When I started doing research for this article, I soon realized the conundrum speakers face when they think about using humor in a presentation. Absolutely, there are good reasons to provide your audience with a few chuckles. Humor can:
● Set a pleasant/fun tone for your talk
● Trigger the release of an audience’s “happy” chemicals which helps put them at ease
● Get and hold people’s attention—in a good way
● Make your stories and/or your points more memorable
Does that mean you should rush to add humor to your current presentations? Not exactly. It’s true that most people, speakers included, enjoy making people laugh, but that’s not why you decided to speak. Plus, humor can be risky, so it’s important to make sure you think about how, why, and where to add it. You’ll also want to grasp the following distinction before you make any changes….
Humor isn’t always about telling jokes. Comedians tell jokes.
Speakers use humor to help convey their message.
If you decide to start adding humor to your presentation, take it slow—unless telling jokes is already part of your style and/or niche. Again, your job on stage isn’t to make people laugh. On the other hand, humor can be a useful and valuable tool to have in your speaker’s tool kit. Used wisely, it’s simply another way to make sure your audience leaves with something of value they didn’t have before they heard you speak.
Here are more thoughts to consider when it comes to incorporating humor into your presentation:
● Don’t start your talk with a joke. One of your goals is to connect and engage with your audience right from the get-go. If you make a joke and no one laughs, it might take you longer to make that connection. Your confidence is likely to take a hit right out of the gate too.
● Use the “less is more” approach. Your job isn’t to make your audience laugh, so only use humor when using it makes sense, and only when it fits naturally into the flow of your presentation.
● Don’t set the audience up by saying something like “I want to tell you a funny story.” Let your audience decide if something is funny. If they laugh, keep it in. If they don’t laugh, then you know the story needs work—or deleting.
● Make sure your humor is relevant to you, your content, and your audience. You should always review your presentation with your next audience in mind. What might have been funny to the last group you spoke to might not be funny to the next group you speak to.
● When in doubt, get a second opinion on a story or joke you’re considering using so you don’t accidentally miss something that’s off-color or offensive.
Lastly, one of the most powerful forms of humor is often found in the stories and jokes we tell about ourselves. Some people term this as self-deprecating humor—when we are the butt of our own story/joke. Another way to look at it is being vulnerable. Our audiences want to know we genuinely understand their experience, and telling a funny story about our own experience can go a long way to earning respect and building trust as an expert with a solution to the problem(s) the audience is facing.
And remember, delivery makes all the difference! Your voice, tone, expressions, gestures, and cadence are your major delivery components. Practice your delivery to make sure you’re using them to your best advantage and they will help you tell the story.
So… why did the chicken cross the road? To hear your presentation, of course! What did you think my answer would be?
‘Til we speak again,