Can You Laugh While Giving a Presentation?

Most people working in offices complain about boring presentations. By this, they mean attending boring presentations given by other people. Hardly anyone will admit to giving boring presentations themselves.

What can you do to liven up your presentations?

Can you make jokes and laugh during your presentation?

Yes, if you know how to use jokes! Here’s the catch – if you are deadpan serious and glum, people might find your presentation boring. But, on the other hand, if you laugh and make the wrong jokes in the wrong contexts, people will laugh at you rather than with you.

A sense of humour is the only divine quality of man”, Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher 1788-1860 said once. Humour has the quality of giving you an elevated perspective. You are not too bogged down by serious stuff. Humour relaxes people. Relaxed people start letting down their guard and are more approachable. This creates an atmosphere where positive human interaction is more likely than in strictly formal situations. A humorous speech or presentation energizes your listeners.

The most important thing in a presentation is connecting with the audience. Speakers who have presence and connect with the audience usually get their message across better. If you study successful speakers, you would notice that personal charisma, presence, skills for using emotional appeal, ability to use evoke powerful emotions and humour, are the marks of a great speaker.

Are Your Jokes Relevant to Your Theme?

Jokes should have at least some relevance to your theme or story. Jokes should bring some insight, perspective, or added value to any point that you are making. Telling a joke to just make people laugh and have fun is good but not enough if they can’t connect it to the context of your presentation.

So, consider carefully if jokes are suitable for the context of your presentation.

Are Your Jokes Suitable in that Culture?

In British and American cultures, audiences usually laugh along with the presenter. But, Japanese people think this is strange. In many cultures the locals may crack jokes about many things. Everybody rolls in laughter, but the moment a person from another culture makes the same joke, it may become a cultural affront.

In Thailand, the people are very easygoing and jolly. But you would offend people if you cracked jokes about the King or the Queen, whom the Thais respect very much. Finns have a sarcastic black humour about themselves. They tend to efface themselves by saying things like “We came down from the trees very short while ago.” Now if you continue on that theme, you make enemies. They want to be respected as warm, matter of fact and unsophisticated people and definitely not as tree dwellers. So, be very careful about what kind of humour or jokes you use in different cultures.

Tips for Using Jokes in Presentations

  1. Don’t laugh at your own joke before others start laughing. If no one else knows why and when to laugh and only the narrator is laughing; it’s pretty embarrassing.
  2. Don’t insult anyone. A person with an artificial eye may not think a blind man joke is funny.
  3. Avoid jokes about people’s skin colours, ethnicity, sexual orientation, height, weight, religion, or political views etc.
  4. Don’t repeat a joke during your presentation. Once should be enough.
  5. Do keep your jokes short. People have difficulties following long tales with subplots.
  6. If you tell a joke about yourself, it makes you more human and you get sympathy from audience members. Use this carefully.
  7. Don’t have too many jokes. If you have too many jokes, people might not take you seriously.

If you can, check your humour with a friend, mentor, or trusted person from the same culture as the audience. This helps you avoid cultural gaffes and give a wonderful and jolly presentation.

Enjoy your presentations!