7 tips for using humor in your presentation
- Get the word order right. The unexpected example that makes them laugh must always come at the END of what you are saying.
- Never say that you are about to say something funny because then they will expect a funny twist at the end of what you are saying and the twist won’t work because it is no longer a surprise.
- Smile. If you don’t smile people won’t know they are allowed to laugh. You have to let them know you are happy and not upset about what you are saying. Often the joke is about something unpleasant that happened to you–the audience won’t know whether you want them to sympathize or laugh–putting a smile on your face gives them permission to laugh at your misfortunes.
- Pause. Pause. Pause. If you want people to laugh, you’ve got to shut up. And I mean shut up completely. When you have said the joke–pause. There must be silence because people won’t laugh while you are talking! Seriously this is the number one major mistake that people make in humorous speeches. The audience will only laugh when they don’t need to keep quiet to hear what you are saying.
- Don’t step on the laughter. If they are laughing you mustn’t start speaking again until the laughter is almost died out. This requires extremely good listening skills. You’ve got to listen to your audience to hear where the laughter is at the exact point of almost gone but not quite gone yet. It’s also called Timing.
- Stay clear of anything politically incorrect. I heard a Toastmaster give this remark when he was the Contest Chair of a Toastmaster competition: “A speech is like a woman’s skirt. It should be short enough to arouse interest and long enough to cover the subject.” The man who said that was surprised when women in the audience shouted out that he needed an attitude adjustment–they didn’t laugh.
- The rule of three. There is a rhythm to a good joke. The first example sets up the joke, the second example reinforces the expectation and the third example is the punch line that blasts the expectation with a weird twist. It’s always three. not two, not four. It’s three. We think in threes a lot and you have to adhere to this in humor. Two doesn’t set up the expectation enough and four is too long.
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