Many experts recommend opening a presentation with a funny story, joke, quote or prop.
Why not? Humor can engage an audience, add lightness to a heavy subject and increase listeners’ recall.
Yep, humor can be a great opener—when it works.
Few things will suck the confidence out of you faster than beginning with a joke or story that bombs, annoys or confuses your audience.
Using humor in a presentation isn’t without risk, so be smart about exposing your funny side by following these tips:
1. Make your jokes relevant.
I once heard a speaker tell a story about his dog’s obsession with his daughter’s goldfish. The tale was funny, cute and heartwarming. Unfortunately, however, the audience’s smiles turned to stony glares after he clapped his hands together and said, “OK, so let me tell you a little bit about our company.”
Humor for humor’s sake is rarely welcome in business. If you don’t connect your joke to your presentation’s topic or audience, you’ll annoy your listeners and waste their time.
2. Limit sarcasm.
Some people love sarcasm, but others find it negative and grating. Use sarcasm sparingly, appropriately and only if you have a good read on your audience. (See tip No. 7.)