Develop Your Sense of Humor
You already know you have plenty of material to choose from in written sources and with the option of hiring a writer. But neither of these approaches precludes developing your own funny bone so that you can more easily come up with your own ideas to lighten your presentations.
Simply making yourself more aware of the kinds of humor out there will allow you to notice what you passively laughed at before and help you develop your own gags. And your subconscious will be equipped to ad-lib if an unexpected situation arises (if the microphone goes out, you can say that “obviously someone is trying to give me a hint to shut up already” or “that's the last time I'll work for a group that didn't pay for more than 20 minutes' use of the mike”).
Television and movie scripts are not things you can readily borrow from to insert quips into your speech about industrial management. But watching sitcoms and comedies more attentively can help you notice what people laugh at and may inspire your own lines.
Alas, reality TV, game shows, and police dramas have moved network sitcoms to the side in recent years, but there are always old episodes of recent hits on the cable channel TBS, or you can rent many classics on DVD.
Movies do not have the same need for rapid, funny dialogue to hold the audience between commercials, but comedy is ascendant, with hot stars like Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey. Or watch classics like Annie Hall, The Odd Couple, and Some Like It Hot.
Pick your favorite late-night TV host — Letterman, Leno, Ferguson, O'Brien, Kimmel — and listen to how they set up and deliver their lines, written with top comedy writers. On National Public Radio, listen to “Car Talk,” “Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me,” or “Whadya Know?”
What do great comedians have in common?
They each have a distinct style they have mined. That is also true of all the late, great humorists from Will Rogers to Rodney Dangerfield. Make your style your own, something you are comfortable with that expresses your distinctive personality.
If you are not already in the habit of reading the comics over breakfast, start your day looking on the bright side and find one strip whose humor can inspire you. Notice visual humor you can describe and translate into something related to your speech subject.
Pick up books by writers like Dave Barry, Andy Borowtiz, Nora Ephron, Douglas Adams, Art Buchwald, David Sedaris, and Erma Bombeck to borrow or adapt their stories and observations. Or if you want to dig deep into the great wits of history, check out Aristophanes, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain.