Using humor in presentations: ‘You don’t have to be a comedian to be funny’ | Work

A good relationship with colleagues, supervisors or customers not only makes your working day more enjoyable, but also ensures that you get more done. Mirjam Wiersma, author of two books about business flirting, tells how to put yourself on the map and build beautiful relationships with others. This time: use humor in your presentations

Maybe you had your doubts when you saw what this article is about. Presenting – public speaking – is our second biggest fear right after the fear of death, according to research, and then I’m also going to ask you to be funny doing something so scary? Yes, because humor can help you put yourself on the map. The vast majority of executives find a sense of humor important to progress in your career.

Humor also grabs the attention of your audience and can make you appear more sympathetic. That helps if you want to convince people of something. The good news: you don’t have to be a born comedian to successfully add humor to your presentations. How exactly?

The power of self-mockery

Self-mockery can be used by anyone. By telling about your own blunders and shortcomings, you make yourself vulnerable. That creates more empathy from your audience. For example, watch Terry Moore honestly confess in this Ted Talk that he never knew how to properly tie your shoelaces. “Up to that point, I would have thought that if – at age 50 – I really understood one of life’s basic skills, it would be tying my shoelaces. But no.” Then the audience hangs on his every word when he tells in scents and colors about the correct way to tie shoelaces (which I didn’t know myself either, I must admit).

Something to keep in mind with self-mockery: make sure that your audience does not doubt your expertise. Tim Urban tells in his Ted Talk ‘In the brain of a master procrastinator’ with the necessary self-mockery how badly he suffers from procrastination. After that, however, he also comes with impressive knowledge and valid ideas about the origin of this behavior. The candid examples make him more human, but no less knowledgeable.

Do you really have no inspiration for a good joke or anecdote that will make you laugh? Then you can use humor from another source: show a funny video or start your presentation with the results of a high-profile research. However, make sure there is a link between this funny part of your presentation and what you have to say. Showing a funny video ‘just like that’ before you start talking doesn’t work.

Also read at intermediary: ‘The importance of humor in the workplace is underestimated’

Own blunder

I like the use of self-mockery. A recent blunder I’ve dished up a few times in presentations. It happened to me during a session Business Flirting, so a presentation in English. Clients often ask if I can also present in English. Not infrequently I end up somewhere and everyone turns out to speak Dutch and we switch to Dutch after all. I always ask if English is really necessary. That would certainly be the case here, I was assured.

Arriving at the location in Amsterdam, I only wait in the hall when I see the first participant. A woman with long blond hair. You see, I do meet a fellow countryman, I think. I address her in Dutch; she doesn’t understand me and turns out to be Turkish. The second contestant who enters is a man with an Indian appearance and a turban. I also address him, now in English. To which he replies in neat ABN that he grew up in ‘t Gooi. oops. Both candidates misjudged and let this session focus on learning to read the other better…



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