My dad once told a story about when he was in college. He was involved in a production of West Side Story and for the closing scene, when the angels take the hero away, the actors playing the angels were dressed up as Keystone Cops with glow-in-the-dark paint on their face and hands. Well, at one performance, my dad’s friend, who played one of the angels realized he had to take a leak … after his make up was put on. So, he tries to do it as carefully as possible, but alas, he got glow-in-the-dark paint on his fly. After dad finished the tale, we all laughed and then I said, “So, I guess you could say he had a firefly.”
Dad was so proud of my little funny. Apparently I can be funny when I need to.
Most professionals lace at least a little humor into all their presentations. Making people laugh wakes them up, gets them engaged and can help them drop their walls, at least a little, so they are open to receiving your message.
The power of humor is universal … but humor itself is not. What can be funny to one person or in one situation can be dull (or even offensive) to someone else or fall flat in another scenario.
What are you trying to accomplish with your presentation? Will humor help break the ice? Will it make you more approachable? Are these things you need to do?
Humor is best when served fresh and seemingly unrehearsed. You can use exaggeration, understatement or unusual twists to make your presentation funny. Even how you use silence can lend to the humor.
And with all the public speaking super powers, use humor responsibly. Don’t use it to cover up things you don’t want your audience to know. Don’t use it to hurt others. Use it to support the delivery of your message.