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> How to Use Humor in Your Presentations

"They laughed when I started to speak... and that was a great relief."
Those were the words Ann relayed to me after her last presentation.
Ann was asked to talk about a rather serious topic, and of course, she
wanted to be taken seriously. During our coaching sessions, it was
apparent that her delivery style was so matter-of-fact, dry, and "serious"
that it was actually self-defeating.

Listeners can only take so much "intensity" without requiring a release --
a chance to catch their breath. As a presenter, if you don't provide this
release, listeners will often stop listening. They may look like they're
listening, but we've become great actors and actresses.

Audiences typically enjoy a presentation more when it includes at least
some humor, and one of the best times to deliver a serious point is often
right after people laugh. Consider virtually any movie you've seen where
something serious or sad happens -- someone is diagnosed with a
disease, someone dies, someone loses his or her job, etc. It almost
always occurs right after a scene that caused you to laugh. Script writers
know that this method intensifies the seriousness of the new scene.

Here are five simple ways to incorporate humor into your presentations:

Tip #1. Skip the joke books—look at your life.
Your listeners want to know about you. This builds rapport. Consider
humorous incidents from your own life. Perhaps they were not funny
when they occurred, but you can laugh at them now. If you can laugh at
it, chances are your audience will, too. To generate some ideas, finish
this sentence: "One of the most embarrassing things that has happened to me is..." or "One of the silliest things I did recently was..."

Tip #2. Maintain a Humor/Story File.
It can be difficult to think of funny stories under the pressure of a
presentation deadline, so start a "Humor/Story File" now and start noting
your daily life experiences. Don't worry about what point an experience
might make or if you'll ever share it. You never know when an item will
fit perfectly into a future presentation. If something causes you to laugh,
even in retrospect, write it down and add it to your file. Set a goal to
add one item every day. Carry a pen with you so you're always ready.
This goal will not only build your file quickly, but it may also change your
perspective about life as you look for the humor.

Tip #3. Have a point.
I have witnessed too many presenters start their presentations with a
joke or funny story, receive a good laugh, and then leave the audience
wondering the purpose of telling the story. Remember that your goal is
not to be the next Jay Leno, but to increase the impact of your
message. Link your funny story to a point. Here's an example using a
classic story:

Mary desperately wanted to win the lottery. Every week Mary
would pray, "Lord, please let me win the lottery." Every Friday
evening at 6 o'clock Mary would listen to the radio for the winning
numbers, but no luck. Her prayers continued for weeks, but still no
luck. In desperation, Mary asked, "Lord, why won't you let me win
just once?" The heavens roared and a mighty voice replied, "Mary,
meet me halfway -- buy a ticket!"

This story will typically get a good laugh, and when it does, it's time to
link it to your more serious point. You might say something like, "Just
like Mary, if we want to increase our bottom line, we must take action
and increase the number of prospects that we call on every day."

Tip #4. Practice your delivery.
Tell your story several times until you tell it the best way possible. Sneak
stories into conversations and note how people react. Transition into
your story with a phrase such as, "That reminds me of the time . . ." or
"Let me share a story . . ." Don't start with, "Tell me if you think this is
funny..." or "Here's a joke..."

Tip #5. If in doubt, leave it out.
Your humor should never be at the expense of others. Period.

> Reprint Permission
Reprint permission granted in part or whole when the following credit appears: Reprinted with permission from Simply Speaking, Inc.®  1-888-773-2512 or 404-518-7777
© David Greenberg's Simply Speaking, Inc.® All rights reserved.

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