Wednesday, July 01, 2009
The ABC's of Public Speaking - J is for Jokes
J is for Jokes
For decades people have been given the erroneous advice of starting their presentations by telling a joke. The idea behind this is that your humor will warm up the crowd with laughter and make them more receptive and comfortable with your talk. While laughter is great, a joke that flops can damage your credibility with the audience.
Unless you are a professional comedian, it is best not to "tell jokes" when you are the speaker. It can be awkward and painful to watch a presenter, with no natural comedic timing, tell a joke that has no relevance to the presentation. Comedians make joke telling appear easy, but it is a learned skill that takes years of practice to perfect. If you are not naturally funny, it is best to stay away from trying to do a stand-up routine.
However, humor is one of the most important and effective elements of delivering a memorable presentation. People want to be entertained, and thus when they can laugh along with a speaker, they will feel more connected to the person and the information. The power of laughter comes when it is natural and relevant to the topic at hand, not when it if forced into an otherwise serious presentation by someone who is not a comic.
Understand there is a difference between telling jokes and sharing observational humor.
Witty personal anecdotes and self-effacing humor that is germane to the topic will help your audience view you as genuine. Sprinkling your nuggets of humor throughout the speech is better than loading them up at the start and then just going along with a monotone nature. Let your own personality shine during your talk, and the amusing parts will take care of themselves. Free yourself to be open and mirthful.
Telling personal stories of your own bumps in the road with the topic make the speaker one of the crowd, and not some stuffy expert. Sharing your own humorous mishaps can get the laughs you desire while making a real connection with the audience.
Be careful never to ever make fun of anyone besides yourself in your narrative. Poking fun at an audience members, or people not present, will be viewed as mean spirited and create a gulf. Also avoid any political, racial, religious, or other controversial topics. Just because you find jokes about some divided topic amusing does not mean everyone will share your views.
Embrace humor and wit in your presentations, but avoid telling jokes for the sake of quick laughs.
Have A Great Day.