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Humor in Presentations: How to Engage Your Audience

Reading Time: 4 minutes
| Author: Tom Becker

Most presentations are about sharing information and facts with an audience. Needless to say, that can get dull, dry and boring pretty quickly. Humor is a great way to spice up your presentation and keep your audience entertained and engaged.

With the right amount of humor at the right times, you’ll not only keep your audience happy, but increase their interest in your topic, too. In this article, we’ll tell you how to use humor in your presentation.

What exactly is humor and what can it bring to presentations?

In short, humor (lat. umor= liquid; fluid; in ancient times one of the four fluids of the body that were thought to determine a person’s temperament and features) is the ability to evoke laughter. People who make others laugh are often described as humorous.

No matter how dry a topic may be, your audience wants a certain amount of entertainment. When used the right way, so-called infotainment (a mix of entertainment and expertise) can earn you extra points with your audience.

Humorous presentations aren’t about acting the clown  

Humor and gravitas don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Using humor doesn’t mean that you’ll come across as less credible. However, it’s important to be authentic. A humorous presentation isn’t about being as funny as possible or pretending to be funny, but about presenting your personal sense of humor appropriately.

Especially during the longest part of a presentation – the main part – humor can really help. There’s no need for an audience to be roaring with laughter; a simple smile will show they’re enjoying themselves.

Know your audience to best use humor in your presentations

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Knowing your audience is key to using humor effectively in presentations. After all different factors, such as social status and occupation, influence a person’s sense of humor.

Sometimes understanding certain jokes requires a specific vocabulary or knowledge, which not all audiences can be expected to have. To make sure your audience understands your humor, it can help to ask yourself who your audience is before you present.

Avoid putting your foot in your mouth with inappropriate jokes by think about what style of humor works best for the industry you’re presenting in. Also, consider the right moments to add a humorous remark or anecdote in your presentation.

How to add humor to presentations

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The most important quality which will help you with humor in presentations is authenticity. So, what does that mean? Simply put, authenticity means staying true to your own personality, values and spirit, regardless of the situation you’re in. Being authentic will go a long way to finding the right humor for your presentations.

Analogies, such as comparisons and metaphors, are ideal for simplifying and explaining complex relationships. You can use them to illustrate content in a fun way and at the same time, show your audience that you know your stuff.

Using language as your means to an end can also be effective. Double-entendres are a great way to pepper your presentation with some humor. A double-entendre is like a pun and comes from French, meaning double understanding. “Being in debt attracts a lot of interest from bankers” and “Effective publicity in the bicycle industry depends on having a good spokesperson” are two examples of double-entendres. Although pretty corny, they can illicit more than as few chuckles from an audience.

Tell stories and use rhymes to reach your audience

Telling stories of your own experiences can help you engage your audience on an emotional level. When you add a little humor to bring a story to life, your audience will relate to it more than they would to dry information.

A rhyme also has a better chance of being remembered by your audience. Not only are rhymes easy to remember but with the right touch of humor, they also become amusing. A rhyme makes it easier to remember and internalize important information.

You audience shouldn’t be able to see a pun or a joke coming from a mile away. Make sure there is an element of surprise to your humor. Catching your audience a little bit off guard is a great way to get them laughing and smiling.

Avoid these mistakes when using humor in presentations

Although many jokes and quips are funny, it’s imperative that your humor doesn’t attack or offend anyone during presentations. No matter what your intention, avoid any comments or jokes that may come off as sexist, racist, political or discriminatory in any other way.

Keep in mind that not everyone in the audience will share your views, so avoid any comment that may appear to discriminate against certain groups.

Incorporate a good dose of humor into your presentations

Humor can make any presentation more interesting and animated. The key is not to turn your presentation into a comedy show, but to inject an appropriate amount of humor into the right places.

You can find more tips for humor in presentations here.

If you have any questions about our blog or general questions about PowerPoint and presentations, feel free to contact us at [email protected]. We’d be happy to help.

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