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Using humour in professional presentations

Dee Clayton

Are you having a laugh?!

Did you know that International Joke Day is coming up on 1st July? I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to support any initiative to spread fun and laughter around the world.

Laughter really helps me to do my job as 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 is not something I recommend my clients do unless they are very experienced (more on that in my book High-Performance Presentations). But I do bring fun and humour to the learning environment, and I encourage my clients to use humour in their presentations. It can be a very powerful tool to help the audience have a good time.

It is important to uncover your style – jokes don’t allow you to do that. So that I could learn more about my personal “funny style”, I took a couple of stand-up comedy courses and performed a few gigs. 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 what didn’t)!

As you may know, I use the idea of ‘public speaking monkeys’ throughout my training and coaching. The monkeys are the negative, internal voices that put doubts in our mind about our presenting abilities (“Everyone is getting bored listening to you”… “You’re all sweaty”…“You sound nervous”). So ‘monkey taming’ is my light-hearted way of describing how my clients learn to see their fears in a new light, gain confidence, and become cool, calm public speakers. (I even tested my monkey taming techniques on myself to help me overcome my fear before my comedy gig. So I really do practise what I preach. I know my system works).

Here are the 5 key benefits to using humour in your presentations:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 not detract from your key message.
  3. Humour engages creativity. A lot of learning is left brain focused (logical and analytical), but humour engages the random creative right brain. It’s great to get right and left sides working harmoniously together.
  4. Humour makes serious topics easier. Serious subjects can be difficult to talk about. When you use humour, the audience will find it easier to listen, open up and discuss their problems.
  5. Humour can shift thinking. It can change the perception of any objections, like fear in the audience’s head, so the listener starts to shift their thinking. It enables them to laugh at a problem they’d previously only felt negative emotions about.

So, make sure you have your best (worst) jokes lined up for International Joke Day, tell them to friends and family and come up with some unique and appropriate humour in your presentations to help your message stick.

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

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