Do’s and Don’ts on Humor in Your Next Speaking Engagement

Laughter is the best medicine. It relieves tension, boosts your immune system, reduces stress, and opens your mind up to new possibilities. Getting a good hearty laugh during your next presentation could be just what the doctor ordered! But before you start inserting jokes into your next speaking engagement, follow these do’s and don’ts to using humor.

Do know your audience

Build a rapport with your audience before you hit them with your humor. Let them get a sense of who you are and what you stand for. Give yourself a chance to know your audience. Prior to the presentation, find out who will actually be listening. Are you speaking to executives or managers? Are you presenting to millennials or baby boomers? Is the audience familiar with the content because they are industry insiders or are they being introduced to your topic for the first time? 

Get to know your audience. Then, engage and pull your audience in further with your great sense of humor and comedic timing. Speaking of comedic timing…

Don’t use jokes

Unless you are a professional standup comic, keep the jokes to a minimum. Jokes can sometimes come across as mean spirited, at someone else’s expense or worse, be controversial and inappropriate. Focus your humor on anecdotes. Better yet, the one person you can always make fun of is yourself! Self-deprecating humor or funny incidents you’ve experienced will make you more human and relatable to the listeners.

Do keep it fresh

Avoid rehashing common humor tropes that your audience has heard time and time again. Bring something fresh and new to your presentation. Using obsolete or outdated catch phrases will give your audience the impression you are out of touch. Remember to know your audience and use humor that resonates with them and sounds new and engaging.

Don’t rely on sarcasm

Sarcasm can come across negative so use it sparingly and only if you really know your audience. In most cases, a presentation doesn’t benefit from sarcasm.

Do a dry run

Test out your humor with trusted colleagues and others who will be honest with you. Practice it out loud to ensure the tone is positive and reinforces your greater message. Nail your punchline by giving the humor a chance to breathe and set with the audience. It’s okay to pause after the humor, give it a beat, and let the audience react. Practicing it beforehand will help you to have a better grasp of when to wait or when to forge ahead.

Getting laughs is a bonus to getting your point across in your presentation. Have fun with it and have a good time. Above all, make sure your humor has a point to it. Scholar and humorist, Leo Rosten once said, “Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.” Infuse your next presentation with the insight of humor.

Kristen White is a Content Catalyst and Powerful Interviewer. She can quickly add the crisp clarity, magic dust and unique brand elements to any message, book, product or campaign.

Through her award-winning interview skills, Kristen will excavate and synthesize a personal story and legacy into a magnetic brand and content strategy. Her strong intuitive insight, journalistic training and versatile wordsmithing, offer clients a wellspring of fingerprint language options to apply to all levels of their written, spoken and video communication. Kristen is a bestselling author, award-winning documentary film director and cast member, television series creator/writer, and television on-camera journalist. As the CEO of Rock the Stage, Page, and Screen, a digital media and marketing company, Kristen supports clients with unique personal brand development, speech writing and performance, book concepts, titles, outlines and marketing, and online business consulting.

Rock the Stage, INC, offers professional video production for authors, speakers and coaches with a variety of speaking topics.  The company also offers speechwriting, broadcast-quality lifestyle video interviews and fast-track book publishing via an on-camera interview.