Executive Speaking Weblog

Communication – the future of business

Jokes and Presentations – Don’t do it!

Posted by Presentation Skills on January 7, 2011

Real Leaders know how to uncover the humour in their message to make their audience laugh.

When speaking to any audience, it is important to build a rapport with them as quickly as possible—and humour can be a great way to make this connection. However, it’s often best to leave the punch-line jokes aside and focus on more subtle types of humour.

It’s a misconception that beginning a presentation with a joke will get the audience on your side. In fact, jokes will fail far more often than they will succeed. There are several reasons for this unfortunate outcome:
• The funniest jokes are usually not appropriate for the work environment.
• Most jokes rely on a victim—and chances are that someone will identify more with the victim than with you. If the audience identifies with you more than the victim they will find the joke funny.  However, there will be people in the audience who identify with the victim and will think your joke is in poor taste.  If there are too many of these people in the audience, the joke will fail.
• Jokes require exact wording, good delivery, and perfect timing.  If you don’t carry off all three of these things, your joke will fall flat and leave you struggling.
• If you are constantly opening with jokes, you will get a reputation for it. You would be better off building a reputation as someone who has something important to say than as someone who cracks jokes.
• 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, it will  prevent you from delivering your message.

Although structured jokes with punch lines are almost always a poor choice for your a presentations, humour is an important aspect of all public speaking presentations.

One type of humour that works well when applied to speeches is situational humour. Situational humour can involve making observations on what is going on around you at that moment. Chances are good that if you find something in your immediate environment is funny, others will too. Situational humour can also be used in the stories that you tell.

Another type of humour that works well in a speech or presentation is self-deprecating humour. In this case, you are the only victim of the joke and no one else is hurt or offended. More than that, self-deprecation shows the audience that you are not taking yourself too seriously and helps them build a fondness and respect for you.

Remember: even though humour can be a useful and fun tool to utilise, it is not required to successfully communicate with your audience. If you know that you are lacking a sense of humour, don’t try and force humour into your presentations—focus on your strengths instead. If you are unsure of whether or not a line is funny, try dropping it into a casual conversation and gauge the reactions—even if it doesn’t meet with laughter, it’s a better option than having a bit of humour flop in the midst of a speech.

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3 Responses to “Jokes and Presentations – Don’t do it!”

  1. fredmiller said

    Good points about humor here!

    Humor is tough, often really tough.

    For a goo presentation, it can be icing on the cake.

    However, if you tell the audience you’re going to be funny, and you’re not – They will be laughing at you and not with your and YOU will be the joke!

    Thanks!
    Fred E. Miller
    Fred@NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com
    http://www.nosweatpublicspeaking.com

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by advl03, Jen Juan. Jen Juan said: Jokes and Presentations – Don’t do it! – http://ow.ly/3GUH2 […]

  3. Your observation about situational humor is so to the point… Cracking spontaneous jokes at a business presentation or even just a poorly delivered punchline can actually get you fired.
    Though it’s really nice to see a presenter once in a while who really knows how to handle humor while delivering a speech. There are a few out there and with a little help, maybe we, “no-Jerry-Seinfelds”, can present like that as well.

    Thanks for the insight, Darren! I also enjoyed the video!

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