Do I Need to Tell a Joke in a Presentation?

08 Feb Do I Need to Tell a Joke in a Presentation?

Yes, go ahead and tell a joke if all of the following apply:

  • Your joke makes sense for the topic and the environment.
  • You can immediately tie in the joke with the larger theme for the presentation.
  • Your joke is simple and short – audiences can’t remember more than three types of guys meeting Saint Peter at Heaven’s gate.
  • Your jokes won’t offend women, Caucasians, Afro-Americans; Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists; Republicans, Democrats, Independents; cat, dog, fish, or bird lovers; people who don’t like jokes; and so forth.
  • You like telling jokes and not just for speeches.
  • Not only that, you’re good at telling jokes, especially for speeches.

Otherwise, don’t tell a joke.

If you flunked the above checklist, remember that there are other forms of humor besides jokes.  Here are some suggestions for being jocular without telling a joke.

  1. Use exaggeration.  One presenter who had the misfortune of following an extraordinary speaker at a conference began by saying, “That was a superb talk, Carl.  I’m reminded of the time I tried out for the opera, and the fellow before me was either Pavarotti or his twin.”
  2. Use real-life examples with a silly slant or a bizarre bent.  A woman in my speaking-under-stress class shared this with the group: “I always thought my talks went pretty well, but my boss disagrees.  He says I begin well and end well.  But in the middle he says, I always faint, and he’s getting a little tired of reviving me.”
  3. Use a touch of self-deprecation.  Audiences respond well to a speaker who is able to laugh at herself.  Be careful, however, that you put yourself down only when you have the group’s confidence.  Otherwise, they may perceive you as a loser, not as humorously humble.  A professor who received utter silence when he asked his graduate class a question did get a laugh when he asked, “Now I know my questions are extremely thought-provoking, but don’t all jump to answer at once.”
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com