If you want to keep your audience awake, help them retain information and improve your credibility as a speaker, then sometimes, you just can’t be serious! Adding humor to any style of presentation, regardless of the audience or topic, can, like the old sugar with the cough syrup trick, help make any message go down just a little smoother. Even if you use a wiz-bang, knock their socks off, razzle-dazzle, high tech approach to your presentations, humor can be a powerful tool that helps you sell your messages and deliver your presentations in a more memorable style. Here are eight simple tips and guiding lights for combining humor and hi-tech:
1. Don’t hide behind the technology. Remember, you are always the main attraction. Audiences need to connect with you as a live, warm- blooded human being if they are going to give any credence to what you have to say. Humor is one of the most powerful ways to make a personal connection with an audience. So just because you are delivering a PowerPoint presentation, it doesn’t mean you can’t leave room in your programs to express the real you. By sharing humorous anecdotes or adding some funny props you can bring not only the message to life, but you as well.
2. Add some onscreen humor. If you’re presentation is overloaded with stats and graphs, throw in some humorous statistical observations or amusing pie charts (how about a pie chart showing the latest pie consumption rates?). Intermix some plain old humorous slides (a picture of your dog, a baby or a cartoon) with serious ones to keep people on their toes. Take your digital camera with you everywhere and be on the alert for humorous signs or amusing images. Ideally, always strive to link a message to the image, however, throwing in the odd “red humor herring” of a totally incongruous image can also help keep audiences awake. (Humor caution: If you use cartoons, make sure you have legal permission to do so. Hiring a local student or artist can be an affordable alternative way to add some humorous illustrations to a slide program).
3. Incorporate funny quotes. Humorous quotes are an easy way to spice up any audio-visual presentation. Find funny quotes that relate to your talk and look for quotes from unusual sources. For example, what does your five year-old have to say about workplace safety? What humorous quips have James Bond, television’s Dr. Fraser Crane or Robin Williams made about your particular speaking topic?
4. Have fun with the audience. With a little bit of forethought, digital technology can help you incorporate humorous photos, sound bytes or video clips featuring members of your audience right into your presentation.
5. Humor-proof speaking blunders. Spontaneous humor is often not only the funniest form of humor, it also lets the audience know you are not on autopilot. So don’t dread those hi-tech blunders and bloopers, use them as a source of humor. You can even develop a set of humorous comeback lines which plan for bulb burnouts, laptop crashes or tripping over extension cords (“Wow! Look, a 9.7 from the Romanian judge!”).
6. Practice safe humor. Keep all the humor you use squeaky clean by avoiding obscene language and any sexist, racist or ethnic references. The safest form of humor is turning the punch line around and laughing at yourself first and foremost.
7. Keep the humor relevant. Always aim to kill two birds (or, in this case, two rubber chickens) with your humor by linking it with a message. Wrapping your message inside a humor nugget will help your audience recall the information later on, and, according to studies, improves the credibility of the presenter. And if the audience doesn’t always appreciate or understand the humor, all is not lost since you’ve still managed to deliver some useful content.
8. Give yourself permission to play and have fun. Once you’ve tapped into that five year-old kid buried inside each and every one of us, using humor will become child’s play (and as an added bonus, available only for the duration of your life, it will help keep you sane!)
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2014. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, trainer and author of “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank,” “Putting Humor to Work, “Inspiring Workplaces.” You can reach Michael firstname.lastname@example.org . For more humor at work articles, DVDs and other humor at work resources, surf on over to www.mikekerr.com .
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