Using Humour In Business Presentations

Using humour in professional presentations

Should you use humour in a business presentation?

Humour really helps when it comes to being a public speaking coach and presentation skills coach, but there is a big difference between telling jokes and using humour. Telling jokes in a business presentation is a very high-risk strategy, and it is not something we recommend our clients do unless they are very experienced (more on that in my book “High Performance Presentations”). But we do encourage many clients to bring fun and humour to the learning environment and their presentations. It can be a very powerful tool to help engage the audience.

Key benefits to using humour in your presentations:

  • Humour in presentations relaxes people. It puts people at ease quickly. Their guard drops and they become more open – a perfect starting point for your presentation.
  • Humour in presentations makes them more memorable. Think of a presentation that made you laugh recently. I bet you remember more about it than other presentations. The trick is to use humour appropriately to add to, not detract from, your key message.
  • Humour engages creativity. A lot of learning uses the logical and analytical part of the brain, but humour engages the more random creative part of the brain. It’s great to get all areas of the brain working harmoniously together.
  • Humour makes serious topics easier. Serious subjects can be difficult to talk about. When you use humour appropriately, the audience can find it easier to listen, open up and discuss their problems. For example, instead of talking about public speaking fear directly and how anxious someone might feel, in our one-to-one public speaking coaching we talk about the idea of the pesky “Public Speaking Monkeys” who create havoc in our minds as they mutter away negatively even at the thought of giving a presentation – as outlined in our multi-award winning approach and my book “Taming Your Public Speaking Monkeys”.
  • Humour can shift thinking. It can change the perception of any objections or fears in the listener’s mind, so they start to see things in a new and different light. We use it a lot, for example, to help clients to laugh at a problem they’d previously only felt negatively about, such as overcoming their fear of public speaking. We might even be found with a wooden monkey in hand bringing it to life doing Punch and Judy style voices!

one to one presentation skills training course

Are you a funny type? 

Depending on your Presenter Personality Style, you may feel more or less comfortable using humour as part of a professional presentation. Typically, “Sociable” types like to use humour a lot and “Information” types less so. But, of course, there are always exceptions to any generalisations. Find out what your Presenter Presentation Style is, or for more information take a look at my book “High Performance Presentations”, where each topic is tailored to your preferred Presenter Personality Style. 

It is important to uncover your style – jokes don’t allow you to do that. Why not take a comedy course if you are interested? I took a couple of stand-up comedy courses and performed a few gigs a while ago to help me find my “funny style”. Whatever you do, don’t watch my 2010 stand-up gig here – yikes! The whole process helped me to test out different styles of humour and see what worked for me personally – and learn what didn’t! 

Are you scared of being funny? 

As a confident presenter, I’d never felt stage fright (unlike many of our clients), so part of the comedy course was about me personally feeling that fear and testing out for myself my multi-award-winning “Taming Your Public Speaking Monkeys” techniques from my bestselling book of the same name. I already knew it worked because of the thousands of people we’ve helped to date, but it was nice to feel it working for me too.  

If you feel comfortable using humour in your business presentations, then bring it on! Be aware, however, that in more formal situations like board presentations or international conferences it may not be as appropriate or you may have to work harder to check it is politically correct and will translate well for audiences outside the UK.

And if humour isn’t your thing, that’s OK too – unless it’s something you want to work on, I’d recommend focussing on something that fits you more easily. There are plenty of other (safer) ways to engage your audience – perhaps develop your storytelling techniques or get really good at demonstrating points visually. For more information on using humour in business presentations, political correctness, storytelling techniques and visuals for presentations, take a look at my bestselling book “High Performance Presentations”, available on Amazon Kindle or in hard copy today.

Simply Amazing Training offers professional presentation skills coaching and public speaking coaching for individuals and companies in and around London, Hertfordshire, Kent and Leicestershire and across Dorset and Hampshire. Have a look around the website or call me today on 0330 223 4392 for an informal chat to discuss your requirements.

Why not try our quiz to see how you currently present?

Dee Clayton

Posted by Dee Clayton on 25 Jul 2019

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