They’re the punch line to our jokes. The zingers in our book pages. The standout parts of our conversation. Sometimes they’re even our headlines. We’re talking about one-liners, less commonly known as aphorisms. They are short and sweet true statements that pack a punch; a punch in the gut leaving you gasping for air after the brilliance hits you.

And sometimes that one line is all you need. If done well enough, you don’t need to read the article. You could even scrap it altogether because the headline tells the whole story. It’s like when really quiet people say one thing and leave everyone stunned.

Throwing one in at the end of a best man speech can revive it even if the entire thing was putting your audience to sleep. Keep a few things in mind though: make it unexpected, make it short and make it sting. It’s that shock value that will turn things around in your favour. Jokes at your own expense are always a good way to go. It’s worth the embarrassment.

Let’s take a look at some instances where a solid one-liner can save the day.

A Boring Speech

It’s your best friend’s wedding. You’re the best man. The bride’s side is the majority of the audience, so you don’t know most people there. Therefore, you decided to keep things safe when writing your speech. Unfortunately, now people in the audience are alternating between looking at the clock and the direction of the open bar. There’s your opener! If Dave continues to look at Cindy the way you’re all looking at the bartender now, they’ll definitely live happily ever after. Cheers.

A Presentation

You can see your audience dozing off and you still have seven minutes of explaining the statistics report to go. If no one pays attention to you, it’s as if you didn’t even deliver the presentation. What a waste of everyone’s time. They’re angry enough being forced to sit through it in the first place.

So what do you do? Break the monotony. Take a moment to pause so you’ve got their attention first, then unleash it: By the way, they’re determining our bonuses based on the test at the end of this presentation.

A Business Meeting

You’re at the head of the table in the boardroom. No one sitting around you wants to be there, yourself included. But the plan for the next quarter has to be discussed. Time to lighten the mood and make a joke at your boss’s expense.

Warning: be very careful with this. It’ll only work if you’re on good terms with the person in question and are confident they’re the type to take it the right way. Otherwise, you’re more likely to pack up your things and go.

If you know the guy isn’t one for laughter, don’t comment on his toupee. If she’s clearly going through a hard time, don’t mention her recent divorce. Feel out the situation and play it by ear. If you do it just right, you’ll win over everyone including the one laughing at themself.

A New Encounter

You just met someone new and you really like them so you want to break the ice. In this case your one-liner will need to come closer to the beginning of your exchange. Perhaps even be the first thing to come out of your mouth. Brace yourself: this could make or break the situation. But you have nothing to lose anyway, so it’s good practice.

If they caught you staring, be honest: if I seemed like I was creepily staring at you, it’s cause I was. Again, you’ll need to feel out the vibe to determine what you might be able to get away with. Best of luck in any case.