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From the desk of Steve Lowell, Master Speaker and Mentor to those who speak in public.

Being Sensational

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 same things.

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 the humorists.

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