Humor for Speakers

Using Humor in a Presentation (i.e., Before an Audience)

by John Cantu ©

Here are a few professional humor tips for your best and safest way to use humor in your presentations. This applies not just to the jokes published every week in It applies to any humor you may have garnered from one source or another. And it applies to any humor that you may have originated.

Unless you are a comedian or professional humorist, the worst thing you can do is open with a joke. For most public speakers, it sets up a false expectation in your audience. They will set back, relax, and think, "All right, this isn't going to be as boring, dull, or painful as I expected. This is going to be funny." And then they wait... and wait... and wait for the humor that isn't there.

I am a mentee of professional speaker Patricia Fripp. She says, and I agree, "Come out punching! Wake your audience up and get their attention in the first thirty seconds!" But not, I repeat NOT with humor - UNLESS you are a humorous speaker or comic. I would suggest at least two or three minutes of non-humor content. THEN feel free to introduce your first bit of humor.

And as you learn to use humor (I am referring to when you are starting to learn how to add humor to your presentations, not to the beginning minutes of a presentation), always tie your humor into your talk by using it to illustrate one of the points in your talk. More about this in the future.

Don't telegraph the fact that you are about to tell something humorous. Try to avoid sentences such as, "It reminds me of the story...," or "There once was...," or "It seems that..." However, if you are going to use an obviously old, old story like the "Admiral and the lighthouse..." ("Change your course! I am an admiral and captain of this ship!" "Sir, I am an ensign and keeper of this lighthouse."), then in that case you might want to preface your story with a reference such as, "There is a story..." or "I am reminded of..."

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