spell bound. He even sang a bar of 'Don't leave me this way' from the Communards.

What followed was truly ghastly and cringeworthy. The sound of a lump of concrete would have been more interesting than the speech introducing the award. Why? Because instead of talking about the nominees and their huge achievements, they chose to talk about themselves and the biggest crime of all...tried to be funny. "I've always loved women' he started ' and I am fortunate to have some really attractive ones at my table'. Dead silence....  All the subsequent attempts to be funny not only failed but became more and more inappropriate. 

Good comedians know how to nuance and use timing. They know how to improvise and connect with their audience. It's an art form and the amateur should either learn it or leave it alone.

Stick to what you know and make sure that you acknowledge and respect your audience and don't ridicule them.  Spend time learning about what matters to the people who will be in the room and then make sure you address it. Don't  keep your head down buried in your notes, look up and engage and above all ....don't try and be funny!