Humor in presentations. How to not be ashamed of your jokes

Reading time: 5 minutes

Sometimes during a presentation in the strict atmosphere of costumes and ties, we forget that a good joke can be a piece of the puzzle that was missing.

But the balance is important: the presentation should not turn into a standup. Therefore, in this article, we talk about how to use humor in the presentation.

Why use humor

An unobtrusive joke, irony or allusion can defuse the atmosphere and attract the necessary attention. Especially if it's not just banal humor, but something that you and your audience understand. This phrase creates a special connection that will help to successfully convey the idea.

If you speak among many speakers, a good joke will attract attention and you will be remembered by the audience.

Jokes in business presentation

Is humor appropriate in business? The answer is yes, humor can be a great tool for influence.

To understand whether to use it in a particular situation, conduct a basic analysis of the audience: who are these people and why did they gather? After all, sometimes you should not joke at all.

Spend some time getting to know the audience right during the performance. Give them a few minutes to get used to you before impressing them with something humorous.

Ian Altman, a b2b sales expert and Forbes columnist, in one of his speeches talked about the term "fee compression". "As far as I know, it is important for you now to overcome the problem of fee compression. To me, it sounds like, "Okay, buddy, you've always done this job for me, but from today, you're going to get paid less for it."

The audience laughed because this is the meaning of this term for those present. They had the impression that he understood them.

What you definitely should not do in presentations

  1. Disregarding the situation you are in. It's no time to joke during a presentation at a company that has just gone bankrupt.
  2. Be careful not to use offensive humor and sarcasm. Sexist, racist and misogynistic jokes are inappropriate anywhere at all. If you are unsure whether to use humor just don't do it.
  3. Don't laugh at your own joke. Even if the audience didn't laugh, don't worry. This is not a standup, after all. Just continue the presentation.
  4. Humor is not an end in itself. It should reinforce the meaning of the presentation, not draw full attention to itself. Otherwise, the audience will remember only a joke.
  5. Don't expect the audience to constantly burst out laughing, and don't try to force them to do so. You're not a comedian, and they didn't come to the show.
  6. Never attack anyone present. Some speakers think that sarcasm gives them significance, but no. This is a great way to set the whole hall against you, because every listener will be afraid to become the next target.

What actually works

Neutral joke

Professional speakers know that telling a joke is a great way to build a positive attitude in the audience. They will be able to relax and trust you, so the likelihood that they will be open to your further words will increase.


Make fun of yourself, especially before you start joking about others. If your clicker didn't work or you forgot your words, a joke is a great way to defuse the atmosphere. You will show a little weakness and imperfection, and people will relax and feel that you are a person just like them.

Great if you managed to joke spontaneously. McKinsey Visual Communications Director Gene Zhelezny was once asked, "Should the speaker repeat the question?" While she was thinking about what to answer, she, without realizing it herself, said quietly, "Should ... the speaker ... repeat ... the ... question ... asked?"

And when she replied: "No. Usually not, "the audience laughed even louder.

Story from your life

It is difficult to joke great. If you doubt that the joke will be successful, it is better to tell a story. The stories are interesting and compelling and, most importantly, they can be funny. For example, a childhood case or a funny story about your child. Yes, it is not necessary to share your own experience, you can tell about a friend, parents or acquaintance (if they do not mind).

Nancy Duarte, an expert in the development and creation of presentations, advises telling stories about what is familiar to everyone, stories that are impossible not to laugh at. The goal is for the audience to say, "We understand each other. We think the same. "

Visual humor

A great way to joke is to create a punch slide. It is especially useful when you are ashamed to make a joke in public. Yes, it can be both a meme and an unexpected turn in history. Play on the effect of surprise.

Frequently asked questions about humor

How many jokes is considered normal?

In total, no more than three jokes. However, what matters is not how many times you make the audience laugh, but how much the person takes your side. Even if they laugh only once, that may be enough.

Is it better to start or finish with a joke or tell jokes during the presentation?

You should only joke at the start if you already know the audience and you are sure that they will respond well. Otherwise, jokes along the slides or as a bright ending, when contact with the audience already exists, will be more successful.

What if the audience doesn't laugh?

Nothing. Move on. If you do not get the expected reaction after the first joke, try not to joke anymore.

How to understand in advance that the joke will work?

Examine the audience. Know that the people who will listen to you have also had this experience or faced a similar situation. You can tell a joke to someone you know who is on the topic and look at the reaction. Be sure to run it through the adequacy filter (see section above).

Don't let fear stop you! Now you know a few proven tricks and will be able to properly prepare to impress the audience and not blush for your jokes.

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