Two risk-free ways to bring humour into your next presentation (without getting cancelled!)

Subscribe to my coaching email:
3 Public speaking tips a month to help you become a better leader

Subscribe here

Most of us would rather stick a fork in our eye, than attempt to bring humour into our presentations. It feels like a completely unnecessary risk that is not worth taking.

What if the audience doesn't laugh? 😬

What if I offend someone? 😟

What if I muck up the punchline? πŸ˜–

All completely understandable worries, but they needn't be worries at all. Why?

Because you are NOT a comedian!

Sounds obvious, yet it's something we all seem to forget when we attempt to bring humour into the equation. This is important to remember for two reasons:

  • Your audience isn't expecting you to be funny - this plays to your advantage because it lowers your audience's guard and in turn increases your chances of getting a positive reaction.
  • Unlike a comedian, you don't need to have your audience in stitches. Lower your bar! It is highly unlikely that your audience is going to burst into hysterics when you crack your joke. If it doesn't happen your self-belief is going to drain faster than... ('faster than what Chat GPT?! p.s. make it funny')... a snowball in hell. Hmmm. The point is to reframe your expectations - if your joke gets a smile from your audience, it's a joke well told.

Struggling for material for your icebreaker?

The best place to get your joke in? Probably at the beginning of your presentation. Back when Clubhouse was a thing, I was running a public speaking show with the wonderful Jessica Butcher and we got the chance to interview comedian Francis Foster (who by the way hosts an excellent podcast called Triggernometry).

He said that the two safest and most brilliant sources of comedic material are:

1. Yourself (self-deprecation always works a treat).

2. The room/environment you're presenting in.

About 10 years ago, I was invited to an awards do that took place in this very grand room with chandeliers, oak panels and antique paintings of white men holding swords and shotguns. I remember the compΓ©re inviting the keynote speaker up to the stage with an introduction so sycophantically over the top that it made the speaker feel a bit awkward.

By the time he took his place behind the lectern, anticipation filled the room. Yet to his credit, he paused for a minute, looked around the room and exclaimed:

'Welcome to Hogwarts!' 

The whole room burst into unanimous laughter and the tension evaporated in an instant. An absolute masterstroke.

All he's done here is ask himself what the room he's in reminds him of and then shared it. We are all capable of that. The brilliance here is that it wasn't planned. And if there was one thing I want you to take away from this story is that your jokes don't need to be either. In fact, they will likely be far better if you don't because you won't have had time to overthink them.

So if a lighthearted comment comes into your mind and the environment feels right, have the courage to give it a try and expect nothing back from your audience!

Humour is a presenter's Trojan Horse

Humour isn't just one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience, it's one of the most effective ways of landing your message.

It makes it memorable.

For me, what separates good thought leaders and keynote speakers from the great is the ability to make their subject matter fun.

And fun is often the gateway to funny.

So the next time you are preparing your next presentation, ask yourself:

How can I make this more fun?

Your presentation will be better for it πŸ™‚.

Now go get 'em!

Subscribe to my coaching email:
3 Public speaking tips a month to help you become a better leader