If there were a secret weapon that would make your message better received, make you more likable and help you stand out in every presentation you were to make, would you use it? Of course, you would.
That’s why I’m surprised so few people employ humor in their presentations. When used appropriately, it can be a secret weapon that can help you nail every presentation you make.
- People love to laugh. When we do, we relax and when we learn best in a relaxed environment.
- When your audience is relaxed, you will relax, making you more confident in your delivery.
- People love people who make them feel good. Humor helps us bring positive feelings. to our audience.
- We remember presenters that entertain.
As powerful as humor can be, it can also be rather delicate. Finding it can be challenging and that’s the point of this post, finding humor, and there’s nothing funny about that.
Jokes Never Work
It’s virtually impossible to make jokes work in a presentation. Most people have heard them before, taking the punch out of it and more are inappropriate which will call your professionalism into question. There’s a better way.
Set Yourself Up
I love using threes in presentations. Our minds are really well adapted to anticipating things in numbers of three. Making it work for humor means using it to lead down a familiar path with the first two statements and then taking an expected turn with the third. An example comes from my “How’d I Get Here” speech.
Describing my mother watching me standing on a rock in our yard, I use the rule of three to get a laugh:
Ever since I was big enough to climb that rock, my mother watched and encouraged me. As I stood tall to accept my medal she’d applaud, when I gave my stirring speeches she would cheer and when I’d sing — well she’d go back inside.
No one expected my mom to go back inside, that’s where the humor was. I set myself up for an expected moment.
Some of the best comedians working the stage today make their living taking very simple personal stories and exaggerating them until they’re funny. This works in presentations too. We all have very small stories that happen to us every day, but by stretching a little here and there, they can turn into really funny stories.
Consider a small story I sometimes use to make a larger point about perspective.
On the farm where I grew up my brother and I own a small herd of cows together and last week I got one of those calls that can ruin a day.
All ten cows were standing in my mom and dad’s front yard.
When my brother and I started trying to get the cows back into the pasture, they scattered like dust in the wind. They ran everywhere.
As we chased those cows all over the yard, the woods and the field next to the house, my blood started to boil. The longer we walked the madder I got.
And then I noticed that my brother wasn’t mad at all. The further we walked, the happier he got.
How could it be, that both of us, chasing the same cows in the same heat, both of us late for work and both of us dirty, sweaty and getting frustrated, but I’m getting mad and he’s getting happy?
The difference was that I looked at it as a wasted morning but he was looking at his Fitbit and counting steps! Every time a cow went further from the pasture, he was that much closer to his daily goal.
A small story about the cows getting out, but by stretching it just a little, there’s humor to be had.
Humor is, in fact, a secret weapon. Most people are afraid to use it because they associate being funny with telling a joke. By setting ourselves up and exaggerating simple stories, we can be humorous and still be on message, and that’s the mark of a professional.