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My Funny Valentine

02-03-2010

Humor is tricky in presentations and meetings. Sometimes it works-and everyone chuckles, laughs and smiles. That's a swell moment for the presenter and an enjoyable one for the audience. When humor falls flat, causing people to cringe and look away nervously, it's painful for everyone in the room.

Used wisely, humor relaxes the listeners and engages them in your content. How do you incorporate humor into a presentation successfully? I'll share five tips to keep your funny bone connected to your audience.

Know Your Humorous Self: If sober people have told you that you're funny, you have permission to try some funny elements. If you're the more serious type, proceed cautiously-especially in higher stakes meetings.

Avoid Foreshadowing: Don't raise expectations too high, by beginning with "this is such a funny story." If it's funny, they'll know it. Just tell it.

Keep it Short: Funny stories, jokes or vignettes are usually short. Remember the adage: brevity is the soul of wit, like all those knock knock jokes. If you tell a long, shaggy dog story, it must have a great finish. You don't want the audience groaning at the end.

Pause Before the Punch: Pause for a second before delivering the punch line. This offers the listeners time to process all the pieces you've delivered so far. It also adds an element of anticipation about the finish. Then wait for the laughter to subside, and continue.

Practice Makes Perfect: Even if you're always the funniest person in the room, practice the humorous story out loud beforehand. This is even more important when telling jokes. Forgetting the middle or end of a joke is never funny.

One final reminder: avoid the controversial. Politics and religion are almost always taboo topics, unless you're addressing politicians or clergy. Even then, I'd tread cautiously.

Best Regards,

Exec-Comm
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