Essential Presentation Skills
How to Use Humor in Your Presentations
written by Jan D'Arcy
Recently a client lamented, "I'm not good at telling jokes but I know everyone at our regional meeting will expect some humor my presentation. The head of our department always starts out with some hilarious incident and then I get up and am serious and boring. What can I do?"
My client doesn't have to imitate his boss's brand of humor when giving a speech. Humor isn't always a guffaw joke; personal stories can be more appealing, succinctly illustrate a point, and build rapport with the audience. A subtle throw-away line can bring about a smile. Art Buchwald quipped, "Living in Seattle is like dating a beautiful woman who always has a cold."
can gain attention. If everyone is chuckling at your anecdote, they are
focused on what you are saying.
helps retention. In an era where we
forget the conversation we had with a client this morning, humor is a powerful
memory enhancer if you connect your story to your point.
can add to your credibility. A speaker who successfully uses humor demonstrates
confidence and being in control. A flip side of humor is that if it fails, you
can lose your dignity and it will be a setback if you are trying to persuade your
audience. Stick to witty one-liners. If no one laughs, you can move on to another
point without losing face.
relaxes both speaker and audience. Have you ever said, " I fell off my chair laughing?" Laughter releases
Tips to make
Analyze your audience. What would appeal to them?
If you aren't comfortable using humor, try cartoons, animations or funny visuals.
Write out and edit your story. Avoid what I recently
The speakers for a panel were cautioned to limit their remarks to
five minutes. The first speaker finished exactly on time. The second panelist
sat down with 15 seconds to spare. But the third panelist was still droning on
after 15 minutes. Ten minutes later, the audience was shifting uncomfortably.
The moderator, intending to interrupt him with a loud gavel blow, inadvertently
hit the second speaker on the head. As the man slid down under the table he gasped
out, "Hit me again, I can still hear that guy talking!"
Sharpen your delivery and timing by telling a story under similar conditions that
you will face during your presentation. Be totally involved in the story as you
tell it. Believe in it!
5. Start keeping a notebook
or file of amusing quotations, cartoons, news stories and personal stories.
Humor is an attitude. It is the ability to be delighted with life.
Take a risk and use humor in your next presentation!
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