Should you tell jokes when delivering a business presentation?
No jokes please.
If you are performing stand up comedy – tell jokes. That’s what the audience wants. They want to be entertained. They don’t want a message. When you are delivering a business presentation, don’t tell jokes. Your audience did not come to hear jokes. They came to hear your message.
Remember that the purpose of your presentation is to get a particular message across in a convincing way that moves your audience to act in the way that you desire. In a business presentation you might want your audience to buy, to approve, to work, to donate or to volunteer. That is your purpose and everything in your presentation should focus on achieving that purpose.
In a business presentation your purpose is not to tell jokes. In fact you should avoid telling jokes. Here are three reasons:
1. Most business presenters cannot tell a joke well in front of an audience. It might look easy but those standup comics know the art and science of telling jokes and they practice a lot. They also bomb many times before they get it right.
2. Too many presenters tell a joke that has nothing to do with their message. The disconnect leaves the audience confused. Instead of listening to what you say after the joke they are thinking, “What was that about?”
3. Most jokes make fun about other people – some other race, sex, culture, religion etc… This might offend some of your listeners. Don’t use humor that pushes people away from you.
You can and probably should help them laugh. So how can you help people laugh without telling jokes during your presentation?
Tell funny stories or anecdotes about yourself. Tell them about a time you goofed up, a personal frustration, or a minor flaw. Reveal your imperfection.
When you do that the audience warms up to you because they see you as human – imperfect like themselves. And the bonus is they might laugh or at least lighten up. And that is all you want. There is no need to have them rolling on the floor convulsed with laughter.
Two important rules to keep in mind when telling a story:
1. Keep is as short as possible – be sure to rehearse it well.
2. The story must support your message.
There you have it – no more excuses for telling jokes in a business presentation. Start practicing your funny stories.