Monday, April 23, 2007

How to Make Your Next Presentation Funnier

One of the most frequent questions I get asked at my seminars ( is "how can I add more humor to my presentations?" A natural follow up question is "can anyone learn to how make people laugh?" The answers to these questions are "very carefully" and "yes."

Many business people, trainers and educators recognize the need to keep their presentations interesting and engaging. Duh. They just don't know how to do it. Humor is hands down the quickest and most effective way to make even the driest presentation palatable. Just ask the flight attendants at Southwest Airlines. The best part is anyone can learn to generate more laughter at the podium.

That's right. Anyone can learn to generate more laughter when they speak.

Just follow this simple three-step process and you'll get more people to crack up.
  1. Don't be a stand-up comedian. In other words, there is such a plethora of humorous material out there that has already been vetted, there's no need to create your own stuff. Just identify the quote, picture, comic strip or story that fits the occasion and watch the laughter materialize. Then be sure to cite the source. BUT, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TELL A JOKE. (That's a subject for a future post.)
  2. Be relevant. Don't be funny for funny's sake. Try to graft in humorous material that reinforces the point(s) your trying to make. The humor needs to move the presentation forward. Then, even if you attempt at humor doesn't generate any laughter, at least your audience will understand and recognize that you were just trying to make a point.
  3. Start slow. If you haven't ever used humor in a presentation, don't go from zero to sixty in one speech. Your audience will probably recommend some kind of therapy.

You're probably saying, "Steve, that's all well and good, but can you give me an example?" Glad you asked.

Let's say you're a financial planner and you want an engaging way to begin your public seminar on "planning for retirement." You could use the one-panel New Yorker cartoon ( that features a husband and wife pouring over their finances amid spreadsheets, stock reports and retirement literature. Eventually the husband looks up and says, "If we take a late retirement and an early death, we'll just squeak by." Wait for the laugh and then say, "Let's talk about how you can plan for an EARLY retirement and a LONG life with full health coverage. Sound good?" Then your audience is ready for the heavier information they came to hear.

Time to Hit Your Stride...

Your Turn #1 - In your next speech, what key point(s) could be reinforced and driven home by the addition of relevant humor?

Your Turn #2 - If you're hesitant to add a little humor (and that's okay), what's holding you back from mixing more mirth into your presentations?

Happy speaking,

Steve Hughes

Speaker - Trainer - Hair Loss Survivor

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