Emily Vernon

Getting Started with Presentation Humor

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Humor is a great way to grab attention and connect with your audience. But it is also a great way to get you fired or disliked. Humor takes both the right mindset and preparation to get started. This first step is an introduction to get you comfortable with humor and form your approach.

Write down things that make you laugh

When you’re at lunch with colleagues or out to drinks with friends, humor seems easy. Someone makes a comment about feeble attempts at exercising, or not wanting to talk during their haircuts, and it’s funny. It’s funny because it’s easy and relevant. We’ve all been there. Write or type these for later in a notebook or smartphone. Sometimes it could be a sentence or story type. Either way, by the end of a week you’ll have inspiration and starting points for when you start to structure your own humor.

Find comedians, presenters or storytellers you like

When you’re tired after a long day, start looking through YouTube. It doesn’t matter if you begin with standup comedy or TED Talks. Either way, you’ll have a good starting point for those search algorithms to offer suggestions. When watching others, it’s easier to identify the style, structure and subjects you like. Some of the easiest moments of humor are structured. Say this, than that. When you can identify these structures, it’s easier to do it yourself.

Get to know your colleagues work sense of humor

Common advice for presentations, humor or not, is knowing your audience. Chances are you will present to your colleagues. Try to categorise their humor. For example, weather humor works, relationship humor makes people tense. By knowing this, you’ll understand what is on and off limits. Many times this is pretty logical, but doing the exercise yourself will make you more confident when selecting humor subjects later.

If you were a stereotype cartoon caricature of yourself …

As much as we want to be unique snowflakes, each of us is a stereotype. I am the ‘hardworking, sometimes too focused, likes to get things done, doesn’t need to overly socialise’ type at work. Self-deprecating humor that remains tasteful usually works, especially if it is something multiple people think, but don’t say. By knowing your stereotype and the actions or characteristics that make up this persona, it can be an easy source of humor.

What’s on your mind when others present

We all get distracted during presentations. Maybe you are thinking about getting a coffee, why there is an illegible diagram on that slide or who scheduled this damn meeting anyway. Now guess what? This is probably what others think about when you present. Write these down, as your memory is worse than you think, especially when your mind is brimming with lots of cute cat videos.

Humor can be intimidating because it comes so easily to some people, yet not others. And we have all also witnessed successful and unsuccessful uses of humor. The first stage of humor, and life if we want to go there, is awareness. Through this awareness you’ll start to see patterns that you can use for structuring humor for presentations, our next post.