Humor is a formidable ingredient to slip into your presentations. Among other tools, humor, well used, allows to create a bond of complicity with your audience. It makes you more accessible, more likeable and predisposes your audience to listening, learning and committing.
But as wonderful as it may be, humor can also be a trap. A joke that falls flat and your confidence takes a hit, you tense up, and your audience feels it and tunes out…
While it is true that some people have more of a natural predisposition to humor than others, being funny is mostly a matter of work! Do you really think that your favorite comedian goes on stage without preparation and improvises his jokes? Obviously not.
Here are 4 tips to put into practice, in order to introduce the right dose of humor in your presentations:
Reduce your expectations
Turning your strategic presentation into a one-man show makes no sense. Your goal is to gain the support and commitment of your audience. Making them laugh is a tool to achieve this, but it’s not an end in itself.
Wanting to make people laugh at all costs may get you away from your subject so you lose in relevance and sincerity. Nobody is waiting for the joke of the century, so take a deep breath and don’t put any unnecessary pressure on yourself. The more you try to make people laugh, the more you take risks. Keep in mind that, most of the time, your audience expects to be bored, the slightest touch of humor will be a release valve that will make your presentation a relevant and enjoyable moment.
Vary the pleasure
We coach many speakers who ask us to help them find a joke to start off their intervention. It’s always delicate… you can’t miss the first steps of your presentation! If you’re not sure about your first move, leave it aside and fall back on other ways to include humor in your presentation. And there are plenty of them: an original anecdote, self-deprecation, impertinence, a play on words… Your presentation medium can also help you by creating a discrepancy between what you announce and what you show. Finally, do not forget your body language: humor can also be physical!
Don’t forget to rehearse
Being funny cannot be improvised: it takes work, preparation and rehearsing. Don’t think you’ll show up on stage the day of your presentation hoping that inspiration will be there waiting for you. Take the time to sharpen your humorous touches; test them in rehearsal to check on their impact. Your humoristic remarks must be consistent with your speech, in order to increase the impact. You have to rehearse them like the rest.
Plan an exit door…
Finally, always prepare for the possibility of a flop. No matter how well you prepare, humor is a risky ingredient whose full reach is never fully understood… It is essential in your preparation to anticipate an exit plan, so as not to get disrupted. Humor is like reaching a hand out to the audience: if they take it it’s perfect. If they don’t you must be able to continue, as if nothing had happened, as long as you’re not already laughing alone at your own bad joke!
Finally, keep in mind that more than a funny speech, what you need is a catchy story. Storytelling is an ideal setting to be funny, original and relevant.