How to introduce humor in public speaking, part 2

In the last post, I shared some tips to help you get your presentation off to a good start via humor. When your audience laughs, they may have a tendency to see things your way. At the very least, if you can keep them amused, they won’t fall asleep! In this post, tips #5 – 10!More tips to keep your audience laughing

5. Use self-deprecating humor

Self-deprecating humor is a mainstay of humorists because it makes you relatable to your audience. When you share a funny story about the time you locked your keys in the car twenty minutes before you were expected to meet your wife at a restaurant to celebrate her birthday, you’ll have the attention and the empathy of your audience. They’ll be only too glad to laugh at the foibles and tribulations that they can easily imagine happening to them.

Make your self-deprecating humor work by doing the following:

  • Make sure the story has a universal quality to it. If Donald Trump tried to poke fun at himself in public by confessing that he accidentally dropped his Rolex watch into the toilet, it wouldn’t work. The vast majority of people cannot afford a Rolex watch and wouldn’t empathize with his problem.
  • Remember that self-deprecating humor is not loser humor. Sharing stories about the kind of life frustrations that are common to most people is reassuring. Examples of this are endless, from locking yourself out of the house, finding your car was towed away, fighting with the phone company over a disputed bill, etc. But as you share the stories, keep yourself relatable by showing both your humility and a silver lining of inner strength. If you make yourself come across as a hapless loser, it’s a turn-off.

6. Keep it clean

Vulgar humor in public speaking, especially to a professional audience, is usually a disaster because it is inappropriate and offensive in those environments. Save the R-rated riffs for open mike night at your local comedy club. Keep a lid on it when speaking to civic or business groups. Besides, no one will ever complain that a presentation wasn’t vulgar enough. But they could well walk away saying that the material was too vulgar.

7. Keep it relevant

Don’t try to inject humor where it doesn’t belong. Obviously, some topics are so serious that attempts at humor would be extremely distasteful. Stay on track and only insert jokes or funny asides if they have a point that is relevant to your topic. Remember that less is more, and a little humor can go a long way in an otherwise serious presentation.

9. Practice, Practice, Practice

Read your remarks aloud several times before giving your presentation. There’s little that will bore an audience faster than a speaker who is reading from notes and failing to make eye contact. The better you know your material, the less you’ll be looking down at the podium and the better you’ll connect with your audience by looking at them and moving a little during your talk.

10. Keep Emergency Back-Up Material Handy

If your presentation relies heavily on humor, be prepared to switch gears if your jokes and stories aren’t working. Sometimes, the presentation that worked beautifully for one group won’t work as well with another group. Have some alternate material ready if you see you are losing your audience.

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photo by Katrina Snaps

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