I learned early on in presentations to be careful with telling jokes. I sat through an extremely difficult session at a conference and watched in agony as the presenter dug deeper and deeper comedic holes for himself. He just wasn’t funny.
You remember that episode of “The Office” with David Brent making his motivational speaker debut? Imagine that but ten times worse. Two things kept me rooted to my seat while people walked out. Deep pity for the presenter along with curiosity as to how much worse it could get.
Don’t tell jokes. There is too much risk that they will either be found deeply unfunny or will offend someone. And we don’t want that.
There is good news however. If you’re funny, be funny.
You know if you are. I’m able to raise plenty of laughs while presenting and training, but I don’t do it through joke telling. Observation, story telling, one liners; they can all hit the spot. Notice the difference between telling jokes and telling stories.
Stories can have humour woven all the way through and they help to keep the attention of the audience. There’s no punchline to worry about falling flat. The momentum is maintained throughout the tale. A wryly observed one liner is a punchline in its own right.
An audience can be taken along on a journey with us that raises smiles, giggles and guffaws and will, importantly, have them remember you and that great session you did.
I’m sure there will be some who disagree and swear by joke telling. I’m not often one for playing things safe, but I do believe in presentation situations you need to ensure you don’t fall flat on your face, figuratively or literally. Dig those stories and anecdotes out, adapt them, be funny. It’s good for the soul.
Now then, did you hear the one about the…
Picture courtesy of BBC