Making your audience laugh is a good way to get them fully engaged with your presentation. Using humor in business presentations can make the difference.
Listening to your business presentation shouldn't be like visiting a comedy club. But a laugh here and there can help your listeners take in relevant information.
There's just one question: how do you ensure your humor is appropriate? If you want to give your presentations some extra appeal, it's important use humor the right way.
In this guide, I'll share techniques and expert tips on how to make a presentation humorous and fun. You'll learn how to give a funny presentation that works.
Adding Humor to Presentations: Why Does It Matter?
Many speakers hesitate to create a funny PowerPoint or add humor to a speech. The hesitation is easy to understand. They just don't know how to be humorous in a speech.
Here are three reasons why using humor in presentations is a good idea:
- Adding humor to presentations holds your audience's attention. It creates a bond with them. If they're laughing with you then they're connected. That's key when you want your presentation to be successful.
- Using humor also makes your presentation more memorable. An oft-quoted saying is that people may forget your exact words, but they won't forget how you make them feel. Adding humor to presentations generates the right kind of feelings in your listeners. Plus, making presentations fun reinforces key points and lead to a more interesting presentation.
- There's one more benefit for those wanting to do lots of public speaking. Using humor in business presentations will give a good impression of you as a speaker. That can help you win future speaking engagements. You'll also get more traffic for any presentations you post online.
Find some expert tips about public speaking and business presentations in this tutorial:
- Presentations15+ Best Business Presentation Tips: Quotes From the Experts (For Great Results in 2019)Alexis (Lexi) Rodrigo
Tips on Using Humor in Presentations
Ready to dive into the nitty-gritty of using humor in presentations? Here are some tips on how to give a funny presentation to keep your audience laughing:
1. Tell a Joke Near the Start
Do you wonder how to make a PowerPoint presentation fun for the audience? Many professional speakers believe it's good practice to tell a joke at the beginning of your presentation.
Professional presenter James Altucher says:
"People need to laugh within the first 30 seconds or else you’re going back to your cubicle at the pencil factory and they will never remember you."
While this is good advice, remember to read the room. Sometimes you need to let your audience warm up for a few minutes before hitting them with something humorous. Otherwise it might fall flat and leave your audience less interested than before.
Heidi Cohen, Chief Content Officer, Actionable Marketing Guide, says:
"...humor depends on context and shared culture. As a result, it may not translate to a specific topic or audience. Even top comics work through many iterations of their routines and practice them before they know what works.
Instead of using humor, the real challenge for professional presentations is capturing and holding your audience’s attention or you’ve lost them to their devices."
So, with all the distractions out there, what's a presenter to do? Cohen has a technique to try:
"[This] ...requires building smaller arcs into your larger over-arching presentation story. Think of each point as having its own problem, action and result. By doing this, you keep listeners engaged.
Further, after you’ve outlined the presentation, block out how you will take advantage of the stage and what changes you’ll make for each point."
2. Use an Anecdote
Not everyone has a prebuilt cache of jokes to put in a speech. If telling jokes isn't your thing, consider using a humorous anecdote. Most people relate to a funny story. If it's relevant, it can really make the subject of your presentation more interesting.
Andy Crestodina, Cofounder of Orbit Media and seasoned content marketing speaker, says:
"Telling tiny stories, especially in the middle of the presentation, keeps the presentation alive. Without them, the audience struggles."
Crestodina has a great tip to capture the audience's attention in the middle of a presentation. Best of all, it's something anyone can try.
"Throw in a very brief story, supported with a visual, ideally funny or personal, during the middle of the presentation. It doesn’t even need a smooth segue. The point is to break it up. Plot twists and joke slides."
For example, Crestodina tells a story about kids and yogurt:
“I need my free time. I’ve got two little kids and I make them these yogurt popsicles from frozen mangoes and yogurt. They love them, but look how messy they are.”
"...pause for laughter. Resume presentation to newly awakened, reconnected audience."
Here's another example. In the video below, James Veitch uses the story of getting a spam email (a common experience). It's the jumping off point for a presentation on what happens when you reply to spam:
3. Don't Be Afraid to Laugh at Yourself
Speaking of how to be humorous in a speech, don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. Nancy Marshall, the PR Maven, says:
"Subliminally, everyone in the audience is feeling nervous for you as a speaker when you are the one up in front of the group. Being self-deprecating is a good way to help everyone in the audience, and to help yourself relax and settle in. Saying something like, “Yes, I have had my business for 30 years. Obviously I started it when I was two.” A statement like that can break the ice and help everyone be more present."
Self-deprecating humor is very relatable. People appreciate that you're willing to make yourself a little vulnerable. Instantly, that transforms you, in their perception, from a distant expert to a person like them. That makes them more likely to pay attention to the rest of the presentation.
At the start of her commencement speech for Harvard, J.K.Rowling alludes to the natural fear of giving a speech on a big stage, and her very human reaction to it:
"The first thing I would like to say is thank you. Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honor, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation. Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners, and convince myself that I am at the world's largest Gryffindor reunion."
Rowling goes on with the commencement address, adding more bits of humor throughout the presentation.
4. Tailor Humor to Your Audience
When thinking about funny PowerPoint presentations ideas, tailor anecdotes and jokes to your audience. Humor works best when it's relevant. Don't worry. That still leaves plenty of scope for colorful stories. In the example below, Mark Sanborn uses everyday experiences to give business lessons, while keeping the audience engaged and laughing:
Here's how Social Media Consultant, Strategist and Speaker Andrea Vahl uses humor in presentations:
"I use humor in presentations in a few different ways. First of all, I have humor in the opening section of my presentation when I talk about "my story" and background that is more universally appealing. I use a combination of funny images and unexpected twists to give my biography in a unique way.
Then it does also help to tailor the humor to your audience by finding out some of the buzz words they use or pain points that they often run into so you can address those with quick quips or images in slides. Find out if the organization has an "inside joke" that you can bring into your presentation also."
Vahl suggests turning to the weird or unusual to add humor to a presentation.
"To brainstorm about how to make something funny you can ask yourself, "What is weird about this?" or "What could be ridiculous about this?" and just write ideas without judgement. Then see how you can work those ideas into your presentation."
5. Include a Funny Quote or Image
Memes aren't just for social media. They can also make your presentations easier to access. If you can find a funny image or quote related to your presentation people will remember it for two reasons:
- because it's visual
- because it made them laugh
In the video below, Tim Urban uses humorous drawings to illustrate how his mind works:
6. Use Sound Effects
Using a sound at the right time can stop your audience's attention from wandering. Our attention spans are short.
So, when a growling bear pops up just over seven minutes into Morgan Spurlock's TED talk, it instantly grabbed his listeners' attention. If I'd been in that audience, I'd have been doubly attentive, waiting to see what would happen next.
7. Use Analogies and Contrast
Another tip when thinking about how to add humor to a presentation is to use techniques like contrast, surprise, tension and analogies. Some of the examples shared earlier illustrate how surprise works to get attention.
Here's an example of an analogy being used in a funny PowerPoint. In an SEO presentation, a speaker comments that the best place to hide a body is the second page of Google search results. The speaker just used humor to make an unforgettable point about the importance of appearing on the first page of search results.
Author, speaker, and comedian Andrew Tarvin points out in Forbes that:
"Humor doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to laugh. Humor is something that is comic, absurd or incongruous that causes amusement. Most marketing campaigns can benefit by adding levity. But if your brand is very serious inherently, it may not be appropriate."
What to Look Out for When Making Presentations Fun
Using humor is a great technique for improving your presentations. Here are a few more tips to help you get it right when thinking about how to write a funny speech:
1. Don't Try Too Hard
First, you're not your favorite stand-up comedian. So, don't try too hard. The audience will relate to you better if you're yourself. If you combine that with telling stories they can relate to, so much the better.
2. Be Mindful of Diversity
Know that humor doesn't always translate. So, if you're speaking or presenting to a diverse audience, be careful about what you use as humor. Jokes that stigmatize a particular gender or ethnicity aren't appropriate. Also, you'll want to do some research in advance to see if there are any hot buttons you need to avoid.
To learn more about the importance of diversity in the workplace, study these tutorials:
- Diversity10 Benefits of Gender Equality in the Workplace (International Women's Day 2020)Sharon Hurley Hall
- DiversityA New Look at Diversity in the Workplace for 2020Sharon Hurley Hall
3. Read the Room
Related to that, read the room so you know if a particular joke is appropriate. If your big number falls flat, don't be afraid to change direction. Sometimes simply saying that you changed your mind about telling a joke can win your audience over.
4. If People Are Laughing, Let Them Finish
Don't interrupt the laughter. If you've told a joke and it's got people laughing, let your audience enjoy the moment. They'll be much more kindly disposed to you by the end of that process.
Learn More About PowerPoint Presentations
Still need more tips on how to make a presentation fun? Learn more about using PowerPoint in our ultimate guide or see the resources below:
- PresentationsHow to Create Great PowerPoint Presentations (With Top 2020 Examples)Laura Spencer
- PresentationsThe Complete Guide to Making Great Business Presentations in 2021Laura Spencer
- PresentationsHow to Write a Professional PowerPoint Presentation (Discover the Writing Process)Brad Smith
How to Get Started With Funny PowerPoint Presentations
When thinking about how to make a boring presentation fun, a good starting point is to choose the right template. Using presentation templates offers several advantages over a DIY approach.
Premium presentation templates make presentation creation quick and easy. There's no need to fiddle around with small details. Your presentation will also have a professional appearance, thanks to a harmonious design.
If you're looking for the perfect presentation template for your next presentation, Envato Elements has an offer you won't want to miss. Download as many PowerPoint presentation templates as you want, all for one low price.
There are also plenty of single-use presentation templates available on GraphicRiver.
To learn more about using presentations in business check out our ebook, The Complete Guide to Making Great Business Presentations.
Get PowerPoint Templates for Your Next Funny Presentation
If you're looking for the perfect PowerPoint template for your next humorous presentation, check out the template roundups below.
- Presentations30+ Fun PowerPoint Templates With Colorful PPT Slide Designs (For 2021)Laura Spencer
- Microsoft PowerPoint10 Fun PowerPoint Presentation Ideas to Delight Your AudienceSarah Joy
- Microsoft PowerPoint30+ Animated PowerPoint PPT Templates (With Cool Interactive Slides for 2021)Sean Hodge
Get Started With Making Presentations Fun Today
As you've seen, using humor and presentations is a great tool for any presenter, if you do it right. Pay attention to the cues that let you know when humor is working (and when it isn't) and you'll be able to use this tool effectively.
Remember, if you're looking for a great way to make your presentation lively, then check out the humorous presentation templates on Envato Elements. You can also find more funny PowerPoint presentations ideas and humorous presentation templates on GraphicRiver.
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