By Jason Peck
An easy and simple way to immediately add humor to your presentation is to include it in your introduction. This way you can potentially have your audience laughing even before you set foot on stage, this is not a bad thing. Now, when I say you can use jokes to open a presentation you do not necessarily have to use a street joke.
If you are not clear on the term, a street joke is a joke you get told by a friend or work colleague in a social situation. Such as the "man walks into a bar..." type jokes. More often than not these do not have an authorship.
But you do not have to use those. You can simply create your own presentation introduction jokes, but harnessing your own sense of humor. Can you think of something humorous, and relevant to your presentation which the person introducing you can read out? Quick tip; if you do make sure it is appropriate for the environment you are speaking in.
Is there a way that you can find a witty quote, or inside joke that connects well with your presentation as well as with your audience?
You can use street jokes, but I would provide two warnings if you do so. The first is if you use a street joke I would edit it so that it was in my words and I would personalise it. Secondly, be very careful if you find a street joke online or in a book. There is a very high chance that someone else may be using the same joke. If they are on the same bill as you it could be dangerous. Or if you are the only speaker, you might have someone coming up to you afterwards and telling you that they had heard the joke before.
Also, many presenters waste valuable audience connection time by having their introduction packed with biographical information. You know the type, "our next speaker as an MBA, BBC and NBC..." who cares?
Remember that your audience is always going to be thinking: "what is in it for me?" So why not tell them right off the bat? Inform your audience exactly what they will get out of listening to you. What is their take away? Will they learn a specific set of tools? Are you giving them an action plan?
By telling them what they can expect to get out of your presentation before you even begin, you can help grab their interest before you even walk out in front of them. So not only are you connecting with your audience through the power of laughter by using jokes to open a presentation, but you are also relaying the benefits they will get.
The next step is using jokes to open a presentation once you are on the speaking platform. Again, you want to make it relevant to your content. You could also find a way to make it relevant to something that is immediately noticeable, like the backdrop. Be careful with this one though, mocking the backdrop or something else that you share the platform with, might seem as though you are biting the hand that feeds you.
You can also open and immediately connect with your audience by referring back to something that got a laugh by a previous speaker. Find a way to slightly re-phrase that person's comment. Your audience will love you for it because it shows that you are in the moment, you are paying attention and your presentation is alive and fresh just for them.
Do not spend too long being funny in your opening though, remember you have to carry on and deliver your overall message. Unless of course, your whole speech is humorous then that is a whole other ballgame as you will want to continue being humorous.
Remember, if you say that you are going to provide them with definite take-ways, actually provide them with those take-aways. Do not fail to deliver on your promise. Always strive to over-deliver on your promise.