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A Business Presentation Without Humor is Like a Job Without a Paycheck - And That’s Not Funny! (part 1 of 2)

Categories: Business Presentations

  1. “Every speaker has his moment. The problem is, most of them stretch it into an hour.” --unknown

If you’re serious about your professional development and really want to gain the competitive advantage in your career, business presentations are likely in your future – or maybe even the “here and now.”

These speaking opportunities could range from presenting a report to your senior executives, to giving the keynote at your industry’s annual conference. Let’s discuss something that strikes fear into the hearts of many professionals who are called upon to make business presentations: the use of humor.

If you’re already considered the “class clown” type, then this will come naturally. But, what if you aren’t? You might be afraid to try spicing up your presentation with any kind of wit. What if your attempts at humor fall flat? What if no one laughs, or even worse, they laugh at you (“pathetic loser”) and not with you?

HumorThese are the things that keep serious business professionals up at night, sweating in the dark. After all, we’ve all been to (or seen) a comedy performance where the comic bombed, and it’s just excruciating, isn’t it? What if instead of thinking you’re funny, they just think you’re a clown? That reminds me of some funny jokes …

Why don't cannibals eat clowns? Because they taste funny!

Why did the clown wear loud socks? So his feet wouldn't fall asleep!

OK, enough of that ... but it does bring up an important point: Humor is not the same as telling jokes.

Humor is not separate from you and your presentation, but relates to it. I don’t recommend that you practice jokes in front of the mirror, but rather, you master the use of contextual humor in your communications.

Bob Orben, former director of the White House Speech Writing Department, says, “Humor has gone from being an admirable part of a leader’s character to a mandatory one.” In fact, all modern presidents are extensively coached on the use of appropriate, contextual humor.

Here are six tips for using humor in a presentation:

  1. Never disparage any ethnic, gender, age, or racial group. This type of humor is NEVER funny, nor appropriate – despite what you may think.
  2. Don’t repeat a joke that someone else used, thinking the blame for it if it bombs won’t be placed squarely on you.
  3. Humor often doesn’t “travel” well (internationally or regionally).
  4. Work on your timing – a humorous story improperly delivered is ineffective.
  5. Self-deprecating humor can be good, unless they take your foibles seriously.
  6. Don’t blame others for your poor judgment

So, if you think that the safest bet is to simply make a straight presentation and then sit down in blessed relief, you might be right. But, on the other hand, the safest bet can sometimes be the riskiest, too. In this case, you risk boring your audience, your board, your team, and your bosses.

For more information about creating brilliant business presentations -- including the use of appropriate humor -- check out my book Speaking is an Audience-Centered Sport.

Visit this link for corporate training and webinars in the art of the business presentation. By the way, these presentation skills training programs are now offered in North America, Europe, Asia and South America.

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