Getting More Laughs At Work Can Up Your Presentation Success
Ever notice how some people in your office are just naturally
funny when they make presentations? How they seem to know when and
what to say to make their audience chuckle? Your presentations have
the same great information, you sell the same great products, and
you work for the same great company. So why do they have exciting
meetings, get more sales, and have customers and co-workers who show
appreciation when all you get is blank stares?
It’s because they “get it.” They “get” humor and how to use
it. Good for them and their naturally funny genetic code right?
What about you?
Well...the great thing is that you don’t have to be a
naturally funny person to learn to infuse and use humor in your
presentations at work. You don’t even need to know, or tell, a joke.
You just need a few tips to get you started.
Three Reasons to Be Funny
1. Relieve the Tension.
Seeing stress in
others and doing something about it is a great time to use humor.
When you are making a presentation at work identify the types of
stress and tension of the parties involved. You may be stressed
since you are the one delivering bad news, or perhaps trying to
close a sale. Your audience might be stressed because they don’t
want to spend too much for your product or maybe they don’t
understand what it is exactly that you do. Doing something about
these stressors is more than a chance to use humor; it’s your
opportunity to offer the ultimate in customer service. Making your
audience more relaxed is a good thing.
2. Interact with Your Audience.
Who really likes to sit in a room and be talked at? No one. Humor
helps you engage your audience and opens lines of communication. You
show yourself to be vulnerable when you use humor; they show
themselves to be vulnerable by responding to it. Humor requires a
response. It is a two-sided conversation, even if the attempt
doesn’t get a laugh. There. Now you all realize you are just humans
with a job to do so let’s do it.
3. Be Memorable. When is the last time you left a presentation and thought
the information was just stunning and memorable. Was it the
information, or was it the way in which the information was
delivered. A day later when you had sat through four more meetings,
does anything peak your mind to think about the first? If it was an
information dump with numerous slides, probably not. Now think about
what your potential clients go through when they are listening to
proposals. If you simply drone information to them they wont
remember your presentation long enough for it to get a second
thought. If you successfully use humor, you just exponentially
increase the chance that they will.
Three Ways to Be Funny:
A brief note before
the “how to be funny” portion on what to be funny about: Stick to a
topic that won’t be offensive. Don’t talk about how hot ladies are
or the fact you can count the number of teeth the hotel receptionist
has on one hand. Humor at work has the same rules that apply to
small talk. Stick with the weather, wildlife, and driving.
1. The List of Three. This technique comes from the stand-up comedy world.
Comedians use this regularly in their professional routines. You may
already use in your presentations and not even be aware. Listing
three steps, illustrations or examples is a tried and true
presenting device. Three items help the audience identify
themselves. Four items belabors your point and begins to sound like
you are over explaining. You get the 1,2,3 set-up idea, now you
just need to make it funny. You can do that by raising expectations
and ending with a punch.
Say you are visiting a client out of town. It’s a great tool
to show the client that you have made the effort to know more about
where they are from. You can use humor to show your efforts. For
“I’m glad to be able to visit you here in _____. I’m told
you have great native wildlife. I saw a (insert cute fuzzy nice
animal here) on my way from the airport. Then I saw a (insert
nastier local animal here) this morning on my run. Of course
neither of those compared what I witnessed when I drove by
___________ stadium and saw the (insert local rowdy college or pro
team) fans. (Pause…LAUGH) Wow, are you all passionate fans!”
Each example builds up to a more intense level, and ends in a
punch with the last example, which is not meek fuzzy and cute native
wildlife, but bound to either get cheers from the fans and non-fans
alike. The third one is the exaggerated.
2. The Unexpected. From the last example you can see that the set-up and punch
is an important element of infusing humor. The set-up creates
expectation, and the punch line changes that expectation.
Unexpected responses work the same way. The listeners are caught by
surprise. You can plan an unexpected response in your presentation.
What might your audience not expect you to say? What question are
you constantly asked in presentations that you could twist to make
humorous. For example:
You are creating a list of a clients needs for the
development of a new product. The client asks, “can your product do
X?” Your normal response during the meeting is “Oh yes, it can do X
and it does it better than companies L, M, N, O, and P.” Your
humorous response could be “Yes, but only when the moon is full. We
subcontract to werewolves for that portion. Wait ‘til you see what
they have planned for rollout at Halloween.” If your client laughs,
good. If they smile, then they acknowledge your attempt to make
emotional contact. If they stare blankly… maybe they don’t know
what werewolves are.
3. Making Light of Yourself.
with yourself is key to your audience being comfortable with you.
Going overboard on self-depreciating comments isn’t going to win you
any champions, but using self-humor is a good way to break the ice.
While its unfortunate that many stereotypes exist, you can gently
use them to get your audiences attention and create a relaxed
atmosphere. For example:
“Good morning everyone. I’m Ted from Acme Company. I’m a
salesman. So that means I’m going to start pumping you for
information, show you a lot of charts, and talk in a REALLY LOUD
VOICE, starting riiiiiight. (pause) Now.”
Of course we hope Ted doesn’t actually do that during the
rest of his presentation, but he’s instantly made his audience more
comfortable with the tension placed on the sales meeting by showing
he is aware of the stereotypes of salesman.
When connecting with your audience is it crucial to
understand their thoughts and objections, and preconceived notions
about your topic. Always present the problem as funny, the solution
is serious. Do not “make fun” of people, leave that to the
comedians. Offensive humor leaves a lasting bad taste. Please your
people with relevant humor. It is easy to “lighten up” a
presentation and stand out from a boring one. Your audience is
looking at you thinking “Humor me?”
Remember that every audience is different, and their
reactions will be as well. Even professional comedians try out new
material and hone it until it gets a laugh almost all the time. So
don’t feel bad if your first attempts fall short. Keep practicing
and trying to infuse humor a little bit at a time into your
presentations. You really can get more laughs, and it will show in
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