There is a time and place for humour and in some presentation situations it may not be appropriate. However, in most presentations, even those on finance, it can be a benefit to lighten the mood with some touches of humour. It adds to the enjoyment for the audience and means your listeners are more likely to be on your side. A boon when you have objectives to achieve from giving your presentation.
If you’re worried that you’re not a natural comedian – it is all about setting the right tone and engaging with your audience. Here are some tips for adding humour next time you are giving a financial presentation or speech.
- Research. Take time to find out about the organisation and attendees. They will undoubtedly have a fund of stories about their organisation and the people in it. Pitched correctly this can provide you with an excellent opening to your presentation – and there may even be a funny story you can share. But remember…
- No ‘victims’. Never make personal comments about anyone in the audience as a way of being amusing. Do not think that having arranged for a ‘victim’ before the presentation will work. Many in the audience will then spend the entire presentation worrying that they will be the next victim. It’s a sure fire, and quick way, to lose the support of the rest of the audience.
- Use your experiences. If you want to tell an embarrassing story, make sure it is something you have experienced. Undoubtedly some of the audience will also have lived through this unfortunate episode in their lives. This way you will gain the sympathy of the audience – and don’t alienate anyone.
- Words and pictures. Some of the audience will react well to the spoken word, and others are influenced by visual presentations. It is therefore a good idea to have something that will add visual impact to your presentation. This could be a humorous image on a slide, or even a humorous (and appropriate) prop.
- Avoid laughing. Although you want your presentation to be humorous – don’t join in the laughter. There is nothing wrong with the presenter having a wry smile on his/her lips – but too much laughter from you gives the impression that the session is for your benefit. Also, if you laugh and the audience does not this is a way to make the atmosphere uncomfortable for all concerned.
- Watch your language. In a lot of situations, it would be a mistake to use inappropriate language to get a point across. I have seen this happen and it is nearly always a mistake. Unless you know the audience well and feel they are happy to put up with fairly tame, but inappropriate language, do not indulge in this.
- Use pauses to full effect. If providing a humorous punch line to the story, pause and allow the audience to realise this is an important part of the presentation. If they don’t take the hint; move on.
- Always practice. Humour inserted into a presentation should be written down and rehearsed as any other material would be. Do not think that humour can be off the cuff. It needs to be planned and rehearsed – you as the top comedians so.
- Give the audience time to laugh. You can never guarantee when an audience will find a statement funny. Each audience has its own personality. Some groups will laugh at a particular statement and others will fall silent. If they do laugh give them time to enjoy the moment.
- Be Yourself. You do not have to mimic your favourite comedian when delivering the funny content. Be yourself. If the audience does not get your humour, you can still rely on the main message of the presentation. Move on. It will get easier as you deliver more presentations with humour.
Use these tips and you may find yourself becoming one of the most popular speakers in your area of expertise!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jean Stewart is from Toastmasters International a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org