Humor? You Must Be Joking!
About two weeks before writing
this chapter, my step-son, Daniel, told me he was giving
a presentation in one of his university courses. He told
me he was planning on starting with a joke, because he
was taught to begin presentations that way. Not by
me, he wasnít!
The joke he planned to open with
was lame, not at all funny, and very old. Is there a
worse way to begin a presentation? Probably, but Iíve
never seen it.
Unless youíre a comedian, jokes
have no place in presentations, or speaking gigs. Now,
before you humorists get all up in arms, let me explain
my reasoning. A joke and a humorous anecdote arenít the
If you can pull off humor in a
presentation, youíre golden with your audience! But
telling a canned joke is a very risky business. There
are many reasons not to use canned jokes in your
presentation, not the least of which is that your
audience may have heard those jokes before. Your
audience may not think your jokes are funny, or they may
find your jokes offensive.
Humor, on the other hand, is a
great way to keep your audience fully engaged. Humor
should be spontaneous, or at least, appear to be so, and
it should be directed at you. This is generally the
safest way to interject humor, because youíre less
likely to offend if youíre making fun of yourself.
Not everyone can effectively use
humor in their speeches, and if youíre one of those
people, donít try to force it. Some people arenít
naturally funny, and trying to be something youíre not
can kill your presentation.
So, whatís the lesson? If you can
pull it off, use seemingly spontaneous, self-directed
humor. If youíre not funny by nature, leave the humor to