Using Humor in Presentations

presentJoke: Since it was written in the will, “Being of sound mind. I spent every cent before I died.”

No matter what your topic is, no matter how interested the audience is, and no matter how great a speaker you are – there is a limited amount of information that an audience can take in before their minds start to drift.

All great speakers know this. Why do you think exercises, charts, graphics, music and every other 3-D device are injected into speeches? To catch and keep the audiences attention. It is used to keep the audience interested enough so their minds won’t start to contemplate such earth shaking questions as “What’s for lunch?” “Where did the speaker get that awful tie?” or worse, “When’s the next speaker coming on?”

Sitting in one place for too long with a one-dimensional focus becomes boring. To break up the information, humor is needed. Humor is the necessary commercial break in our presentations that allows the audience to breathe freely, laugh, get the point, and if done successfully, still sell our product, idea or message.

Think of all the successful speakers you know. You may not remember them as great comedians (that’s not their job), but you do remember a light moment or a quick comeback. Laughter makes all information easier to swallow.

Whether you liked President Reagan or not, most people remember his wit. He always managed to lightly “joke” his way out of a serious situation.

When he was shot, the last thing he said to the doctors before he went to surgery was “I hope you guys are Republicans!”

Anyone can present boring facts and statistics. Unfortunately that’s what many presenters do. The result is uninspiring speeches that the audience doesn’t absorb. They fall asleep halfway through the presentation. Nothing is so disheartening than ending a speech to a bunch of snoring clients.

You can have the greatest information, and be a leading expert in your field, but if the audience tunes out before you deliver your message – it’s gone. Wasted information, of no use. Damn it, you worked too hard, researched too long and have something to say. If you feel you can change people’s lives – let humor get your message across.

In our age of instant visual stimulation through technology, boredom is high. Commercials have conditioned people to think in three-minute blocks of time. You have to capture your audience, and keep them focused. To do this you have to alternate the way you present your material. Use humor related to your topic to counteract and keep your audience alert and on your side. If you are doing a speech on taxes, find some accountant or IRS jokes. Of course make sure no one from the IRS is in the audience. (Just kidding, I’m sure they have a sense of humor too.)

Humor has an amazing affect. The audience realizes you are not a comic, whatever laughter you give them is an added bonus for both you as a speaker and your receiving audience. Till next yourself and have a good time.

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