Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

Jokes and Public Speaking

Posted by Presentation Skills on September 2, 2007

When speaking to any audience, it is important to build rapport as quickly as possible. Humour can be a great way to do this.  However, leave the jokes aside. 

It is often thought that starting a presentation with a joke will get the audience on-side; however jokes will fail more than they succeed.  This will leave people laughing at you and not with you! 

Why is this? Most jokes rely on having a victim that you make fun of.  If the audience identifies with you more than the victim they will find the joke funny.  However, there will always be some who identify with the victim and will think your joke is poor taste.  If there are too many of these people in the audience your joke will fall flat. 

Jokes also rely on exact wording and timing to be carried off properly.  If this is out slightly your joke will fall flat.  Also, most of the funniest jokes cannot be told in public! 

If you are constantly opening with jokes, you will get a reputation for this.  You would be better off building a reputation as someone who has something important to say. Finally, if you do happen to find the right joke and deliver it properly and everyone thinks it’s funny, they will probably remember the joke more than what you had to say. 

If your joke overshadows your content you will not be able to deliver your message.   

Humour is important in all presentations, just don’t use jokes! 

So what should you use? 

Situational humour is often the best.  This involves knowing what is going on around you right now.  This can be simply passing a comment or making an observation on what is going on. 

The reason this works is that if you are thinking it, there is a good chance others are thinking it too.  If they are also thinking it, they will laugh. 

Another type of humour is self depricating humour. This is where you are the butt of the humour. This will show the audience that you do not take yourself too seriously.  This will build great respect for you. 

Remember you don’t always have to use humour to communicate.  If you don’t think yourself funny, don’t try and force it as it won’t work.    If you are unsure if a line will work, try dropping it into a conversation and see what reaction you get.  This will give you a good guide to see if it works.

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