Humor is the shortest distance between two people. – H. Youngman
Humor is not about telling jokes. It is about telling lighthearted stories that make the audience grin, chuckle or outright laugh.
If you have a joke that fits perfect with your message, use it. If not, don’t.
It is always fun, and safe, to poke fun at yourself. Successful Presentations for Dummies suggests these topics:
- Your status as a speaker
- Your mistakes.
- Your profession or occupation.
- Your public image.
- Your less than great experiences.
- Your membership and associations.
Plant the message with humor
Many years ago a dearly loved and respected minister, Dr. Earl Barnum, “Barnie” as he was affectionately nicknamed, shared one of his secrets to being an effective teacher and preacher. “Whenever there is an important message you want your audience to remember,” he explained, “it is imperative that you first bring their defenses down. When the defenses are down, the mind is open.” He went on to instruct that one of the easiest ways to bring down defenses is to get your audience to laugh. So Barnie, once he had his congregants laughing, would deliver his potent message. Barnie’s Sunday sermons had the reputation of being entertaining and memorable.
This technique taught by Barnie explains why, many years ago, I struggled in a huge way to get over a love relationship. Clearly the person was not the best suited for my personality or lifestyle. But he was SO hard to kick!!! The I finally realized what happened. He used to make me laugh, and then when my laughing started to subside, he’d look deep in my eyes and say, “Man I love you..” !!! He unknowingly was employing the very technique Barnie used! And I promise you; he was a VERY hard habit to break!
So, getting your audience to laugh is not only a great engagement tool, it is an effective way to get your point across and remembered. It works whether talking to a group or just one person.
If you have a message that you want your audience, children or lover to remember, precede it with laughter.
The use of stories and pauses are two effective means of delivering some fun. Here the link to a
Humorous YouTube video of me delivering one of my favorite talks about the advantages of being hearing impaired.
Add humor with questions
Tom Antion suggests the following to add humor to your presentation:
- Open up the floor to question/answer periods and ad lib or give pre-written comical answers to expected or planted questions.
- Ask for questions on 3X5 cards – slip in a few fake ones of your own.
- Plant questions: ask audience members before the presentation to ask you a question you’ve formulated. Questions themselves could be funny (especially if consideration is given to who is asking it) or your answers can be funny.
Throw your opponents off guard with a chuckle!
President William Howard Taft had someone throw a cabbage at him. Taft evaded the projectile and said, ”One of my opponents has apparently lost his head.”
Image sources: Seagulls: Linnaea on Public Domain Pictures